The SP.A has high expectations of this comeback kid Frank Vandenbroucke. The ambition is not without risk.
The comeback of Frank Vandenbroucke (SP.A) is still reverberating in high socialist circles. The initial rebound in self-confidence was boosted again after the announcement of strict corona measures, such as the earlier closing time for cafes.
The comeback of Frank Vandenbroucke (SP.A) is still reverberating in high socialist circles. The initial rise in self-confidence was boosted again after the announcement of strict corona measures, such as the earlier closing time for cafes. Minister of Health Vandenbroucke and Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) obviously did not bring good news. But the way they announced the strangulation, including Vandenbroucke’s media appearances, made the SP.A hearts beat faster. The hope for a fully-fledged leader duo flares up. “ This will not be the De Croo government, but the De Croo-Vandenbroucke government, ” says a leader. The last time Wetstraat saw such a tandem, many current ministers had not even been born yet. In the first half of the 1980s, the country was run by the Martens-Gol government, named after CVP Prime Minister Wilfried Martens and the liberal Waal Jean Gol (PRL). At the SP.A they realize that they are boxing above their weight. The mega-department of Health and Social Affairs is an essential part of any government fighting a pandemic like Covid-19. Predecessor Maggie De Block (Open VLD) had moved to the background at the end of her term. At Vandenbroucke it is the intention that he comes to the fore. To reinforce the high ambitions even more, SP.A chairman Conner Rousseau sends his right-hand man Inti Ghysels to the Vandenbroucke cabinet. The director of the SP.A study service has to guard the political line of the party within the ‘DAB’ (Directors of General Policy), the weekly meeting of the chiefs of cabinet of the deputy prime ministers and the prime minister. The first question time in the House was another illustration of the ambition. The first set of questions was answered by both De Croo and Vandenbroucke. They both answered effortlessly in Dutch and in French. The Socialist Party did this almost without preparation. “We act in uncertainty, don’t ask for the ultimate proof,” he said of the choice to bring the closing time forward for cafes, but not for restaurants. ‘The enemy is coming by sea. We have a lot of shores and we don’t know where he will attack. Where the coasts are easiest to take in, we will strengthen them. ‘Vandenbroucke is far from forgotten about political jousting. The minister took the time to target Christoph D’Haese (N-VA). Last week, the mayor of Aalst questioned the solidarity between the Brussels and Aalst hospitals. Ex-professor Vandenbroucke replied with figures. ‘Last year 500 people from Aalst were cared for in Brussels. And has Defense not come to the rescue in residential care centers in Aalst? ‘ Except for the N-VA and Vlaams Belang groups, the entire hemisphere applauded. The wish of the SP.A is of course not without risk. Since every stricter measure has economic and social consequences, Vandenbroucke will continue to be scrutinized by everyone in the coming months. Also by virologists. Soon after the new announcements, experts warned that the government is actually still doing too little to contain the epidemic. KUL professor Marc Van Ranst is putting considerable pressure on the boiler by arguing for a lockdown if the figures do not improve within twelve days. Although that responsibility is spread out: with the Consultation Committee, with the provincial governors, with the mayors, and also with the brand new Corona Commissioner Pedro Facon. Vandenbroucke’s reputation as self-willed and somewhat arrogant can also start playing against him again. Won’t it crackle with De Croo himself and that other senior, Open VLD Deputy Prime Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne? The socialist and liberal families in the De Croo government must also allow each other space. A solo smart last Sunday, when he already spoke without backing about limiting to a maximum of three contacts, was quickly forgotten. If it happened to a neophyte, one would have spoken of a beginner’s error. Critics could preview the next three and a half years.
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