Joop den Uyl (1919-1987) Dutch prime minister
Joop den Uyl was born in 1919 in Hilversum, the Netherlands. He was a son of a protestant shopkeeper. Joop was aged 10 when his father died. He studied economics at the University of Amsterdam, meanwhile showing large interest in socialism and Dutch literature.
During World War II, Den Uyl came into contact with the illegal newspaper Het Parool. After a short editorship, he moved to Vrij Nederland, which also had been an underground magazine during the war. After the war, the progressive political people's party Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA - meaning: Labour Party) was founded, with Den Uyl immediately signing up as a member.
Den Uyl developed himself as a PvdA ideologist, rewarded for that by being appointed director of the Wiarda Beckman Stichting, the party's scientific bureau. He also entered the city council of Amsterdam and from 1956 he became a member for the PvdA in the Tweede Kamer, the Dutch Lower House.
The politician was asked to become Minister in the Cals government in 1965. When this government came to an end during the infamous Nacht van Schmelzer (Night of Schmelzer) in 1966, Den Uyl took the office of chairman of the party and led the opposition during the next three governments from 1966 to 1973.
A clear electoral defeat for the Catholics resulted in new chances for the progressive wing of political Holland in 1972. A red government was formed, with Den Uyl as prime minister. He was the first socialist prime minister since political icon Willem Drees.
Immediately thereafter it was clear Den Uyl would have a very hard time in his office. The international oil crisis initiated an explosive increase in unemployment and an economical stagnation. Socialist Den Uyl had developed all kinds of plans over the years to reform society, but most of the time they were rejected with the assistance of the strong opposition, accusing Den Uyl of wasting money. Among his voters Den Uyl was a popular figure 'though, earning him the nickname Ome Joop (Uncle Joop).
His Christian Democrat Minister of Justice Dries van Agt developed into a huge arch rival and severe political opponent. In character they differed a lot: Den Uyl was often depicted as a whining wise guy on the barricades whereas Van Agt posed as the naive but stylish professor, victim of Den Uyl's hunger for power. When someone asked grey-haired Van Agt if he wore a hairpiece, the Christian Democrat leader said:
"This is my own hair, no toupee. Toupees don't turn grey, as I did after four years with Ome Joop".
In 1977 Den Uyl managed to turn the balance in his favour again at the elections and a second government under his supervision was as good as born. Almost all ministerial functions were filled in, but at its final moment, the formation of a new administration failed. The liberals and the Christian Democrats stepped in quickly and formed a government based on a small majority, blocking out the largest party, Den Uyl's PvdA. It was the largest defeat of his political career.
Den Uyl wished to return to power in 1981, but the PvdA had made a radical issue out of nuclear arms. They were against it in all thinkable forms, which cost the party a surprisingly large number of votes at the elections, as research among the leftist electorate proved.
In the second Van Agt administration from 1981, Den Uyl became Minister of Social Affairs and Employment (he chose the title of his ministry himself), but there was no cooperation between the two at all and the government collapsed in the year after. Joop den Uyl was back in opposition and when this was still the case in 1986, he resigned as party chairman in favour of Wim Kok, who would later on become the next socialist prime minister of The Netherlands. Den Uyl died in 1987.