“I have a few problems with Mr Janssen’s liberal ideas.” He may be the youngest member of the Schiedam municipal council, but that doesn’t spare Tom Janssen (20) from criticism. Not from other party politicians, nor from mayor Cor Lamers. So during the committee meeting, when the EUR student and VVD council member appeals for a more liberal firework policy, the mayor doesn’t think twice about going on the attack. But Janssen knows that he can’t expect any leeway in the municipal chamber on account of his youth. “No, they don’t regard me any differently from other council members. Which is how it should be.”

Very serious

Six months ago, there was a huge celebration in the VVD party chamber where the third-year economics and econometrics student receives visitors. The liberals in Schiedam won six seats and are the biggest party in the council for the first time in the town’s history. For Janssen, this is a double celebration. As number 5 on the list, he survived the final selection with flying colours. The EUR student is the second-youngest council member ever in Schiedam and spokesperson for safety and quality of life, economics and employment, business parks and sport.


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“Yes, I was thrilled. As the VVD, we were targeting six or seven seats, but you still have to earn that trust from voters in Schiedam.” He doesn’t just talk like a politician. The smart suit, with matching tie, also shows how seriously Janssen takes his position. “That’s just how VVD members are. In summer, some council members from other parties wore shorts to meetings. Everyone’s different, but I don’t feel that’s appropriate.”

Big fan

Although after six months Janssen is the image of a politician in many respects, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that he’d go into politics. “None of my family is a member of a political party, let alone a council member. In secondary school I loved debating. I was already a big fan of the VVD and during a youth congress I met Nathalie Gouweleeuw (then councillor for the party in Schiedam, ed.). I started going to council meetings more often and last year I joined the campaign team.”

It was then only a small step to become a council member. Janssen was finally persuaded by watching television and talking to his peers. “Wilders and the PVV were steadily growing and that worried me. They are right to highlight problems, but they come up with idiotic solutions which don’t help anyone.” He didn’t like the behaviour of other young people around him either. “I saw them all flocking behind Jesse Klaver. And that’s another thing I don’t want.”


Firework fun

And so in the council, he defends his party’s liberal ideas to the hilt. Interestingly, during the committee meeting, Jesse Klaver’s colleagues are the immediate target when Janssen presents his party’s ‘fireworks position’. “Just as inevitable as dough balls and champagne on New Year’s Eve is GroenLinks’s annual appeal to limit the firework fun of the residents of Schiedam,” is his opening salvo.


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“I don’t blindly follow our national party,” Janssen explains his strategy. “And I’m not going to pander to young people just because I’m younger. We are the Schiedam VVD and we represent all Schiedam residents.” In the coming years, his main hope is that safety in his town improves. “You can have all sorts of good plans, but if it’s not safe, they’re no good to anyone.”


No regrets

Despite all the political plans, the Schiedammer is still a third-year student. However, he has no problems juggling both aspects of his life. “I spend between ten and twenty hours a week doing this work. I find that easy to combine with my studies and I also manage to do some sports and have a drink with friends.” It would be fair to say that he’s slightly different from the other students. “No, there aren’t many students doing this work. But lots of people are interested and sometimes ask about it.”

Janssen doesn’t feel that he’s missing out on any part of student life because of his council work. “I have absolutely no regrets about my choice. I still have enough time to have fun. In fact, I find it very beneficial. Some students live in a kind of bubble. I like being able to go to places other than the university campus. That’s very valuable.”


So in the coming years, he’s more likely to utter words like gesture politics and framework memorandum on integral security than order a beer in a student bar. But surprisingly enough, that doesn’t mean that he’ll be in The Hague in ten years’ time. “No, I have absolutely no ambitions at other levels. I just enjoy the local element. Then you can really do something concrete for people.”


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