PM Rutte gives interview at Lowlands festival

Prime Minister Mark Rutte was a guest on the Villa Lowlands talk show at the Lowlands festival in Biddinghuizen on Sunday - the first time ever that a Dutch Prime Minister visited the festival, according to Het Parool. Rutte called it "a successful Lowlands debut" on Twitter afterwards.

Dressed in a gray polo shirt, jeans and blue All Star sneakers, the Prime Minister was taken on a tour of the festival before being interviewed by presenters Roel Maalderink and Martijn de Greve. 

The audience was allowed to choose the music on which Rutte will walk onto the stage, as well as the topic to be discussed in the interview. While Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars indeed played when Rutte appeared, the topic of Education and Development was hardly touched, according to Lowlands attendees and reviewers. 

According to a review on NPO 3, what presenter De Greve emphasized would be a real conversation, instead unfolded in a "one-sided interview that seemed to be intended primarily to emphasize how normal the jovial Rutte has remained". The only moment of friction in a "relaxed conversation in which no disagreements were bridged" was when De Greve asked Rutte if he wanted to play something on the piano on stage and Rutte declined, according to the review. "Nothing's as bad as a politician who harasses people with his house-work", the Prime Minister said.

The most interesting part of the interview was when Rutte explained the art of shaking hands with American president Donald Trump, according to Het Parool. According to Rutte, Trump tends to take your hand and pull you closer. "That gives a silly picture on television. How do you prevent it?" Rutte's trick is to put a hand on Trump's elbow to keep the president at an appropriate distance. Rutte called Trump a man whom he often disagrees with, but who sometimes makes sense. According to the newspaper, the 800 people who watched the interview all went quiet when Rutte said that Trump "is just right" when he says that defense spending in Europe must be substantially increased.

Overall Rutte was welcomed at the Lowlands festival, which may be the best he could have hoped for. While the political preference of Lowlands visitors has never been polled, it is a safe bet that the average Lowlands attendee leans towards the left and green side of politics, according to Het Parool. Under the leadership of Rutte and his VVD, the Dutch government cut cultural subsidies over the past years, was reluctant to commit to anti-climate change measures, and took a tough stance on immigration. Last month the VVD Minister of Justice and Security, Ferdinand Grapperhaus, still argued for reducing the number of festivals in the Netherlands to fight drug crimes.