Europe / Global
The new UK prime minister’s walk on the wild side, plus election time – again – in Austria.
Style leader no. 71
If the shoe fits
UK [THERESA MAY]
Theresa May, the UK’s recently installed prime minister, first arrived in the national consciousness in 2002 when, as chair of the Conservative party – then in opposition – she addressed its annual conference. Her speech was interesting: the Conservatives, she said, needed to widen their outlook (“Our base is too narrow and so, occasionally, are our sympathies”) and cast off the mantle of “the nasty party”.
What she wore when she said it attracted comment too: a pair of leopard-print kitten heels from Russell & Bromley. They seemed a counter-intuitive choice for a vicar’s daughter from Oxfordshire but May has since made leopard-print shoes something of a motif; she is believed to own at least 10 pairs.
“Everything she wears is carefully chosen,” says Harriet Walker, deputy fashion editor at The Times. “There has been some duff psychologising about it but where many female politicians have an established code – this is what I wear, this is what it means – May just enjoys clothes.”
Prior to moving into 10 Downing Street, May spent six years as home secretary, during which she maintained her signature dichotomy of being an unfussily determined, no-nonsense politician with a remarkably flamboyant dress sense. In 2014 she delivered a blistering speech to the police federation about the necessity of reform – “Change yourselves or we will change you” – and also appeared on Desert Island Discs, a bbc radio show in which guests are asked to name their essential songs and permitted to select one non-musical luxury for their hypothetical hiatus. May’s request? A lifetime subscription to Vogue.
Pipe down, Putin
As northern Europe’s nervousness over Russia continues, the European Commission is allocating €187.5m to build an Estonia-Finland gas pipeline. It will allow the region to sidestep Russian resources.
In addition to being blessed with verdant lands, Hungary also has a wealth of promising renewable energy sources – but that green potential is being squandered. The country currently spends twice the EU average importing energy, which in turn is largely wasted due to leaks in old, inefficient housing.
Meanwhile, the keystone of the right-wing government’s energy policy is a controversial project – currently under investigation by the European Commission – to renovate the country’s sole Soviet-era nuclear power plant. Due to start in 2018, it will be backed by a €10bn loan from Russia, pushing electrical and political dependence further eastwards.
Without a significant shift in energy policy, says Ada Ámon, a senior associate from environmental think-tank e3g, “the Hungarian energy system is going to be kept in the last century’s status quo”.
For the third time this year Austria finds itself heading to the polls in October to elect a president. Following an initial election in April, a run-off vote in May saw independent Alexander Van der Bellen narrowly beat the right-wing Freedom party’s Norbert Hofer. But after the Freedom party’s chairman challenged the result, the Constitutional Court found irregularities and called an unprecedented repeat election.
Over the summer the usual blast of political adverts has been absent but despite the subdued campaign, events such as Brexit could tip the electorate toward Hofer’s strongly anti-immigrant platform.
On the right track
Date: 9 October
Candidates: Prime minister Algirdas Butkevicius will be hoping to win another term, though this would likely see his Social Democrats forming a coalition once again. Polls suggest that the populist Peasants and Green Union may become a force at the ballot box.
Issues: Like all three Baltic states, Lithuania is increasingly concerned by Russia’s recent belligerence and, as such, decided to reintroduce conscription in 2015. Though the economy is growing (albeit slowly), among the electorate there have been grumblings about hikes in food prices in the wake of last year’s adoption of the euro.
Monocle comment: Nato’s recent decision to beef up its commitment to Lithuania and the other Baltics will hopefully help to maintain confidence in the country’s present course.