The Monocle Minute

In association with Brand Hong Kong

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 19 June 2017

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Tell the truth

The Grenfell Tower reveals Britain political system in crisis

The ramifications of London’s Grenfell Tower fire are set to be deep – we hope – and change forever how we build and maintain homes for ordinary Londoners and residents in high rises the world over. But the fast-moving story around the fire is now meeting another storm front of Westminster politics, a failed and flailing PM and a government that looks chaotic and distracted by Brexit talks and a bout of looming infighting. Something feels very wrong with brand UK – a fact that was even reflected on by the monarch this weekend when, acutely aware of the unease, she released a letter on Saturday commenting on the nation’s “sombre mood”. One of the biggest changes we need is to break a British culture of covering our backs, dodging criticism, claiming that it’s not our problem. Because of this culture the victims’ families have been denied even the most basic truth: how many people are really missing, who is dead, and what are the names of those in hospital. Nobody wants to take responsibility. This is a summer that must change Britain. The country is being watched.

Politics

Image: Rex Features

Drifting apart

Tensions between Taiwan and China increase as allies choose between the two.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council announced that it is to review the bilateral policy to China and assess the possibility of imposing a limit on the number of visiting government officials from the mainland. The cold shoulder came after Panama cut ties with Taiwan for China, the second country to do so – following São Tomé and Príncipe – in the space of about six months. While Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen is struggling with retaining the rest of her 20 global allies as much as her slipping approval rating with voters, she is poised to step up and raise Taiwan’s profile globally. One likely move would be the request to become a UN member at the General Assembly in September, despite the rejection last year due to Beijing’s opposition. It looks like the ripples between China and the Taiwan Strait are unlikely to calm this year.

Politics

Image: Reuters

Power grab

Angola’s president might be on the way out but he won’t be going far.

With little more than two months until Angola heads to the polls, it seems that president José Eduardo dos Santos might be sticking around after all. As Africa’s second-longest-serving head of state, Dos Santos announced in May that he’d be stepping down after 38 years in power. Is it a coincidence, then, that his government is currently working on a bill to create the position of President Emeritus for departing heads of state? The job description includes perks such as a lifetime pension, immunity from criminal and civil prosecution, a security detail and an official residence and transport. Family members will also be entitled to some of these benefits, from first-class airfares to allowances for holiday travel. Suddenly Dos Santos has something to look forward to when Angolans vote him out of power on 23 August.

Infrastructure

Image: Alamy

Cross country

A new high-speed rail line is set to link two of Germany’s most important cities.

The German railway company Deutsche Bahn (DB) has just announced the biggest service improvement in its history: a new high-speed train line linking Berlin and Munich, which will open in December. The coming ICE railway connection will speed up commutes for 17 million people and impact the entire DB network. Not only will regular ICE trains link two of Germany’s most important cities and business hubs within a four-hour journey – shaving two hours off the current journey time – but it will also allow faster connections to other cities, including Frankfurt, Dresden, Nuremberg and Leipzig. The project, which was initiated in the early 1990s, has cost DB €10bn and yet it’s already safe to say that the investment was well worth it: no car can beat DB’s new journey time and it’s a more practical alternative to jumping on a jet too.

From Monocle 24

Image: James Mollison

Al Covo

The Menu

A Venice culinary institution, Al Covo celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. We meet the owners Cesare and Diane Benelli.

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