Tuesday. 9/4/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

Breath of fresh air

When you live in London you know that your relationship with this difficult, unruly city is going to have its ups and downs. It’s the lover you know will stray, get into unnecessary battles and fail to keep the apartment clean. But then it goes and does something that’s wonderful. And this week London did just that: it made a brave step towards cleaning up its polluted air by introducing an ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) that charges the most polluting vehicles £12.50 a day to enter the centre of the city (the zone will be expanded in 2021).

Of course there’s been some harrumphing (it’s unfair, for example, on poorer people who tend to own older polluting vehicles) but it’s been adopted with less fuss than you might expect. It won’t fix everything but it is the right thing.

That’s not to say that London has its mobility act sorted – the vital Crossrail link is behind schedule, roadworks are chaotic and currently leave much of the city in gridlock and the scourge of the dockless bikes is miserable. But today is not the time for squabbling. There may be a whole city full of problems but this isn’t a day for rowing.

Politics / Israel

Waiting game

Israelis head to the ballot box today in one of the closest elections in years as right-wing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu struggles to retain power amid a forceful challenge by the centrist Blue and White bloc. If re-elected for a fifth term on the back of promises such as annexing West Bank settlements, Netanyahu will be Israel’s longest-serving premier but may also become the first sitting leader to be indicted on corruption charges. A poll last week put him slightly ahead of his rival, former army chief Benny Gantz who leads the Blue and White bloc but who has been criticised for lacking a clear agenda. Whatever happens, Israel has always had coalition governments so don’t expect a result for weeks.

Politics / Brazil

Wilting promises

Jair Bolsonaro won Brazil’s presidency on a campaign of nativism and fearmongering, gathering widespread support across the country. But a demagogue’s popular platform can be as short-lived as a summer fling. According to a survey published on Sunday by pollster Datafolha, the former army captain has the worst 100-day approval rating of any predecessor since 1985. Of the 2,086 participants, 30 per cent deem him “bad or terrible” while a third think he’s average. This is not surprising: Bolsonaro mustered an emotional vote but is having difficulties translating it into policy. Nostalgic for Brazil’s military dictatorship of 1964-85, he promised a clampdown on crime, corruption and anti-traditional values but so far has only pushed for easier gun ownership and bigger military pensions. If Datafolha’s findings is anything to go by, the president’s core supporters are losing patience already.

Salone del Mobile / Milan

Better together

Salone del Mobile begins officially today and for those attending the world’s biggest furniture fair (and the plethora of exhibitions in town) tranquillity is in short supply. This is no truer than in the tourist-filled Piazza del Duomo. Fortunately, Rotterdam-based designer Sabine Marcelis, working with department store La Rinascente, has installed a miniature olive grove in the shop’s forecourt. In recent years more brands have leapt onto the Salone bandwagon but designers’ collaborations with retailers, fashion labels and all sorts of other brands have become markedly better. “I used to think these collaborations compromised the artist’s vision,” Marcelis tells the Monocle Minute, “but in my experiences here, and working with fashion brands like Fendi, you actually do more than you would have done alone. You get their world and your world – there are constrictions, but opportunities.”

Property / Germany

Home truths

Berlin is supposed to be a good place to live if you’re a painter, poet or young creative type. But the city’s reputation as a compassionate centre for the arts is waning as rents go up and make it difficult for people to live in the centre. Berliners, it seems, have had enough. Average rents have more than doubled in the space of a decade, and over the weekend 40,000 protesters took to the streets decrying the creeping cost of living in the city. Meanwhile a petition is proposing that the local government seizes about 250,000 apartments from rental companies and lets them out at reasonable prices instead. It needs 20,000 signatures before the government has to take it seriously – and it’s not far off that mark. Some regulations on what landlords are permitted to charge, and an investment in well-designed, affordable accommodation, might be a more sensible strategy.

M24 / The Culture Show

Spring lookahead, 2019

Robert Bound is joined in the studio by culture writer Lucy Scholes, music columnist Leonie Cooper and film critic Anna Smith to discuss the books, songs and films worthy of your time over the next few months.

Film / London

Entrepreneurs: The Nunhead Gardener

Monocle Films heads to the leafy suburbs of southeast London, where entrepreneurs Peter Milne and Alex Beltran have given up their corporate jobs to set up a charming garden centre.

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