Monday. 27/5/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

Vultures circling

Monocle has always believed that Britain should be in Europe. We campaigned for remain and ever since the 2016 vote have been vociferous in our belief that the country’s best interests are served by a close union with Europe. So watching Theresa May’s premiership was never good for the nerves. Here was a PM unable to face up to the hardcore Brexit MPs in her parliamentary pack or to compromise and find consensus with other parties. There was clearly no reason for her to malinger at 10 Downing Street but the line-up of posturing potential replacements make it clear that in the coming weeks we will get a new Brexit fundamentalist PM with no plan or intention to heal a deeply divided nation.

Instead we will have a PM who only plays to anointed followers and is happy to press a nuclear “leave” button. What’s just as frustrating is that for a huge number of centrist voters there is still nowhere to turn. The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn fails to speak with clarity on the issues of the day, the Liberal Democrats are enjoying a revival but are a terrible passion project – they always let you down in the end. And Change UK may need change to its plan in the coming days as it has failed to inspire voters.

We need a new generation of leaders who can speak across divides but for now we will have finger pointing Brexit purists to contend with. But one thing that unites everyone – Theresa May proved to be pretty useless.

POLITICS / EUROPE

Europe votes

After four days of voting across Europe, the results are in for the EU parliamentary elections. There's a lot to unpack in the flurry of results of an election that saw 751 MEPs chosen for the next five-year term, but already there are a few stand-out narratives. Across Europe, voter turnout was largely up from 2014's election suggesting that the European project has stirred up passion (for and against) in recent years. And while anti-EU parties didn't see the seismic surge that some pundits predicted, they did see gains in countries such as Italy and Poland. In Greece, the opposition party's gains over candidates from Alexis Tsipras' party had an immediate ramifications at home as the PM called a snap election for June. Meanwhile, in the UK, the Brexit party won more votes than any other, though the parties campaigning to remain in the bloc (the Liberal Democrats, Change UK and the Green party) collectively won a larger share of the vote. Meanwhile the governing Tory party — which is currently gearing up for a messy leadership contest — saw its support completely collapse.

Politics / Austria

Folly of youth?

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz faces a vote of no confidence today following a corruption scandal that has enveloped his coalition partners in the far-right Freedom party (FPÖ). Heinz-Christian Strache, then FPÖ’s leader and Austria’s vice-chancellor, resigned when footage emerged showing him offering lucrative public contracts in return for support. The crisis has resonated in Kurz’s People’s party, which controls only a third of the seats in Austria’s parliament. Kurz became the world’s youngest state leader when he took office in 2017 aged 32. His deal with the FPÖ was viewed by some as symptomatic of Europe’s slide towards the far-right – and suggested a moral versatility in Kurz himself. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to palm off his relationship with the disgraced right-wingers as mere youthful naivety.

Territory / Canada

Dwindling resources

Which country gets what access to the resources under the Arctic Sea is a matter of fierce debate. But much of a nation’s claim to the oil and gas beneath the chilly depths depends upon the size of its continental shelf – the underwater landmass that adjoins its coast – and how far it stretches into the ocean. Canada has just released a behemoth report (2,100 pages) to the UN’s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf substantiating its claim to 1.2 million sq km of sea bed. Canada’s findings are expected to conflict with Russian and Norwegian claims. When it comes to determining Arctic borders, don’t expect disputes to be shelved any time soon.

Society / Russia

Amen to that

The Russian government has long (and aggressively) promoted Orthodox Christianity in order to forge a homogenous vision of Russia. It’s against this dominance that the people of Yekaterinburg, about 1,400km east of Moscow, have been fighting for some two weeks. Authorities wanted to build a cathedral, bankrolled by two oligarchs, over the park square outside the city’s Sverdlovskiy Theatre – one of the only green spaces in town. Protests and violence erupted on 13 May and Vladimir Putin, fearing a PR disaster, waded in to suggest a public survey. Out of 3,000 people canvased, more than half were opposed to the cathedral – so authorities caved last Thursday and will likely try to find a different location for it. Though the troubles are over for now, Yekaterinburg may have set a new tone in the country: the public won’t be pushed over, neither by Church nor state.

M24 / Eureka

Circumference

Chris Young and Jina Kim are the husband-and-wife team behind Circumference, a line of natural skincare products aimed at changing the way we think about the beauty industry and how we treat the environment. Growing up in a traditional Korean household, Kim was taught to take care of her skin and even watched her family members make their own skin-care remedies – a far cry from the toxin-filled products she saw on the market.

Monocle Films / Georgia

Tbilisi’s architectural revival

Rather than erase all evidence of Georgia’s Soviet past, the country’s architectural community is keen to preserve its history and give its once-foreboding buildings another – happier – lease of life.

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