Tuesday. 4/6/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

Voting with their feet

President Trump knows how to get a reaction. So it’s unlikely that he will be surprised that, today, protests have been planned in London by activists, politicians and citizens who don’t like the man – or his presence in the UK.

Will it ruin his day? Despite predictions of crowds of many thousands attending the main march from Trafalgar Square to Downing Street, it seems unlikely. Why? Firstly he’s been getting around by helicopter; secondly he has seen bigger demonstrations against his tenure back home. Look, for instance, at the 2017 Women’s March in the US – actually a series of marches – that is estimated to have involved between 3.2 million and 5.2 million people.

And that’s the other problem with one-off demonstrations: they are often ineffective. Held the day after Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March has not subsequently stopped some US states moving to curtail the rights to an abortion. It has helped to motivate a generation of new campaigners but hasn’t changed Trump’s country.

Much has been written by social scientists about whether marches work; those held in the UK to protest against the Iraq war are often cited as ones that failed. But demonstrations are about more than their target; they are just as much about bringing people together for moments of solidarity. They are the collective venting of a feeling.

Some commentators have suggested that today’s demonstrators are insulting to the presidency – and to the US – but they are not. This, like the hundreds of other marches that happen across the UK every year in support of very disparate views, is a just a sign of a democracy at work.

Politics / Denmark

All the right moves

Denmark heads to the polls tomorrow for its general election; the Social Democratic party, led by Mette Frederiksen, is the clear frontrunner. Frederiksen, the former minister of justice, has drawn criticism for her lurch towards a hard-right stance on immigration, calling for a cap on “non-western immigrants” and encouraging the expulsion of asylum seekers. Such ideas are akin to those of the ruling coalition, which has passed laws that allow the police to confiscate money and valuables from refugees. A hard line on immigration might be an attempt to garner the support of those keen to preserve the country’s prized welfare system. Frederiksen’s position in the polls suggests that playing with populism works.

Manufacturing / Global

Collision course?

Today Renault’s board will discuss a merger with Fiat Chrysler, a move that could create a new car-manufacturing supergroup. The American-Italian company has made extra concessions in the hope of securing support from the French state, which is Renault’s largest shareholder and occupies two seats on its board. Yet uncertainty remains over whether it’s really such a good deal for Renault, with questions looming over whether it has been valued fairly and whether French jobs will be protected. The company’s Japanese partner Nissan is also concerned. After former CEO Carlos Ghosn was charged with financial crimes earlier this year its profits have stalled – now there are fears it could be sidelined by the proposed merger.

Transport / India

Free ride

The government in Delhi has decided that women should be able to use the city’s metro and bus service for free. The rule, which will come in over the next three months, is about giving better access to a public-transport system that is too expensive for thousands of Delhi’s poorest, but it is also an attempt to tackle violence against women. The rationale laid out by Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi, appears to be about safety in numbers – more women travelling together on public transport will decrease cases of abuse and harassment. The move will also mean fewer women walking the streets to get from place to place. Kejriwal’s motion might not sweep away the most urgent problem facing Indian society but it’s a welcome step: public transport should be accessible to all.

Technology / Japan

Baptism of fire

In March 2011, Japan’s biggest earthquake on record devastated the country’s east coast. South of Tokyo in the city of Ichihara a huge oil refinery caught fire, overwhelming the City Fire Department. Eight years later, Japan has unveiled a flame-fighting robotic system to overcome such fires. The unit – named Scrum Force – comprises hose-reeling and water-cannon robots mounted on wheels which scoot them into areas that are too hot for humans. Observation drones on land and in the air also give firefighters an eye on the flames from afar. The system has yet to be field tested but could save lives and increase resilience in cities.

M24 / The Monocle Culture Show

‘Diego Maradona’ and ‘Halston’

Robert Bound is joined by film critics Anna Smith and Jason Solomons to discuss two of this month’s documentary releases: Halston and Diego Maradona.

Monocle Films / Australia

Sydney Residence: Harry and Penelope Seidler House

Far removed from the skyscrapers and residential towers for which architect Harry Seidler became known, the house he designed with his wife is governed by Bauhaus aesthetics that are just as forward-thinking today as they were in the 1960s. Monocle Films visits Penelope Seidler in her dream home.

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