Wednesday. 24/7/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

What now, Boris?

At midday yesterday, Conservative party members rose from velveteen chairs in rapturous applause after hearing that Boris Johnson had nabbed the nomination for party leader (by dint of which he will become prime minister today). The ratio of about two votes to one among the 159,000-odd party members looks decisive but in the real world Johnson’s support looks sparse as the nation careens towards the Halloween deadline for leaving the EU.

There isn’t much time – or anything much at all, for that matter – for the UK to celebrate. As Johnson acknowledged (but didn’t elaborate on) in his acceptance speech, his hair artfully tousled and gestures calculatedly Churchillian, Brexit is as formidable a challenge as an incoming UK leader has faced in recent memory. Sadly for the new PM, although 92,153 votes were enough to get him into Downing Street, there are other numbers games that he’ll need to work out: the lack of an overall Conservative majority in parliament, bitter party in-fighting and a nation divided. Today is day dot of Boris Johnson’s premiership but already it feels as though his hands are tied and his days numbered.

Defence / Germany

Frontline politics

Today a special session of the German Bundestag will see the swearing-in of Germany’s new federal defence minister. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is widely known as AKK, will be pleased with the promotion but her pleasure could be short-lived: her new role is among the toughest in German politics. AKK faces a tooth-and-nail fight with coalition partners – and members of her own party – to increase military spending, bringing it into line with Nato requirements. Her predecessor Ursula von der Leyen – now president of the European Commission – managed to drag spending up to 1.3 per cent of GDP during her tenure; AKK is tasked with upping it to 2 per cent. If she was looking for a battle to burnish her reputation, this could be it.

Politics / Puerto Rico

Off message

In New York they battled a torrential downpour to bang pots and pans, while in Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan, hundreds of thousands took to the streets. The two groups were united by one demand: the immediate resignation of the US commonwealth island’s governor Ricky Rosselló. Puerto Rico, already in the middle of a government debt crisis, has been rocked by a slew of leaked private messages between Rosselló and his aides in which he made sexist and homophobic comments and made light of the victims of Hurricane Maria. The leak has reinforced the idea that the island’s rulers are disconnected elites largely responsible for the mismanagement that has caused its current economic woes. Rosselló has so far refused to resign, although he has said he won’t seek re-election. Holding onto his job amid sizzling public rancour will be tough.

Mobility / Russia & China

Up in the air

There are many ways to improve relations with your neighbouring nation: a university exchange programme perhaps, or visa-free borders. But a cable car between two remote cities? Russia and China broke ground last week on an $87m (€78m) trans-border teleferic between Heihe, in China’s extreme northeast, and Blagoveshchensk, the Russian city just over the Amur River, both of which count about 200,000 residents. Heihe’s authorities have said that the cable car will encourage tourism and cultural proximity between the two but even if there is a boom in day-trippers, the project seems a drop in the ocean of Sino-Russian geopolitics. (Whatever happened to the Moscow-Beijing rail link?) Though the plan is admirable, the thinking seems somewhat misguided.

Government / Munich

Out with a bang

Yesterday authorities in Munich prompted outrage by announcing that from this year on, letting off fireworks in the city centre would be illegal. The rule means that amateur pyrotechnicians will have to take their shrieking, exploding, burning practices into less-built-up areas during national holidays – Marienplatz to Stachus will be off limits for such activities. The idea has provoked protestations from some citizens who believe that a rule which stops you from setting fire to your neighbourhood is a violence on personal freedoms. The city has also said that the rule is intended to reduce pollution. However, a blanket ban isn’t the answer: cities must show that they trust their residents while policing the few bad actors who might spoil the fun.

M24 / The Menu: Food Neighbourhoods

Baghdad

Monocle’s Beirut correspondent Lizzie Porter takes us on a tour in Baghdad. The Iraqi capital’s restaurants and cafés are encouragingly busy thanks to a period of relative stability.

Monocle Films / UK

How to fix your high street: Frome

We visit a monthly market in the unassuming Somerset town that’s proving easy sell to locals, buoying local businesses and luring in punters from miles around.

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