Thursday. 19/9/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Matteo Renzi: coming or going?

Italy sure knows how to stage a political comeback. Mere weeks after the new centre-left/populist coalition finally managed to get off the ground, former prime minister Matteo Renzi has departed the left-wing Democratic Party (PD) to found his own: Italia Viva.

It’s an interesting choice for a party name. The literal translation of Italia Viva, which had already been used as a slogan during some PD campaigns, is Alive Italy. It’s a clear reference to Renzi’s belief that rival left-wing parties are a stale thing of the past. He, on the other hand, wants his new party to be “joyful and fun”. But there’s another twist. Swap the order of the words and the meaning of Viva Italia changes, becoming Go Italy; the same translation also applies to Silvio Berlusconi’s historical party name Forza Italia.

Is this a subliminal – but strong – signifier of the fact that Renzi hopes his new party will earn votes from Berlusconi’s centre-right demographic? He and the 40 MPs who have decided to follow might like to think that they’ll broaden the consensus for the liberal side of the spectrum. But it’s perhaps more likely that this party will fragment a centre-left that’s perennially marred by internal squabbling. And with right-wing populists on their heels, that prospect is anything but joyful and fun.

Elections / Poland

Cash incentive

The ruling right-wing Law and Justice party in Poland enjoys a 19-point lead over its nearest rivals in advance of next month’s elections. The party is decried by observers in the EU for xenophobic and homophobic policies so what is the secret to its broad appeal? The answer might lie in its liberal approach to the economy. During its last term it introduced generous monthly child-support stipends; then, yesterday, it pledged tax cuts for the young, better pensions for the old and a 90 per cent hike in the minimum wage. Such promises are likely to go down well with the electorate but voters should exercise caution: economic perks are no reason to wave jingoist politicians into power.

Environment / USA

Turning of the tide

Through groups such as Extinction Rebellion and the efforts of Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg, younger Europeans have been calling for leaders to take urgent action over climate change for some time. The US has been slower to catch on, with gun crime taking up much of the agenda – but now the environment is starting to shift decidedly front and centre. It’s not just down to the band of Democratic presidential hopefuls, with their talk of Green New Deals and climate justice: Thunberg herself has also been a catalyst, having recently arrived in the US on a zero-carbon yacht. The culmination of her visit? A climate march in New York tomorrow, which ties in with the UN General Assembly. Expect it to be large: public schools have given students permission to skip class for it.

Design / Middle East

Cultural convergence

Economically, Lebanon is on the brink of financial crisis; politically it is dominated by sectarian strife and stagnation. But culturally, at least, the country is more alive than ever. This week sees its capital host two fairs on art and design, respectively.

Beirut Design Fair opens today and focuses on contemporary and modern furniture by designers and galleries from the Middle East, such as a locally built chair by Lama Salloum and fluid concrete pieces by Roula Salamoun. Now in its third year, the event is being held in the same seafront exhibition space as the Beirut Art Fair, which runs concurrently. As Lebanon’s situation becomes ever more stifling, such events provide a little space to breathe and focus on what the country is doing well.

Travel / Australia

Sink or swim?

The New South Wales government is going ahead with controversial plans to build a third cruise-ship terminal in Sydney, despite opposition from councils and residents; the justification is that a new depot in Port Botany will boost tourism. The cruise industry generates AU$2.75bn (€1.7bn) a year for the state’s economy and 1.6 million passengers are expected to arrive this season. Terminals in Circular Quay and White Bay struggle to meet demand so building a third seems like a sound solution. But environmental concerns cannot be ignored, particularly as one of the two potential sites is a swimming beach in Yarra Bay that’s home to protected marine life. So while cruise lines may be getting behind the plan, the community is up in arms.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Perfumer H

Lyn Harris is the founder of Perfumer H, the boutique brand, shop and working laboratory she runs in London’s Marylebone neighbourhood. The brand creates bespoke fragrances for clients who visit from around the world.

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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