Tuesday. 11/2/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Let them fail

There have been two seismic shocks in European politics in the last few days. One is the emergence of the nationalist Sinn Féin as Ireland’s strongest party and the other is the resignation in Germany of Angela Merkel’s presumed successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (pictured). These events have one key question in common: should the political extremes be allowed a hand in governing?

Start with Ireland, where Sinn Féin’s surprising (but narrow) victory in parliamentary elections has plunged the country into uncertainty. The two establishment parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, have refused to enter into any coalition with them, even though neither of those parties would seem able to govern on their own (though they could join forces themselves). Should the centrists rethink their stance?

Next consider Germany and the scandal in the eastern state of Thuringia, where a hung parliament led Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) to back the same candidate (from a third party, the Free Democrats) to lead the state. Though not a formal coalition, it marked the first time that centrists had even tacitly co-operated with the AfD at any level of government. The move has sent shockwaves through the German political establishment, forcing the national party to intervene and, yesterday, Kramp-Karrenbauer to resign.

One question will continue to split Germany’s conservatives: is there ever a time to partner with the far-right? An alternative tactic that has worked surprisingly well comes from my home country of Austria where, twice, Austria’s conservatives controversially agreed to partner with the far-right Freedom party, and twice the Freedom party collapsed in scandal before the next election. Perhaps there’s a lesson here for other countries to consider: exclude nationalist parties at your own risk. Sometimes it’s better to let them try (and fail) at governing with a chaperon before they gain enough popularity to take the reins all by themselves.

Elections / USA

Running battle

Voters cast their ballots in the New Hampshire primary today, the second state to declare its choice of Democratic party candidate for the 2020 presidential election – and it’s crucial that the party gets this one right. A software glitch at last week’s Iowa caucuses did little to calm an already-jittery corner of the electorate that desperately wants to oust Donald Trump in November’s general election. Aggravating those jitters is an increasingly nasty split between the party’s progressive and centrist flanks. Opinion polls suggest that New Hampshire offers the second round of a battle between the frontrunners in Iowa’s poll: Vermont senator Bernie Sanders on the left and former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg in the centre (both pictured, Sanders on left). But it’s not likely to become a two-horse race anytime soon. One-time favourite Joe Biden is hoping to arrest his falling popularity at later primaries in Nevada and South Carolina. And Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York, has focused his self-funded campaign on the 14 states that hold their ballots on Super Tuesday (3 March). Expect tonight’s results to prolong the battles rather than settle them.

Defence / Singapore

Air support

Despite worries of a last-minute cancellation because of the coronavirus, Singapore’s biennial airshow opens today having sold less than half the number of tickets snapped up for previous editions; there is also a smaller group of participants. Regarded as Asia’s premium and most highly anticipated aerospace and defence event, the show has adopted careful health and safety measures to keep its attendees happy. These include temperature checks and a “no contact” rule that discourages visitors from shaking hands.

Singapore is currently on high alert and has more than 40 confirmed cases of the virus, surpassing numbers in both Hong Kong and Thailand. But this is a positive sign that the authorities are finding practical ways to keep public events going. Though the only Chinese representation is the People’s Liberation Army’s aerobatics team, the US Marine and Pacific Air Forces join for the first time this year. Singapore could certainly use a more hopeful airborne episode than a deadly virus.

Design / Australia & USA

Arbiter of taste

Who is best placed to make judgements on the quality of architecture? Apparently not architects, if you’re to follow recent events in Australia and the US. In Washington the Trump administration has drafted an executive order demanding that new government buildings costing more than $50m (€45m) be in the classical and other traditional styles. And in the West Australian capital of Perth, a much-needed redevelopment of the city’s famous beachside pavilion (pictured) has been quashed by community opposition. In both cases the experience of practising architects – who know that style does not determine the quality of architecture – has been ignored. This is despite leading bodies, such as the American Institute of Architects, saying that such outcomes “would set an extremely harmful precedent”. We agree. If we look to similar junctures in the past, it’s clear that the opinion of design professionals should be respected; had we followed public opinion and politicians, we might have missed out on masterpieces such as Boston’s John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse or the Opera House in Sydney.

Cinema / Global

Dross in translation

The Golden Raspberry awards, or Razzies, have been poking fun at cinema’s biggest stonkers since 1980, from the monumental flop Can’t Stop the Music, which took home the unwanted worst film award that first year, to 2019’s Cats. Nominations are announced the night before the Academy Awards ceremony. In the light of Bong Joon-ho’s historic success at the Oscars with South Korean film Parasite, we feel obliged to highlight the glaring omission of any foreign-language films among the Razzies’ nominees. Monocle suggests that Brazil’s abominable comedy-drama Os Parças 2 receive a nod or two after being panned by the Cinepop Brazil website as “not funny and without reason to exist”. And France’s Franck Dubosc certainly deserves a shot at worst actor for his lead roles in not only the “non-existent story” (Le Monde) of Toute Ressemblance but also the cinematic car crash All Inclusive (pictured), described by Télérama magazine as “a turnip with the finesse of a brontosaurus in a tutu”. Shame on you, Razzies, for overlooking these titans of awful global cinema.

M24 / The Urbanist

Tall Stories 193: Place

This week Monocle’s Editor Andrew Tuck ponders the question: how do you make a place?

Monocle Films / Spain

All around the table: wine in La Rioja

This Spanish region is home to many large-scale producers, but at Castillo de Cuzcurrita things are done differently. Vintner Ana Martin Onzain unveils how their aged wines – grown and made exclusively in this small village – bring people together.

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