Friday 19 June 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 19/6/2020

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Robert Bound

The light of hope

Dame Vera Lynn, who died yesterday aged 103, is synonymous in the UK with the Second World War, though her music has lasted decades into peacetime. “We’ll Meet Again” and “The White Cliffs of Dover” were the songs of a generation that never surrendered and never forgot – even if nobody ever seemed to know precisely all of the words to either. Fabled as “the forces’ sweetheart”, her own war was resolute, brave and relatively unglamorous: she spent three months performing in a combat uniform in the Burmese jungle and sang between the bomb blasts of the Blitz in London clubs that never closed. To the soldiers, she stood not for lust but for life back home.

It seems somehow pointless to note that Lynn (pictured) was a hugely successful recording artist: the first UK singer to score a US number one and the oldest to top the album chart in her home country. Lynn didn’t record a Bond theme or send herself up in comedy sketches; neither did she duet with, say, the Pet Shop Boys or have her songs reinterpreted by younger generations. It seems unlikely that Lynn knew that her name had been co-opted as rhyming slang for “skin”, as in the rolling paper for a joint (as cited by dance band The Shamen in their provocative 1992 hit “Ebeneezer Goode”).

In the UK, there has been some criticism of relating wartime sentiment with how to behave properly during the coronavirus pandemic. But there was a tide of meaning, benignly intended, when the Queen addressed the UK in April, quoting Lynn’s biggest hit while simultaneously correcting its grammar. “We will meet again,” said Her Majesty. The fact that Lynn’s singles and albums appeared back in the UK charts just last month, aided by the 75th anniversary of VE Day, is testament to her longevity and memory. With respect for both of those qualities, Lynn’s passing might allow a fresh folk hero to be crowned for a new generation. It’s tough to stand for both war and peace.

Image: Getty Images

Immigration / USA

Law and border

The US Supreme Court delivered a blow to the Trump administration for the second time in a week yesterday with its decision maintaining a Barack Obama-era programme to protect the children of illegal immigrants from deportation. But while the decision is laudable (whatever your stance on immigration, surely it is right that children brought to the US by their parents when they were young shouldn’t be made to return to a country they never really knew), it’s also the latest sign of how broken the US political system has become. Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme by an executive order, bypassing the legislature. He did so because the initiative was supposed to be a temporary solution until Congress enacted broader immigration reform. Neither Daca nor Monday’s decision that brought LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace to an end should have needed to be upheld by the Supreme Court – both could have been enshrined into law by Congress long ago. US lawmakers need to step up, break political deadlocks and do the job they’ve been elected to do.

Image: Getty Images

Economy / Africa

On the rise

Here’s a stunning fact: the International Rescue Committee has raised more funds for its emergency aid projects in conflict areas from the public than from governments during the pandemic, according to David Miliband, the aid group’s president and CEO. Though this is, Miliband says, an “absolutely absurd” development, the former UK foreign secretary (pictured) is heartened by the fact that African countries have filled some gaps with their own businesses and philanthropy.

“There’s a danger that we focus on Africa struggling and forget the Africa-rising aspect of this,” he tells Monocle, noting that Africa’s middle class has grown to 350 million people. Miliband says that the EU, in particular, needs to think more strategically when looking south – beyond the desire to reduce migration northwards. “It’s a different kind of partnership today than the traditional aid relationship,” he says. For more of this exclusive interview, tune in to Monocle 24’s The Big Interview: The Chiefs Edition on Friday.

Image: Getty Images

Aviation / Portugal

Flight risk

Portugal’s parliament approved an amended budget this week that includes a loan of about €1bn, which is also backed by the European Commission, to the airline TAP. It’s a much-needed investment but questions remain over whether the government will seek a greater stake in Portugal’s flag carrier in return for future bailouts. The fact that the firm has alternated between public and private ownership over its history has long been a sensitive topic, especially for the country’s islands, which are heavily reliant on air travel to be connected to the mainland. As recently as 2015 the government sold a 45 per cent stake to aviation entrepreneur David Neeleman; the Portuguese state retains a 50 per cent share, with the remaining 5 per cent owned by employees. While external investment has helped modernise the fleet and add new routes, it hasn’t created as much cash flow as expected. With Portuguese taxpayers now on the hook for large sums to buoy TAP, perhaps the government will consider raising its stake once more.

Image: Lit Ma

Hospitality / Hong Kong

Time to tuck in

Though the entertainment industry in Hong Kong is slowly resuming activities – even Disneyland Hong Kong reopened this week – interest has been muted as many remain cautious about leaving their homes. One solution? Thousands of restaurants are launching a co-ordinated campaign to slash prices by 30 per cent on evening menus. Due to begin on 15 July, the price drop is cleverly timed to launch just as millions of residents receive HK$10,000 (€1,150) in government handouts. Hong Kong’s financial secretary says that retail and travel discounts are also planned. “It’s a good way of enticing people back into restaurants,” says Adam Hyman, founder of London-based restaurant consultancy Code Bulletin; he thinks that other cities should follow Hong Kong’s example. “By having this as a government-backed initiative, it means that more businesses and more people buy into it,” he says. “Restaurants, pubs and cafés are the social fabric of our high streets. Unless people start using them again our cities will be worse off – economically and socially.”

Image: Shutterstock

M24 / The Foreign Desk

What are Somaliland and Somalia discussing in Djibouti?

As Somalia conducts talks with the unrecognised government of breakaway region Somaliland, Andrew Mueller asks if Somaliland’s time might be coming.

Monocle Films / Global

Seamless moves

When it comes to moving people effortlessly through and between cities, who is getting it right? And how do we make cities where mobility works for young and old alike?


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