Tuesday 1 December 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 1/12/2020

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / David Stevens

Leader of the pack

Other than on the rugby pitch, my native New Zealand hasn’t historically flexed much muscle on the soft-power stage. Its recent success in this area starts and ends with prime minister Jacinda Ardern, whose appeal continued to grow throughout what would have been an unbelievably difficult first term for any leader. Her pragmatic but empathetic approach to crises has received global praise as a shining example of clear and considered leadership in a time where old powers, and those who lead them, are being sucked into a vortex of tribalism, cronyism and conspiracy.

As the European autumn began, I watched as Ardern sailed back into parliament for a second term on the back of a historic win for her Labour party. Beside the peculiar Kiwi punditry, the vote made for a good spectator sport by delivering results within hours of the close of polls; New Zealanders planning to follow the US election weeks later didn’t know how lucky they had it. But while the result indicated resounding approval of Ardern’s leadership, there are always more challenges ahead. New Zealand’s stance on pandemic control is a firm closing of its borders. While that is keeping case numbers low, it might be throwing the nation’s number-one draw – tourism – out with the bathwater. Perhaps the promise of a vaccine will soften the strict measures but if the country wishes to keep its appeal to those outside its islands, it will need an exit strategy too.

Still, it looks as though compassionate leadership and sensible discourse can now be added to New Zealand’s list of national exports, alongside the All Blacks rugby team and culinary abominations (have I mentioned the pie sandwich?). Maybe I’m just happy to be talking about success beyond sport but it’s wonderful to see New Zealand punching above its weight – and it’s great to know that Monocle, and the world, is watching.

Listen to ‘The Globalist’ this week for our series on some of the surprising entries in the 2020 edition of Monocle’s Soft Power Survey.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / EU & USA

New world order

Donald Trump might still be the US president but the EU is already busy planning a future without him. Ambassadors from the bloc’s 27 member states met yesterday to discuss the future of its relationship with the US once the divisive leader leaves the White House. The diplomats outlined key areas in which they feel they can co-operate with Joe Biden’s incoming administration, including fighting the pandemic, tackling climate change and aiding a mutually beneficial economic recovery. It’s far from the only meeting on the future of relations with the US: EU leaders will debate the topic at a summit next week and the European Commission has also drafted a strategy to revitalise transatlantic ties. Yet the experience of EU ambassadors could help to create a more constructive dialogue. The kind of shuttle diplomacy, which is most effective at the embassy level, was deprioritised by Trump’s State Department and many mid-level positions were left unfilled. It’s this kind of diplomatic contact across the Atlantic that’s in urgent need of revival.

Image: Alamy

Elections / Brazil

Sign of things to come

Municipal elections in Brazil typically serve as a preview for presidential elections. In 2016, for example, voters turned to populist candidates from the right, prefiguring the success of Jair Bolsonaro two years later. If this year is anything to go by, the mood is shifting back towards the centre-right. In run-offs over the weekend, Brazilians re-elected mayors with competent coronavirus policies, while the country’s two largest cities, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, saw established parties return to and retain power, respectively.

Anti-establishment candidates fared badly and so did the Workers Party of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. But smaller leftist parties – such as the Social and Liberty Party, which won in northern Belém and returned councillors in the bigger cities – did better. These results suggest that Bolsonaro might be losing his appeal. But to prove their worth in the eyes of the electorate, the centre-right and leftist parties will need to learn lessons in coalition-building; in Brazil’s fragmented political system, it is essential.

Urbanism / Global

It’s good to talk

The mayors of six cities have founded a new information-sharing network aimed at making urban centres safer and friendlier for women. Civic leaders from Barcelona, Freetown, Mexico City (pictured), London, Los Angeles and Tokyo will collaborate on policies that, while serving women, are expected to improve their jurisdictions for all residents as part of City Hub and Network for Gender Equity – or Change, for short. Initial steps include the launch of market nurseries for the children of Freetown’s traders and Mexico City’s plans to install additional lighting and panic buttons in public spaces. Some of these initiatives might be questionable: Mexico City’s problems stem as much from how men believe they can behave as from a lack of lighting, while transport options such as Uber have arguably done more to protect women than panic buttons. Nevertheless, sharing lessons about what does work is a worthwhile endeavour.

Hospitality / UK & France

Staying power

A partnership between Accor, Europe’s largest hotel group, and UK-based Ennismore could kick-start a hospitality revival. The French firm, which owns several lifestyle brands, is hoping to benefit from the branding and F&B knowhow of Ennismore, which is behind the Hoxton hotels in the UK, the US and Europe, including Paris (pictured), and Gleneagles in Scotland. “There are some incredible brands in this portfolio, such as 25hours and Mama Shelter,” Ennismore CEO Sharan Pasricha told The Globalist. “I’m excited to work with them and their teams to make those brands the best that they can be.” For Ennismore, Accor’s reach has unlocked growth potential that outstrips even Pasricha’s most ambitious global intentions. “I’m incredibly excited to showcase this, not with 10 or 20 hotels but hopefully hundreds that we could build over the next couple of years,” he says.

Image: Shutterstock

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Soft Power 2020

As the latest issue of Monocle hits newsstands, we take a close look at the magazine’s annual Soft Power Survey, which considers how well countries project themselves abroad. Andrew Mueller is joined by Megan Gibson, Chiara Rimella and Fernando Augusto Pacheco. Plus: a conversation with Enna Park, South Korea’s ambassador to the UK.

Monocle Films / Switzerland

The high life, Lower Engadine

Each Swiss valley has its own culture – even language. Locals make the most of their isolation but also know how to sell their skills. The Lower Engadine has perfected this lost-world vibrancy.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00