Wednesday. 17/3/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Megan Gibson

Thin blue line

The next time someone asks you to define the phrase “missed the mark”, show them a photo of UK headlines from this past week. Days after 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard disappeared while walking home from a friend’s house across south London green space Clapham Common one evening, a serving Metropolitan Police officer was arrested on suspicion of her abduction and murder. Despite this, public anger largely bypassed the Met itself and instead focused on street harassment at large with amorphous calls for men, in general, to “do better”.

Then came an astounding series of missteps. When a vigil was held at Clapham Common over the weekend, with women bringing flowers and candles to honour Everard’s memory, Met police officers broke up the peaceful gathering with arrests in the interest of “public safety” amid coronavirus lockdowns. This was followed by yesterday’s announcement that, under a new scheme called Project Vigilant, plainclothes police officers could soon be patrolling in and around nightclubs and bars in an effort to stop sexual assault. This measure ignores both the fact that Sarah Everard was not out clubbing when she disappeared and – again – that the man arrested on suspicion of killing her is a police officer. (I’m also willing to bet that such a police presence would see more people arrested for suspected drug use than attempted assaults.)

It’s increasingly clear not only that many women feel unsafe on the city’s streets but also that they have little faith in London’s police force to do anything about it. Police in London need to “do better” – and start by looking at their own house.

Image: Shutterstock

Transport / Thailand

Strait talking

Thailand is pushing ahead with plans to build an overland shortcut for oil and other maritime cargo being shipped from the Middle East to major Asian markets, namely China, Japan and South Korea. Transport minister Saksayam Chidchob said this week that a site for this southern land bridge will be decided by June. The plan to connect two sea ports on either side of the Kra Isthmus via new road and rail links will replace a longstanding idea to create an eastern version of the Panama and Suez Canals. For Bangkok, the goal is to generate revenue for its southern region but the infrastructure project could also have huge geopolitical ramifications that stretch beyond the shipping industry. Pacific-bound oil tankers currently pass through the Straits of Malacca, between the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia’s Sumatra island. It’s one of the world’s busiest sea lanes and a potential choke point for China in any future conflict. An alternative supply route would no doubt be warmly welcomed in Beijing.

Image: Shutterstock

Elections / Netherlands

Sense and sensibility

The Netherlands has faced some of the most serious domestic protests over coronavirus lockdowns of any European country and yet Mark Rutte (pictured) looks almost certain to win a fourth term as prime minister, after a three-day federal election culminates today. Rutte’s VVD party is expected to win around a quarter of the vote, which is good in a particularly fractious political system (15 parties are expected to win seats in the parliament).

Rutte’s secret? “Strip yourself of any obvious ideology and bend wherever the wind takes you,” says Monocle’s Hague correspondent Charlotte McDonald-Gibson. “But I wonder if Rutte’s focus on good management over political substance would be quite so appealing anywhere besides the very practical and well-organised Netherlands.” The other such exception might be Germany’s Angela Merkel, who is known for a similar practicality and management. Perhaps it’s appropriate, then, that Rutte is primed to become the longest-serving western European leader when Merkel retires in September.
For more from Charlotte McDonald-Gibson on the elections, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Diego González Argüelles. Courtesy of Gabriel Rico Estudio and Perrotin Gallery

Arts / USA

Creative commons

In an important reshaping of the cultural landscape in San Diego, two of the city’s most prominent art galleries are merging to form the Institute of Contemporary Art, San Diego. Together, the Lux Art Institute and the San Diego Art Institute will become a flagship multi-site organisation for modern art that boasts a $1.6m (€1.35m) operating budget for 2021 alone. The new institute also vows to shine a light on the talents of the area’s large Hispanic community, which until now has been grossly underrepresented in the arts. As well as performing the traditional role of a gallery, it will also organise outreach programmes, events and talks to help ensure that the local community and its artists engage with the institution. “ICA San Diego will be a welcoming, inclusive public space to gather, question, learn and shape the future,” says executive director Andrew Utt. “And everyone is invited.”

Image: Getty Images

Aviation / Norway

Wing and a prayer

Less than two years after standing down as CEO of Norwegian, Bjørn Kjos (pictured) has announced the creation of Norse Atlantic Airways, a carrier that aims to fill the gap after Norwegian’s departure from long-haul services. The company hopes to launch a number of hubs in the US and Europe, including routes to the most popular US cities as well as London, Paris and Oslo, at the end of this year. Why would this airline succeed where Norwegian failed? For one thing, Norse Atlantic is hoping to escape its predecessor’s technical nightmare. A number of Norwegian’s planes were removed from service after the global grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max fleet; by contrast, Norse Atlantic’s founders say that they’ve secured a fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners with low fuel consumption on very good terms. It may seem like brutal times for aviation but for bolder industry leaders, now might just be the moment for deals to be had, and new ventures to be launched.

M24 / Monocle on Culture

‘Creation Stories’

Robert Bound is joined by Tim Robey, film critic for The Telegraph, and Will Hodgkinson, chief rock and pop critic for The Times, to review Creation Stories, a biopic of Creation Records boss Alan McGee. The notorious British record label represented some of the biggest names in indie, rock and Britpop.

Monocle Films / Global

Media on the move

We visit two bold companies finding canny ways to pivot their product for changing audiences. Transhelvetica, a Swiss magazine, and Spiritland, a London-based hospitality and audio venture, are each shaping the media landscape for the better.

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