Thursday. 6/5/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Personality test

We seem to be nearing the end. Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured) has conceded that he has been unable to form a new coalition government since Israel’s parliamentary election in March. The admission gives opposition parties their best chance yet to rally around a fresh candidate and unseat the right-wing Likud leader for the first time in 12 years. All this is happening just as a major corruption trial against Netanyahu kicks into gear.

What’s interesting is that Netanyahu’s failure this time around was mostly to do with discord within his own ranks: former allies who turned opponents, some even founding new political parties then refusing to partner with their one-time collaborator. That got me thinking about how this would have played out elsewhere. The US, for example, is as polarised as Israel but would such a system have broken Donald Trump’s stranglehold on the Republican Party? Might Ted Cruz or Steve Bannon, or any number of other leaders have simply formed their own political grouping? And the same goes for Democrats: would Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have more readily formed a splinter party – and would they have agreed to a coalition with Sleepy Joe if they had?

It’s an interesting theoretical exercise in power politics with no clear answer: would Trump have held onto power for longer in an Israeli-style parliamentary system or would Netanyahu have fared better in a presidential structure? It also says something about our political divisions: in each country people aligned themselves into two camps (for or against the respective leaders) – when in reality, below the surface, there were far more splinter groups on both sides. So who do you follow when your captivating leader or foil is gone? As voters we need to do a better job of sticking to our principles rather than following personalities – no matter which political system underpins our choices.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / Scotland

Scot free

Voters in parts of the UK head to the polls today for the first time since the pandemic started, for a series of municipal and regional elections. But all eyes are on Scotland, where a Scottish National Party (SNP) victory in parliamentary elections could be the catalyst for a break-up of the UK. The main point of contention between the country’s five main parties – the pro-independence SNP and Greens, and the pro-union Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats – is whether a majority bent on Scottish independence would represent a mandate to hold another referendum to separate from the UK (the last one, which looked to settle the question “for a generation” but didn’t seem to, took place in 2014). At the time of writing, polls suggested that the result will be a wafer-thin SNP majority. “There is little doubt that Nicola Sturgeon will remain first minister,” Scottish political analyst Iain Anderson tells The Monocle Minute. “If this happens, the battle for the future of the UK is likely to begin in earnest.”

Image: Kohei Take

Urbanism / Japan

City limits

In an attempt to make Japan less Tokyo-centric, the country’s government is encouraging employees to leave the capital for the countryside, while keeping their jobs in the city. The pandemic has improved the efficiency of remote working, so the government is leaning into the opportunity to reduce the metropolitan area’s population density, setting aside ¥10bn (€76m) to help local municipalities create satellite offices that will attract workers.

Previous efforts to encourage urban-to-rural migration have fallen short due to a lack of career and earning prospects outside the capital, so integrating job prospects in Tokyo is important. It might also be a case of striking while the iron is hot: recent data shows that Tokyo’s net population reduced over the past eight months. With increased regional infrastructure in place to consolidate this change in approach, the government just might be about to get what it wants.

For more on this story, listen to Monocle’s Tokyo bureau chief on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Trade / France

Cod forsaken

France’s maritime minister Annick Girardin threatened on Tuesday to cut power to Jersey over yet another turbulent Brexit-fuelled spat over fishing rights. About 95 per cent of the UK island’s electricity is currently imported from France via undersea cables. Speaking at the National Assembly, Girardin decried Jersey’s unilateral introduction of “new technical measures” that placed restrictions even on those EU ships that had been granted licences to fish in its waters. “If we accept it in Jersey, it is dangerous for our access everywhere,” she said. The UK claims that Jersey, a self-governing dependency, is responsible for its own waters but with the UK also having failed to reach a fishing agreement with Norway this week, there’s clearly much work to be done before order is restored to seas around the British Isles. On the other hand, threatening to quite literally switch off the lights on this tiny self-governing state is not a good look for France either. Rather than rocking the boat further, both sides should stop floundering and seek a compromise.

Image: Globo/Victor Pollak

Society / Brazil

Creative inspiration

Brazilian comedian and actor Paulo Gustavo is rightly seen as a national treasure, so his death this week at the age of 42, due to complications from coronavirus, has caused shock and consternation among Brazilians. Gustavo was mostly known for playing Dona Hermínia (pictured), the main role in the film trilogy Minha Mãe é uma Peça (“my mum is a character”), in which he plays a housewife-turned-TV star. The simple but smart humour in the films became box-office gold in Brazil; the final instalment remains one of the highest grossing of the country’s films. A gay man in an increasingly conservative Brazil, Gustavo drew a range of audiences and was a non-polarising figure at a time when many celebrities can be defined in the public’s eyes by their politics. But with Brazil suffering more than 400,000 deaths related to coronavirus, his untimely death could yet spark a political turning point in the country’s fight against the pandemic.

Image: Kohei Take

M24 / On Design

Monocle Design Awards

From a South Korean beer mascot to centuries-old Japanese pottery, we meet some of the winners in the inaugural Monocle Design Awards.

Monocle Films / Switzerland

Zürich: co-operative living

We head to Mehr als Wohnen, a unique mixed-use development housing a happy and healthy community.

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