Friday. 11/6/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Andrew Mueller

Host on the coast

UK prime minister Boris Johnson does not seem one of life’s natural hosts: what is known of his character is more akin to that guest who turns up three hours late and borrows money for the taxi. Hosting the G7 summit in Cornwall, of all places, also seems a temptation of fate: if Johnson gets through the weekend without joking about the locals pointing at all the aeroplanes, it will be an accomplishment. He may also find himself, like another well-known British comedy character, fielding complaints about a hotel: recent online reviews of G7 venue the Carbis Bay Estate note a closed spa and sub-optimal cocktails.

And yet Johnson is revving himself up for one of his periodic impressions of high seriousness. Johnson’s G7 agenda is heady stuff, including new commitments on carbon reduction and a pledge to help vaccinate the world against coronavirus by the end of 2022. Still, it may be pointed out that Johnson’s expansive vision of the UK’s revivified post-Brexit global leadership is difficult to square with the fatuous, populist slashing of its foreign-aid budget. Even some Tory MPs, including former prime minister Theresa May, are complaining – to the extent, indeed, of attempting a parliamentary rebellion in the week preceding the summit. This won’t bother Johnson, because nothing ever does, but hopefully will at least cause him to consider that being a great power has costs as well as benefits.

The G7 is not just the G7, of course, and for this Australian onlooker it is especially intriguing to see Scott Morrison among the coterie of not-quite-G7 leaders orbiting the summit. In normal times it would be perfectly reasonable that Australia’s prime minister attend such a wing-ding but it’s odd that Morrison does so while his fellow citizens are still substantially prevented from leaving the country. For a nation which prides itself on its egalitarian ethos, this assertion of privilege seems downright un-Australian.

Andrew Mueller is host of our freshly relaunched news show, ‘The Monocle Daily’, live at 18.00 London time every weekday on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Russia

Extreme measures

In another worrying move for Russian democracy, the Anti-Corruption Foundation, the organisation of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny (pictured), has been declared “extremist” by a Moscow court. The move effectively shuts down the group’s political activities. In conjunction with a piece of legislation pushed through by Vladimir Putin earlier this month, it bans the party and any of its staff or supporters from standing in elections for three to five years. Considering that parliamentary elections are scheduled for autumn, the timing of this latest attempt to curtail the opposition should not come as a surprise. “There is no rule of law in Russia, the courts will do exactly what the Kremlin tells them to do,” Russia analyst Stephen Dalziel told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “We’ve seen an acceleration in moves against anyone who speaks out, and it’s frightening to see the speed with which this is happening.”

Image: Getty Images

Film / China

Narrow focus

The Shanghai International Film Festival is one of the biggest in east Asia and the longest-running international event of its kind in China. After going online-only last year, its 24th iteration kicks off today and once again features in-person screenings of both international and domestic films from a mix of emerging and established film-makers. This year, its jury is led by Chinese producer Huang Jianxin (pictured, holding microphone), alongside homegrown and foreign big names including Singapore’s Anthony Chen and French producer Natacha Devillers. But despite the international outlook, this year’s edition is expected to be tightly monitored and inward focused. With the 100th anniversary of the founding of China’s Communist Party coming up in July, the festival’s launch screening will showcase 1921, a propaganda film that retells the Chinese Communist Party’s early history. So while the festival may welcome international perspectives, it’s still very much tied to the government’s agenda; expect a spectacle but perhaps for the wrong reasons.

Image: Getty Images

Media / USA

Talking sense

This weekend, a conversation that began in Germany gets its US premiere: America Talks aims to bridge the political divide by bringing people together for face-to-face chats. The concept is simple: answer a few questions online (starting with “Do you approve of the job Joe Biden is doing as president?”) and you will be paired with your political opposite for a one-hour video conversation at 13.00 EST tomorrow. Launched by Zeit Online in Germany in 2017, the concept has been exported to different countries in conjunction with regional media and civil society groups. “There’s a lot of room for every media partner to develop something that is adjusted to their context,” Hanna Israel, project manager of My Country Talks, said in an interview for Monocle’s March issue. “However, the idea of having people of differing political opinions talking to each other is the key. That’s what we’re exporting to the world.” Go on, America, it’s time to talk it out.

Image: Shutterstock

Urbanism / Cape Town

Af-fore-dable housing

In a bid to address housing shortages, Cape Town officials have identified parts of two city golf courses as potential locations for affordable-housing developments. And while South Africa’s second largest city is not alone in earmarking greens and fairways on publicly-owned land for residential rezoning, their proposed approach is different from recent projects in the US and the UK, where new homes completely replaced existing courses to the chagrin of golfers. The proposal for Cape Town will instead see the courses, including the King David Mowbray golf course (pictured), remain operational, with homes built in a few select areas along their length. It’s a fair way (excuse the pun) to ensure that golf courses are protected and recognised as important places of recreation (even for non-golfers they served as relaxing walking areas in many cities during the pandemic), while also ensuring that new homes have green views. If implemented, perhaps it could become par for the course for cities considering similar developments.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

The Lost Explorer and Vision-Box

David de Rothschild is a conservationist and explorer, and the entrepreneur behind The Lost Explorer, an award-winning mezcal brand he created to show how production of the famed Mexican spirit could be done in a more sustainable way. Known for his adventures, De Rothschild discusses why mezcal had nothing to do with the brand he was aiming to create. Plus: Vision-Box CEO Miguel Leitmann talks about making cross-border travel safer and easier for travellers.

Monocle Films / Los Angeles

All around the table: big screen in Los Angeles

Under the starry sky in Hollywood, we meet Rooftop Cinema Club founder Gerry Cottle Jr to talk about the enduring appeal of simple get-togethers and how public spaces in busy cities can become our living rooms.

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