Tuesday. 22/6/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Megan Gibson

Popular vote

Over the past few years, political headline writers have had a pretty easy job. Desperate to attract eyeballs and impressions (and keen to draw easy conclusions), their leading line on coverage of elections big and small seems to go one of two ways. Either a populist candidate seizes a victory, prompting soul-searching among the establishment on how they’ve lost touch, or the populist candidate is roundly defeated, meaning that voters have rejected their message once and for all.

Then along comes an election, such as France’s regional vote on Sunday, that throws a wrench into the works and disrupts the neat narratives. The vote in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur was widely touted as a showdown between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen’s (pictured) far-right Rassemblement National, but their respective parties had disappointing results in the first round of voting. While Le Pen’s populist push fell far short of predictions with 19.3 per cent of the vote, Macron’s La République En Marche flopped with just 11.2 per cent. The party that found the most success is the right-of-centre Les Republicains, which unexpectedly took the lead with 27.2 per cent of the vote.

The press, and indeed the parties themselves, are still keen to draw grand conclusions about what this means for populism in France ahead of next year’s presidential election. (Though, of course, remember that the second round of voting in the regional elections is yet to take place; that happens on 27 June.) But what the endless “either/or” analysis ignores is that the political landscape is actually a lot more, well, stable. Populist parties aren’t likely to obliterate establishment ones entirely; neither are they going anywhere. Instead, parties such as Le Pen’s are likely to be a reliable fixture in European politics for the foreseeable future and their ability to sway voters will ebb and flow. That’s not to say that there are no lessons to be learned from elections – rather that they’re often more nuanced than can be explained in a snappy take. What’s more, every time the media treats an election like a make-or-break referendum on populism’s future, these lessons are ignored.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Australia

Back in anger

Australia’s deputy prime minister Michael McCormack was ousted yesterday in a snap leadership ballot. His toppling is attributed to growing discontent within his party, the right-wing Nationals, over his underwhelming public performances and failure to challenge prime minister Scott Morrison on climate-change policy. (The Nationals represent rural interests and oppose net-zero carbon emissions targets.) Taking his place is Barnaby Joyce (pictured), an outspoken MP who resigned as party leader in 2018 following allegations of sexual harassment and the uncovering of an affair with his former media adviser. Joyce has already confirmed plans to negotiate a new coalition agreement with Morrison and is set to rock the country’s political landscape with his polarising, sceptical stance on climate change. Despite Joyce’s claims that he is returning a “better person”, his resurrection comes just months after various allegations of rape and sexual harassment emerged against other members of parliament – and spells continued disappointment for many voters.

Tune in to ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24 this morning to hear more on this story from ‘The Saturday Paper’ chief political correspondent Karen Middleton.

Image: Alamy

Hospitality / Japan

Here to stay

The Gion district of Kyoto has long been associated with the city’s famous geishas and their apprentices, known as maiko. Now, one of the neighbourhood’s historic landmarks, Yasaka Hall (pictured), is set to become a luxury guest house. The 85-year-old building is to be given an ¥11bn (€84m) makeover and turned into a new Imperial Hotel – a sister for the storied Tokyo establishment that is patronised by Japan’s royal family.

The distinctive, government-listed Kyoto structure is currently owned by Yasaka Nyokoba Gakuen, a company that runs a geisha training school and uses the hall to showcase traditional dance, music and flower-arranging from Kyoto. Pre-coronavirus, Kyoto tourism was booming: in 2019, the ancient capital welcomed over 50 million visitors, who spent an extraordinary ¥1.2trn (€9.1bn). If investment continues, there’s no telling how high the figures might be by the time the hotel opens in 2026.

Image: Getty Images

Music / Global

All the right notes

A month after the Eurovision Song Contest, Italian rock band Maneskin (pictured) are still basking in the afterglow of their victory. The band reached the UK top 10 with the single “I Wanna Be Your Slave” and their winning song “Zitti e Buoni” is still charting high in many European countries. Maneskin is not the only Eurovision act doing well in the charts at the moment: 2019’s winning song “Arcade” by the Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence is currently charting in the US – a rare feat for a Eurovision track. In the past, a winning appearance in the contest was hardly a guarantee for chart success. Yet it seems the event has had a resurgence as a global platform for more mainstream stardom and interest in the competition remains high after 183 million people tuned into this year’s show. It’s an impressive figure, especially at a time in which big TV events have suffered steep drops in ratings. Of course, you can never underestimate the power of a good tune and some expertly tailored leather outfits.

Image: Getty Images

F&B / Europe

Are you being served?

As lockdown measures continue to lift across Europe, it’s refreshingly easy to spot packed terraces full of people enjoying drinks in the sunshine. Less easy to find, however, are people to serve them. Restaurants and bars across the continent are struggling to find staff after many former servers, bar staff and chefs switched industries in search of more reliable pay over the course of lockdowns and the changing rules around the hospitality trade. For now at least, many don’t seem keen to go back, and restaurants in the UK and US have reported similar staffing shortages. But finding ways to make the sector more attractive for employees is easier said than done. So far, the problem has been largely left to individual establishments and private employers. But while some are boosting salaries and even offering signing bonuses for new starters, there are increasingly hard-to-ignore calls for governments to step in and help find a solution. Service, please!

M24 / Monocle on Culture

Alfonso Cuarón and Chaitanya Tamhane

Chaitanya Tamhane is a filmmaker whose titles include Court and most recently The Disciple, which has just been released by Netflix. Alfonso Cuarón is an Oscar-winning Mexican film director best known for Roma and Gravity. After meeting through a mentoring scheme that resulted in Tamhane shadowing Cuarón on the set of Roma, the two have now collaborated on Tamhane’s film The Disciple, for which Cuarón is the producer. In this week’s episode, Robert Bound speaks to the duo about what they have learnt from each other’s creative processes, and about The Disciple – a film about an Indian classical singer striving to become a master of his art.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle Design Awards

Monocle launched its inaugural Design Awards in early 2021 to celebrate the world’s best and brightest talents in architecture, graphic design and industrial design. We invite you to meet a global cast of winners as we celebrate pioneering design projects that make our lives healthier and happier, our cities smarter and our work more creative.

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