Wednesday. 29/12/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Lord

Second in line

What’s a vice-president for, anyway? America’s first, John Adams, wondered the same thing, calling it, “The most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.” Every “veep” has to make the job their own. Since landing in Los Angeles earlier this month I’ve been struck by the daily ire that’s dished out to Kamala Harris (pictured); not just by the press but also casually by those who came into contact with her when she held various high posts in Californian politics and say that reports of a chaotic office in Washington are not exactly news to them.

No doubt, Harris has struggled to find a vice-presidential role that clicks. She was handed poisoned-chalice portfolios, such as immigration, and her cheery public demeanour chafes Americans who desire grave leaders in uncertain times. Yet she has fared better outside the US. In November, at the height of the criticism about her back home, Harris was dispatched to Paris after the US snubbed France over its new Aukus defence plan. Pictured in a bleuet de France lapel flower, clasping arms with Macron, the trip became a rare bright light in her press coverage. The verdict was that relations were “chummy” and “back on track”, even if she was then pilloried for buying a pricey cooking pot on the rue Coquillière.

If 2021 taught us anything about the Biden administration, it’s that the current occupant of the White House believed in “America First” long before the last. From Afghanistan to Aukus, Joe Biden has shown that he’s not afraid to bewilder or barrel over US allies on the strength of his convictions. Perhaps such an administration calls for a vice-president who can smooth ruffled feathers. Cheery is no bad thing either: after the hard-nosed Trump years, America’s overseas outreach could bear to be a bit more, well, Californian. That’s a role for a vice-president – not just waiting in the wings for a shot at the top job or to step in should the worst happen.

Image: Getty Images

Society / Canada

Forgive our trespasses

Pope Francis (pictured) is expected to visit Canada in 2022 to address the role of the Catholic Church in the country’s former residential school system. The papal visit will be a landmark in the Indigenous reconciliation process in Canada and, despite the date, anticipation is high. A profound reckoning over the abuse of Indigenous children that took place at the schools swept across Canada earlier this year and the Catholic Church remains the only institution involved that has not formally apologised. Earlier this month, a visit to the Vatican by several Indigenous organisations was postponed until next year, due to the spread of the Omicron variant. Prime minister Justin Trudeau, who spoke to the Pope by telephone at the height of demonstrations in June, stressed at the time the importance of a papal apology “to Indigenous Canadians, on Canadian soil” and survivors have long sought the same. This coming year should finally see that ambition fulfilled.

Image: Shutterstock

Elections / Colombia

Out with the old

Colombia will elect a new president in May and few will be sad to see incumbent Iván Duque leave office: a record 79 per cent disapprove of an administration that has been plagued with corruption scandals. Once a protégé of former right-wing president Álvaro Uribe, Duque has failed to create his own identity and often appears aloof and disconnected from ordinary Colombians. The pandemic has forced millions into poverty and a five-year-old peace deal with Farc guerrillas has yet to stem violence in rural hinterlands.

Currently leading the polls (which are notoriously inaccurate) is Gustavo Petro (pictured), a far-left former guerrilla member and former mayor of Bogotá. A gifted orator, Petro is on his third run for president. Next is Sergio Fajardo, another former mayor and centre-left candidate who hopes to bridge Colombia’s sharply polarised electorate. The winner will have to succeed where Duque didn’t: convincing Colombians that they can deliver on jobs, security and the economy.

Image: Shutterstock

Trade / Uruguay & China

Home or away?

Uruguay has been hard at work exploring a possible free-trade deal with China. A feasibility study was launched in September and representatives from Beijing and Montevideo could begin drawing up a formal agreement in 2022. China has already become Uruguay’s biggest buyer, accounting for a third of all exports last year; most Uruguayans have Chinese-made coronavirus jabs and there are established sister-city relationships. China’s increasing influence in South America is nothing new but the latest bid has strained Uruguay’s relationship with an older regional alliance: the Mercosur trading bloc, founded in 1991, which includes Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. No member is allowed to negotiate preferential deals with third parties; changing the rules to accommodate Uruguay would mean transforming Mercosur from a customs union into a lesser free-trade zone. If Uruguay goes ahead with the China free-trade deal, “Uruexit” could be next. Heading into 2022, South American nations must decide whether closer ties with China are worth the schisms in their own back garden.

Image: Getty Images

F&B / North America

Grape lengths

Scorching temperatures, wildfires and a plummeting water supply are threatening famous grape-growing regions such as Napa Valley. In the past couple of years, places further north than America’s traditional wine centres, such as Michigan and the Okanagan Valley (pictured) in British Columbia, have become some of North America’s premier wine-making regions. Due to longer, warmer growing seasons, areas that have previously only grown native grapes can now produce higher quality European varietals. In Michigan, keep an eye out for North of 12 and Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery. In the Okanagan Valley, reds previously grown in California and the Mediterranean are becoming increasingly available from vineyards such as Checkmate Artisanal Winery. But these new hot spots are not immune either: the Okanagan Valley just experienced one of its most challenging growing seasons due to extreme weather, flooding and forest fires, while warmer temperatures are threatening Canada’s ice-wine industry. Climate change leaves a bittersweet taste even in those communities where it might prove beneficial.

M24 / The Menu

The best of ‘The Menu’

Monocle’s Markus Hippi looks back at the past 12 months of our food and drink programme, recapping highlights with some of the world’s best chefs, restaurateurs and key players in hospitality.

Monocle Films / London

Yinka Ilori’s 3D-printed basketball court

Designer Yinka Ilori discusses the design inspiration behind his temporary installation in London’s Canary Wharf and the importance of play in adulthood. Hear more on ‘Monocle on Design’ on Monocle 24.

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