Wednesday. 13/4/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

Fine state of affairs

Despite the news that Boris Johnson will be fined for breaching his own government’s coronavirus restrictions, he will not resign. Nor should he. This is not to support his apparent belief that the rules were only applicable to the little people or to ignore the sacrifices that obedient Britons made. It’s just that actually, at this moment, there are more important things to focus on: Russia’s daily war crimes of staggering barbarity, the need to be unflinching in our support of Ukraine and the threat to the future of Europe. It would be insane to topple him at this juncture.

The fine, which is likely to be about £100 (€120), arises from the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into a series of unwise drinks parties at Downing Street, at which the prime minister was photographed among boozing colleagues. The “Partygate” scandal has resulted in some 50 fines being issued and yesterday’s roll call, confirmed by No 10, also included the prime minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, and the embattled chancellor, Rishi Sunak (pictured, on left, with Johnson).

The latter has slipped from “Dishy Rishi” to “Fishy Rishi” in days, thanks to revelations about his wealthy wife’s legal but unseemly tax arrangements landing just as he was judged to be putting the screws on a public under pressure from staggering cost-of-living rises. Here’s the intriguing bit: because Sunak has been so keen to walk around with the scent of probity in his wake (no, that’s not the name of an aftershave for millionaires), his modest fine could force his resignation, whereas because Johnson treats personal responsibility like a distant cousin with body odour asking to visit for an extended stay, the prime minister’s fine will not fatally damage him.

Yes, there will be calls for his resignation but, like the honey-feasted Winnie-the-Pooh stuck in Rabbit’s front door, nothing will budge Johnson’s derrière from Downing Street now. So let’s cool our heels, allow the UK – and, yes, Johnson – to be unswerving in the defence of Ukraine and save our judgement for the next general election. That matters more than a fixed-penalty fine.

Image: Ministry of National Defense

Defence / Taiwan

By the book

Taiwan has published a war-survival guide that aims to prepare the self-ruled island’s population of 23.8 million people for a potential Chinese invasion. The 28-page handbook, issued by the Ministry of National Defence, uses comic strips and pictures to instruct civilians how to stockpile essentials and access air-raid shelters in the event of an all-out assault. The timing of the release seems to have been prompted by Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. “The war in Ukraine is an incredibly dangerous moment for Taiwan,” David Schlesinger, a former Reuters bureau chief in Taipei and Beijing, tells The Monocle Minute. “It has clearly focused minds. This handbook serves a dual purpose: it’s not only about building resolve inside Taiwan but making the rest of the world aware of the grave threat posed by the Chinese military” – and, in doing so, perhaps discouraging China from launching an invasion in the first place.

Image: Shutterstock

Energy / Bulgaria & Greece

Sharing power

On 22 February, two days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Bulgaria and Greece began discussions to collaborate on a joint nuclear power-plant project. Since then the world’s energy markets have been upended, exposing the West’s reliance on Russian oil. News website Euractiv now reports that a 12-month study is under way to assess the feasibility of building a nuclear facility in Bulgaria to supply power to both nations.

The plan is not without its pitfalls: for a start, it isn’t clear how extensive Greece’s involvement can be. Greece had initially considered becoming the first nation to be responsible for another state’s nuclear facility but that now appears to be legally impossible. Instead, Athens could sign a 20-year agreement to buy nuclear power, reducing the economic risk for Bulgaria. Either way, innovative deals and broader-minded solutions are crucial as Europe seeks to broaden its energy sources.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Indonesia

No extra time

Indonesia’s president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is struggling to convince voters that he will honour the constitution and stand down at the end of his second term in 2024. Nearly 1,000 students took to the streets of Jakarta, with more across Indonesia, to voice their objections to a rumoured plan to delay the next presidential election or amend the country’s two-term limit. Monday’s protests went ahead even after Jokowi confirmed that elections would proceed as planned. Fears of a power grab have been rising in the world’s third-largest democracy after several politicians, including those serving in Jokowi’s cabinet, floated the idea of giving the president more time to complete his pandemic-hit agenda, which includes the creation of a new capital city. A former carpenter, Jokowi is known for his fondness for large-scale building projects and remains popular with voters – but taking a wrecking ball to the constitution would damage his legacy far more than any half-finished infrastructure.

Image: Adam Ferguson

Photography / Mexico

Across the divide

How best to photograph people in their most fragile and compromised moments? Adam Ferguson, winner of 2022’s Sony World Photography Awards photographer of year, tackles this issue with his series Migrantes, which documents Mexican migrants after a surge to the US border as Donald Trump left office. The Australian snapper swerved the US media madness and went on assignment for The New York Times to the Mexican side of the border instead, mounting his camera on a tripod and using a shutter-release button attached via a cable to allow migrants to take self-portraits.

In doing so, he offered them a rare moment of control. Ferguson hopes that this will evoke empathy, rather than sympathy, for the migrants and their stories. “In a lot of documentary photography, we’re overwhelmed by sympathy, which doesn’t inspire much of a response beyond that emotion in the moment,” he tells Monocle 24. “By giving migrants agency and letting them make self-portraits, the idea was to try to make a photograph that felt more human, honest and relatable.”

The Sony World Photography Awards 2022 exhibition opens today at Somerset House in London and runs until 2 May. Hear the full interview with Ferguson on the latest editions of ‘The Daily’ and ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Neville Gabie

Monocle 24 / Monocle on Culture

The beautiful game

From team badges and strips to the architecture of stadiums, design has long been a major part of football. We visit Football: Designing the Beautiful Game, a new exhibition at the Design Museum in London, and speak to its assistant curator Rachel Hajek and fashion commentator Simon Doonan about the evolution of style and football.

Monocle Films / Lithuania

Kaunas: Lithuania’s modernist city

As Lithuania’s second city, it’s not often Kaunas gets much international attention. This, however, could be about to change. Kaunas has been named one of Europe's Capitals of Culture for 2022; a title it’s taking seriously. Monocle visited the city to take a tour of its modernist marvels. Read more on the story in our December/January issue.

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