Thursday. 7/7/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Alexis Self

Disaster management

Even by the standards of the past six years in UK politics, the last 48 hours have been chaotic. The period began with the twin resignations of health secretary Sajid Javid and chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak, the latter of whom had been hired in 2020 to replace the former. It ended with Boris Johnson holed up in Downing Street, eventually relenting his position after the resignation of dozens of ministers, including one, Michelle Donelan, the education secretary, who had been hired the day before.

Like Donald Trump before him, Johnson has been accused of bringing his office – and by extension the whole British political system – into disrepute through constant circumvention of normal practice. But one way in which the two men and their respective jobs differ is the amount of democratic scrutiny that they received. Even as Johnson faced his most trying 24 hours in office on Wednesday, he couldn’t hide away; instead, he was required to go to parliament and answer questions in front of hundreds of MPs baying for his blood. Then, as if that weren’t enough interrogation for one afternoon, he was obliged to attend a hearing before the Liaison Committee to receive a more protracted and forensic dressing down.

It has been said that one glaring deficiency of the British constitutional system is that there aren’t any codified checks and balances to ensure that the executive doesn’t abuse its power. And indeed, it required an unprecedented number of resignations to force Johnson’s hand. Yet his woeful Wednesday and tawdry Thursday have shown that democratic accountability still exists in this country, even if it sometimes doesn’t feel like it. This truth alone offers hope for whatever happens next. Sometimes a structure is so rotten that it requires collapse so that a more secure one can be built in its place. At least the person overseeing this reconstruction won’t be Boris Johnson.

Alexis Self is Monocle’s associate editor.

Image: Getty Images

Business / Russia

War work

As the invasion of Ukraine enters its 20th week, the Russian government could enforce wartime-economy measures under two new laws that have passed their first parliamentary reading. The bills would enable the government to force businesses to supply goods to the military and make their employees work extra hours. Russia’s deputy prime minister, Yury Borisov, cited the West’s boosted military support for Ukraine and the increased presence of Nato troops in Eastern Europe as justifications for the step.

Both bills still need to pass second and third readings in the Duma before becoming law. But as the West puts more of its economic and military might behind Ukraine, “this is a first step to shifting Russia’s economy into war footing”, Russia analyst Mark Galeotti tells the Monocle Minute. “It’s a victory for the hawks and a sign that, for all Vladimir Putin’s bullishness, the Kremlin realises that hard times are coming.”

Hear the full story in today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Royal Commission for Alula

Transport / Saudi Arabia

On the right track

A new tramway has been announced in Saudi Arabia. Part transport solution, part heritage project, the 50km network will connect urban areas and tourist destinations in Alula, an ancient city in the northwest of the country. While modern in terms of technology, the trams will nod to the region’s history by mimicking the design of coaches on the Hejaz railway, which crossed the region on its route from Damascus to Medina in the early 20th century.

The new route will initially join the old Hejaz railway station to the Hegra Unesco heritage site and eventually extend south to the international airport. The project is part of a plan to introduce more sustainable travel solutions to the region, including electric buses and cycling options. Saudi Arabia is in the middle of a huge campaign to attract tourists from around the world. Upgrading transport infrastructure might prove essential to coping with the potential influx of visitors.

Image: Paul Lowe/ Panos Pictures

Culture / Bosnia and Herzegovina

Art for peace

Museum leaders from around the world are gathering in Bosnia and Herzegovina this week to debate the role of cultural institutions in post-conflict nations. The Historical Museum in Sarajevo and the Srebrenica Memorial Centre are co-hosting the “Why Remember? Peace, Conflict and Culture” conference until tomorrow. After nearly 30 years of armistice in the region, the international meeting is focusing on the importance of publicly visible memorials and how investing in the arts can help to rebuild lasting, meaningful peace.

“The network brings together museum curators, practitioners, artists and academics from the former Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Lebanon, the Middle East, Rwanda and Colombia to talk through these issues,” says Paul Lowe, an award-winning photographer and course leader at the London College of Communication, who co-organised the symposium with the photography and archive research team at London’s University of the Arts. Lowe first visited the region while working as a British photojournalist in the early 1990s. “We’re trying to think of ways to use the past more creatively and offer alternative visions of what the future might be,” he tells The Monocle Minute.

Listen to a report about how Sarajevo rebuilt after the war, part of our series on lessons for Ukraine, on the latest edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / Japan

Digital drive

Japan’s upper house parliamentary election race is nearing the finish line. Voting is on Sunday and candidates are pulling out all the stops. There’s a healthy amount of traditional campaigning: portraits of the contenders are plastered over the streets of residential areas and some of the hopefuls are parading around their constituencies in customised minivans, shouting out their message on megaphones.

But many of the 545 candidates are modernising their canvassing methods: according to a survey, 65 per cent are using Youtube and 56 per cent are speaking to the public on Instagram. Such online platforms are an easy tool for reaching beyond traditional audiences and (apathetic) younger voters in particular. Still, if these candidates really want to have an effect, it’s their political visions that matter most, not how they are communicated.

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Design

Make your mark

We meet some of the makers who have created wonderful things with materials, including a hand-built sauna and a glue-less Nike shoe.

Monocle Films / Spain

Creative Mallorca

Palma has kept its charm for young creatives despite its tourist-trodden streets. We meet the people keeping this city alive.

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