Wednesday. 31/8/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Alexis Self

Evasive action

Yesterday evening, the woman widely expected to become the UK’s 56th prime minister was supposed to have been interviewed by the BBC’s Nick Robinson. But on Monday, Liz Truss (pictured, on right) pulled out, denying the public what would have been her only set-piece broadcast interview of the Conservative leadership campaign. Her team claims that she was too busy but the truth is surely that public figures now see a serious media grilling as something they can – and should – avoid.

Indeed, those politicians who agree to a proper interview often only do so when they’re lagging behind in the polls and need to do something (anything) to be noticed. During the current campaign, the winner of which will become prime minister, Truss’s opponent, Rishi Sunak, has faced two heavyweight interviewers: Robinson and Andrew Neil. This tactic appears to have been in vain, as it was when opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn agreed to an interview with Neil during the 2019 general election campaign that eventual winner Boris Johnson had declined. Johnson’s aversion to scrutiny included a notorious incident when he hid in a fridge to avoid a live interview on the TV programme Good Morning Britain.

It is voters who are left in the cold when their campaigning leaders refuse to answer big questions. The reasons for politicians only agreeing to positive interviews are the same as why most magazines are now filled with insipid celebrity Q&As. In the era of PR gatekeepers and a fear of causing offence, journalists are vetted for their sympathies and denied access if they are found to be wanting. This kills meaningful debate and forces voters to the extremes in search of information that isn’t just PR puff. Politicians and celebrities should get back in the hot seat; after all, a world without interrogation is one of half-baked ideas and bad art.

Alexis Self is Monocle’s associate editor.

Image: Shutterstock

Conflict / Ukraine

High hopes

Managing expectations in war can be tricky. To keep the public on side, you need to express confidence that victory is near – but overconfidence can lead the public to grow weary if a war lasts longer than you predict. This is the dilemma facing Ukraine as it quietly launches a counteroffensive in the country’s south to take back Kherson, the only regional capital that Russian forces have occupied since the start of the invasion.

While the military has confirmed that an offensive has begun, it has provided few other details. Ukraine’s former deputy justice minister Sergiy Petukhov told Monocle 24’s The Briefing that the army is keen to avoid a sense of “false optimism”, a lesson learned after a few generals previously suggested that recapturing Kherson would be easy and that an attempt to do so was already under way (it wasn’t). President Volodymyr Zelensky’s challenge is to convince Ukrainians and their Western allies that this war could last for months but that it’s nonetheless worth winning.

Subscribe today for our in-depth Ukraine report in the out-now September issue.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / Chile

Changing the rules

This week, Chileans will vote on a new constitution that could significantly reform the country’s political culture. More than 15 million people are expected to participate in its first mandatory vote in 10 years. Drafted over the course of a year by an elected assembly of 154 members, the draft – which is backed by left-leaning president Gabriel Boric and confers inalienable rights on issues such as abortion and indigenous land – would give the Andean nation one of the world’s most progressive constitutions. But recent polling suggests that voters could reject it. “The tables can turn, as they did during the presidential election,” Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, professor of human rights and political philosophy at Birkbeck University in London, tells The Monocle Minute. “But even if that doesn’t happen, there’s a consensus that the current constitution, originally written by advisers of Chile’s dictator Augusto Pinochet, must change.” Those who crafted the new constitution might have to go back to the drawing board.

Listen to an explainer on Chile’s referendum and hear more from Guardiola-Rivera on the latest edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Alamy

Fashion / Switzerland

Now you see it…

The Swiss army will be sporting new outfits this autumn: its well-known Tarnanzug 90 (pictured) is being retired. Switzerland’s high command has invested CHF3,000 (€3,080) a soldier in upgraded clothing. This is partly the result of operational changes. Recruits are no longer spending most of their time in the woods blending in with flora and fauna; instead, they’re increasingly sent to urban areas, which require a more discreet camouflage pattern.

Contracts to produce the fabric have been awarded to four Swiss suppliers and textile company E Schellenberg Textildruck has invested in a state-of-the-art digital printing machine for the task. “It will allow us to print endlessly without repeating the same pattern,” Urs Schellenberg, its third-generation owner, tells Monocle. The new pattern, Multiumfeld-Tarnmuster 16, remains under concealment for the moment but you might be able to spot the sleek new Swiss uniform over the coming months.

Read more in the September issue of Monocle, which is on newsstands now.

Image: Alamy

Energy / Denmark & Germany

Power play

Europe’s struggle with increasing energy prices is pushing countries to collaborate on solutions. The latest example is a deal struck between Denmark and Germany to boost offshore wind-power capacity in the Baltic sea. The planned energy hub on the Danish island of Bornholm will link several offshore wind parks and distribute the energy between the two countries. A 470km undersea cable will run from Bornholm to northern Germany, with the potential to power 4.5 million German households upon completion in 2030. The €9bn investment and future profits will be shared equally between Copenhagen and Berlin.

The deal comes after Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, signed a separate agreement for hydropower with Canada earlier this month. Scholz has also been to Norway this summer, pleading for energy solutions there. But it’s not enough: expect German politicians to keep travelling the world this year, looking for solutions that can help Europe’s largest economy survive without supplies controlled by Moscow.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

Paving the Søerne, Copenhagen

Christian Green investigates how Copenhagen avoided plans to pave over their city lakes to make more room for the car, and ended up as one of the world’s most cycle friendly centres.

Monocle Films / Athens

Meet Europe’s first chief heat officer

Athens is the hottest capital city in mainland Europe and temperatures continue to rise. That’s why Eleni Myrivili was appointed as the city’s – and continent’s – first chief heat officer last summer. We meet her on Philoppapou hill to hear about how urban design can help to build resilience against rising temperatures. Read more in the July/August issue of Monocle.

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