Thursday. 22/9/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

The King’s gambit?

Kiwi prime minister Jacinda Ardern was straight up in her interview with the BBC ahead of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on Monday. She said that while she wouldn’t push it, New Zealand would almost certainly become a republic in her lifetime. What’s more, Wellington isn’t alone in considering casting off the past. It is one of 14 governments that, rather deferentially, still calls the UK monarch its head of state.

As the British crown slips down a branch on the family tree, the absurdity of the roots of the relationship are plain to see. The polite hush around the mourning of the late queen is already giving way to constitutional chatter in Kingston, Ottawa and Canberra. King Charles III (pictured) must hear it and know that the trickle of nations considering ousting him as head of state will inevitably become a deluge. So what can a king do to stem a seemingly inexorable tide?

Here’s a thought. Why not control the narrative and release the realms? Rather than waiting for 14 nations to slowly fulfil their will to self-determination – a political equivalent to death by a thousand cuts – Charles could sell British influence in another way.

A blueprint exists. The Commonwealth is an imperial hangover rehabilitated into a political union of 56 countries and some 2.5 billion people, including one in three of the world’s 15- to 29-year-olds. A mark of its success? That all countries are equal and even nations without historic ties to the UK, such as Rwanda, wanted in. Gabon and Togo joined as recently as this summer.

Focusing on this could show off Britain’s best bits: democracy, the rule of law and eccentricity. Not flogging fairy tales, divine right or the long shadow of colonialism. Isn’t it better to chair a club that everyone wants to join than to run one that everyone is desperate to leave?

Kings can no longer command the waves of change and influence today is earned rather than inherited. The UK must get to work. As for Ardern? She’s an Anglophile who once lived in London and will remain a friend to the UK, regardless of whose face appears on the NZ$20 note.

Josh Fehnert is Monocle’s editor.

Image: Joseph Ruben Hicks

Urbanism / Hamburg

High hopes

Hamburg’s revived port, cultural clout and quality of life have long made it a popular place to drop anchor but, as a result of its success, the city is running out of space to develop: its population is expected to swell to more than two million within the next decade. An organisation called Obenstadt, founded this summer, sees room for improvement on the city’s rooftops, where it calculates that there are an additional 37 sq km of unused potential living space that could be offered to hemmed-in Hamburgers. Last weekend it hosted Hamburger Dachtage, a series of events across 15 rooftops, to look at how new green spaces, parks and energy-production facilities might help to reshape the city’s skyline. “Hamburg from above has more to offer than pretty views,” Obenstadt’s founder, Katrien Ligt, tells The Monocle Minute of the programme, which included cinema screenings, tours and cookery classes. Inspired by a similar initiative in Rotterdam, the organisation shows the need to set our sights higher when it comes to ensuring that cities remain sustainable and satisfying places to live.

Image: Alamy

Diplomacy / US & UK

Friend and foe

The UK’s newly minted prime minister, Liz Truss, is in New York today to address world leaders at the UN General Assembly. Her first overseas trip in the top role began on Monday following Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral and was widely tipped to be a chance to reset the UK’s frayed relationship with the US. However, the lack of progress in securing a trade deal between the two nations and her stark differences of economic opinion with Joe Biden might have dented her confidence in achieving closer economic ties.

One area in which Truss could well find common ground with the UK’s most important ally, however, is defence and, specifically, how to respond to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Yesterday, Vladimir Putin delivered a chilling message that he will call up Russian reservists. Now is the time for the UK to call on its own reserves of goodwill and what’s left of its “special relationship” with the US to oppose Russia’s barbarism.

Image: Alamy

Energy / Trinidad and Tobago

Power play

Keith Rowley, the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, was recently in London but not for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral – the country’s president, Paula-Mae Weekes, had that honour. Instead, Rowley (pictured) has been crisscrossing Europe to meet the heads of energy companies in Zürich, Düsseldorf and The Hague, ahead of what is likely to be a busy and profitable winter for the nation’s sizeable liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry.

The small Caribbean country is one of the world’s biggest LNG producers and a gateway for shipments to Europe from the Americas. This is something that European countries will be well aware of as they face the coming winter’s expected energy squeeze and soaring wholesale gas prices. The republic has doubled its exports to the EU in 2022 to meet demand but Rowley is thinking in the long term and seeking investment in offshore infrastructure and exploration while demand is high. “Shipping more LNG from Trinidad and Tobago to Europe will remain a struggle,” says François Le Scornet, president of Carbonexit Consulting. “But LNG-exporting countries are playing an increasing role in the geopolitical scene.”

Image: Tom Oliver Payne

Publishing / Asia

Poetic licence

Bookworms and poetry fans around Asia will be heartened by the news that literary journal Mekong Review has secured new owners to save it from an unhappy ending. The title had seemed doomed to fold after its founder, Minh Bui Jones, relocated from Australia to the UK after seven successful years in the editor’s chair. The buyers’ identities are under wraps for now but Bui Jones (pictured) assures The Monocle Minute that the new owners are committed to keeping the quarterly in print and on point.

“I was seeking someone who understands the long-term value of a literary magazine in Asia,” says Bui Jones, whose tenure included commissioning work from some of the brightest and best writers from around the region. “The second criterion was that the buyer had built something up from scratch so they could grasp the level of commitment that’s required.” Watch this space.

Image: Wolfgang Tillmans

Monocle 24 / Monocle on Culture

Autumn preview

We look ahead to the autumn’s unmissable small-screen programming and highlights from galleries and museums. From new TV series to an exhibition by a celebrated photographer, we have you covered for the season’s cultural picks.

Monocle Films / Lisbon

Meet the Photographers: John Balsom

The Jogos da Lusofonia are an Olympics-style sporting event for people from the world’s Portuguese-speaking nations. We dispatched John Balsom – a photographer known for his powerful portraits – to the 2009 games in Lisbon. In our latest film, Balsom shares his memories of the assignment and how he captured such a fast-paced sports story on vintage film cameras. Discover more with The Monocle Book of Photography, which is available to buy today.

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