Friday 21 October 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 21/10/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Reuters

Opinion / Andrew Mueller

Coming up short

On 8 August 1827, UK prime minister George Canning died in office, struck down by tuberculosis at the age of 57. He had been in charge for 119 days, the shortest stint ever served at 10 Downing Street. That long-standing record has now been eclipsed, with time to spare, by Liz Truss (pictured), who can barely have had time to unpack before her resignation yesterday.

Truss had been the victor in a two-candidate run-off, from which the Conservative party’s membership was invited to select a successor to Boris Johnson. She was duly appointed by Queen Elizabeth II on 6 September. The monarch died two days later, occasioning a stretch of mournful formality during which little occurred – so in some ways Truss’s tenure was even shorter than it looked.

Truss’s premiership imploded on 23 September, when she permitted her new chancellor of the exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, to unleash a mini-budget. It tanked the markets, the pound and Truss’s meagre credibility. Sacking Kwarteng was the best, worst and only thing she could do but it was never going to be enough. In the annals of calamitous unforced errors by prime ministers, Truss’s attempt at fiscal reform stands comparison with Anthony Eden’s misadventure over Suez or David Cameron’s insouciant tempting of Brexit.

If her premiership is to be remembered as anything but a pub-quiz answer or perhaps an instructive “How not to” chapter in some future guide to prime ministering, it is as the inspiration for a splendid exhibition of old-school British tabloid ribaldry. On 14 October, red-top scandal sheet The Daily Star launched a live Youtube feed of a portrait of Truss alongside a lettuce, inviting speculation on which would last the longest.

As I write this, 14,250 people are watching the victorious vegetable, now wearing a crown, joined on its table by a bottle of fizz, soundtracked by a remix of Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration”. On recent form, the UK could do worse than offer it the top job.

Andrew Mueller is host of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Alamy

Defence / India

Ship shape

INS Vikrant isn’t India’s first aircraft carrier, but it is the first that the country has built itself. Vikrant, from the Cochin shipyard in Kerala, recently left port for its first round of operational trials. Despite delays and coming in over budget, the homemade carrier is as much a statement of national prestige as it is a guarantor of national security. “Possessing a carrier is a statement of belonging to a small club of major powers,” Alessio Patalano, senior lecturer in war studies at King’s College London, tells Monocle. Plus, Patalano says, New Delhi needn’t feel the need to compete directly with rivals such as China or its Fujian-class carriers; instead, the craft is part of a broader strategy. “India’s maritime power isn’t a standalone asset but a tool within multilateral frameworks,” he says. “Access to valuable maritime allies is a luxury that Beijing does not possess.”

For more on defence, diplomacy and geopolitics, pick up a copy of Monocle’s November issue, which is out now, or subscribe so that you don’t miss a beat.

Image: Getty Images

Legislation / New Zealand

The all-clear

Politicians’ perennial periphrasis (unclear waffle, that is) might be imperilled by the introduction of a new bill in New Zealand aimed at promoting that rarest of things: the use of unambiguous, clear and concise language in public discourse. The Plain Language Act passed its third reading on Wednesday and requires officials to ditch euphemism and wilful obscurity in favour of easily understood syntax and sentiments when communicating in public.

Wellington hopes that the bill might save time and money, as well as bolstering public debate by helping to make complex issues more accessible to more people. Though the bill passed with strong support from the Labour Party, which is led by prime minister Jacinda Ardern (pictured), as well as the Green and Māori parties, there has also been vocal opposition. Some accuse backers of dumbing down debate and adding new layers of red tape that are likely to waste government time. Compound sentences, circumlocution and jargon might be banished for now but the opposition has vowed to repeal the bill if elected next year.

Image: Leonardo Helicopters

Aviation / Italy

Your pad or mine?

Last week saw the maiden flight of the long-anticipated AW609 Tiltrotor, pegged as a first-off-the-pad option for medical evacuations or future air-taxi services. The helicopter-aeroplane hybrid could change passenger transport, offering the speed and comfort of a fixed-wing aircraft with the agility of a whirlybird. Developed by Italy’s Leonardo, its pressurised cabin has space for nine passengers and the vehicle can rise vertically, allowing trips from tighter take-off spaces (such as in cities).

Once aloft, it’s less noisy than a helicopter and has the higher-altitude advantages of plane travel. While it is awaiting the green light from the Federal Aviation Administration, there are rumblings that the AW609 could be in service as soon as 2023. Might the fortunes of business travellers and those looking for short hops between cities be on the up too?

Image: La Papelería

Retail / Spain

Stay in touch

There were no fans pitching tents overnight but by yesterday lunchtime a branch of Zara Home in A Coruña on Spain’s northwestern tip was the latest staging post for the quiet resurgence of beautifully designed stationery. On Thursday the Inditex-owned Spanish retail giant launched La Papelería, a one-stop shop for stamps, posters and calendars. Writers and artists might be bombarded with screens and digital styluses but demand for pens and paper products is growing at a fast clip.

Online direct-to-consumer retailers such as Papier have made millions from the burgeoning market and now Zara is getting in on the act. The collection, created with design firm Saint-Lazare, evokes functionalism and the well-heeled offices of the mid-20th century with its bold graphics and primary colours. And while the A Coruña pop-up closes in January, shoppers will be able to buy La Papelería’s stationery online. Those seeking stocking fillers this Christmas should take note – literally.

Monocle 24 / The Entrepreneurs

Proper Snacks and JR Ryall

Cassandra Stavrou launched Proper Snacks in 2011 and has built it into Europe’s largest independent healthy-snacks company. Stavrou (pictured) talks about the journey the brand has been on. Plus: Ballymaloe House head pastry chef JR Ryall talks about his entrepreneurial adventures in food.

Film / Global

Designing the news

How do you unpack stories in the most engaging way while building a credible and comprehensive brand? Monocle Films showcases best design for paper and screen too.


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