Wednesday 26 October 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 26/10/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Michael Booth

Executive decision

These are comparatively seismic times in the low-key world of Danish politics. Prime minister Mette Frederiksen, a Social Democrat, was forced to call an election for 1 November by the Social Liberal party, which has supported her for the past three years.

Outsiders might wonder why a popular and successful government should go to the people before their four-year term ends, particularly given Frederiksen’s triumphal pandemic leadership (Denmark had fewer than half the excess deaths of neighbouring Sweden and the least economic damage among EU countries). But many Danes feel that Frederiksen (pictured) is too autocratic. This follows the illegal and unnecessary coronavirus-related slaughter of the country’s mink in 2020, plus the fallout from the arrest of the head of the Danish secret service, for which the prime minister is ultimately responsible. Some worry that she has become power-crazed.

Now we have 14 political parties to choose from. I say “we” because, for the first time ever, I have a vote, having recently shaken the hand of my local mayor and taken Danish citizenship (the handshake, incidentally, was imposed by Islamophobic members of a previous government to try to deter Muslim women). For all that choice, I cannot find a party that I’m happy to vote for. I took an online test, which suggested a weak but equal preference for six possible candidates, ranging economically from the furthest left to the furthest right. My fellow Danes seem similarly confused. A recent poll suggests that half are planning to switch party allegiance.

Turbulent times for Denmark but the signs are that the electorate is seeking the centre ground, with former prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s new party, The Moderates, surging into third place in the polls. Løkke could become the kingmaker, if not an improbable king. Borgen has nothing on this true-life political power play.

Michael Booth is Monocle’s Copenhagen correspondent. Listen to our coverage of the election across Monocle 24.

Image: Välisministeerium

Diplomacy / Estonia

United front

Urmas Reinsalu, Estonia’s minister of foreign affairs, announced this week that he would soon appoint an “ambassador at large” who will focus specifically on strengthening ties and boosting co-operation between Tallinn and Belarus’s opposition movement. The new official will be based in Vilnius, where the Belarusian opposition, and its leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, are in exile. The announcement took place during a visit by Tikhanovskaya (pictured, on right, with Reinsalu) to Estonia and comes amid increased tensions between Minsk and Tallinn due to an event at the UN General Assembly in New York last month, which was organised by Estonia in support of the Belarusian opposition. Afterwards, Belarus asked Estonia to cut its embassy staff in Minsk to a minimum. Both the Estonian government and Tikhanovskaya believe that Belarusian freedom is intertwined with the fate of Ukraine. As Tikhanovskaya said when addressing the Estonian parliament, “Nothing will be a greater sanction for Putin than a free Belarus.”

Image: Getty Images

Society / South Korea

Clear the air

Seoul’s government is proposing to ban smoking across the famous parks on the city’s Han river. The bill, which has been met with a large public outcry, also seeks to prohibit outdoor drinking, an idea first discussed last year following the death of an intoxicated university student in the parks. Until now, government regulations only restricted inebriated troublemakers and didn’t regulate drinking itself.

But in the coming months, as part of a drive against both smoking and drinking, the municipal government will conduct surveys to ascertain public opinion, before deciding whether to push ahead with the plans. Recent price hikes and advertising bans have significantly reduced tobacco consumption in the South Korean capital, so imposing a blanket ban on smoking in outdoor spaces seems a little extreme. Thankfully, it’s the people of the city who will have the final say, meaning that common sense should prevail.

Image: Charlie Faulkner

Report / Afghanistan

Finding Nebo

It was on the morning of 15 August 2021, the day the Taliban seized control of Kabul, that foreign correspondent Charlie Faulkner last saw her rescue dog, Nebo. The Afghan capital’s streets were choked with people desperately trying to flee. Faulkner, who has reported for Monocle from Afghanistan, arranged to move into an apartment with a friend, while Nebo went to an animal shelter. A few days after handing him over, the shelter called and suggested that she put Nebo on an animal evacuation flight. Faulkner (pictured, with Nebo) thought that she’d be able to make a final decision once the flight was confirmed but the animals were already at the airport and the next call she received was to tell her that Nebo was lost. She was on her way to visit the site of a US airstrike that had mistakenly killed a family of 10 and that had to take precedence. Later that day, she went to the airport, frantically searching its 3.5km-long runway but Nebo was nowhere to be found.

To find out what happened to Faulkner and Nebo, pick up Monocle’s November issue, which is on sale now.

Image: Mizuaki Wakahara

Design / Japan

State of the art

If you happen to be in the Japanese capital this week, put on your walking shoes and head out to Tokyo Designart: 70 shops, galleries and event spaces are involved this year, hosting a diverse range of artworks, design and installations. As usual, the festival is spread across the city. To avoid too much wear and tear on the shoe leather, hire a bike, pick a neighbourhood and cycle between venues.

If Aoyama is your destination, you could drop in on ikebana (flower arranging) school Sogetsu Kaikan (housed in Kenzo Tange and Isamu Noguchi’s 1970s building,) which is co-hosting an event with Knoll. There you’ll find a combination of classic Eero Saarinen Tulip chairs and Sogets’s floral arrangements. The showroom of Hokkaido furniture-maker Conde House (pictured) is always worth a look and it is currently showing paintings by Manami Numata. This event leads you to backstreets and brands that you might otherwise miss. You might even find yourself leaving Tokyo with an esoteric souvenir, as many exhibited works are also for sale.

Image: Searchlight Pictures/ 20th Century Studios

Monocle 24 / Monocle on Culture

The Banshees of Inisherin

Robert Bound is joined in the studio by Simran Hans and Tim Robey to review the latest film from Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin, a darkly comic tale of friendship and isolation.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: November issue

Looking to kit out your home, office or hotel for the colder months ahead? Look no further than our Design Top 20, with furniture finds, inspiring interiors and insights from key industry leaders. Plus: who will be keeping the lights on this winter, the rail industry gets back on track and a hotel special featuring openings from Manhattan to Hakone.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00