Thursday 1 June 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 1/6/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Reuters

Opinion / Blake Evans-Pritchard

Call to action

There can be no denying that Spain’s regional and municipal elections were bad news for the ruling Socialist party – even worse, in fact, than the polls had predicted. But the country’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez (pictured, on poster), has a plan. Rather than allow the right-wing People’s party (PP) to take control of the unfolding narrative and let it spend the next six months crowing about its victory, Sánchez has chosen to bring the general election forward to 23 July.

It’s a risky move. Sánchez is resting all of his hopes on the electorate ignoring the PP hype at the very moment when the opposition party is the strongest it has been in more than 12 years. But the calculated gamble might just pay off. In terms of the absolute share of the popular vote, Sánchez hasn’t actually done all that badly. The PP won 31.5 per cent of the total voter share compared to the Socialists’ 28.1 per cent. This represents only a 1.3 percentage-point drop on Sánchez’s performance in the 2019 national election but an 8.9 per cent jump for the PP. The PP was able to tap into the centrist vote, following the demise of the Ciudadanos party.

“I wouldn’t say that this is necessarily great for Sánchez,” Ignacio Jurado, a political science lecturer at Carlos III University in Madrid, tells The Monocle Minute. “But he has clearly taken the view that holding the election in July will be a lot less risky than waiting until December.” Sánchez’s brash move speaks volumes about his leadership and what to expect if he stays in power. He knows that winning the next election will require both decisive action and the willingness to take risks.

Blake Evans-Pritchard is a Barcelona-based journalist covering Spanish politics and culture. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / South Africa

In a bind

Today the foreign ministers from the Brics group of large emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – will gather in Cape Town for discussions on expanding the bloc, as well as other geopolitical issues. But hanging over the talks is a row over whether South African authorities would arrest Vladimir Putin (pictured, on right, beside Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov) were he to attend the leaders’ summit that is planned for August. The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russia’s president in March; as a signatory to the Rome Statute, South Africa is obliged to enact it. Though the nation has issued diplomatic immunity to all leaders attending both summits, analysts say that South Africa is in a complicated position in which, on the one hand, it would like to enjoy the status associated with a high-profile visit from a head of state but, on the other, it wants to appear neutral on the war in Ukraine. “There is a growing hope within South Africa that Putin actually will not come,” Russia analyst Mark Galeotti tells The Monocle Minute. “That would extricate them from this embarrassing situation.”

Image: Shutterstock

Technology / Japan & China

Checks and balances

Much like the US and the Netherlands, Japan has been restricting the export of semiconductor-manufacturing equipment to China. From July the government is expected to tighten regulations even further in the hope of keeping Beijing’s technological development in check.

This week, China’s commerce minister, Wang Wentao, urged Japan to remove its export controls and branded them a serious violation of international trade rules, while Japan argued that it is trying to uphold international peace. “Relations between the two countries are both complex and intimate,” says Alessio Patalano, an Asian defence expert and professor at King’s College London. “But Japan’s move is significant because it signals its closer ties in research and development with the US, as well as its desire to reduce its trade dependency on China.”

Image: Peter Marino Architect

Hospitality / France & USA

Staying in fashion

Luxury conglomerate LVMH, which is behind the Cheval Blanc and Belmond luxury hotel chains, is doubling down on its investment in hospitality and getting some of its top fashion brands involved too. Dior has incorporated private suites for top clients in its renovated flagship on Paris’s Avenue Montaigne, while Louis Vuitton has announced that it is preparing to turn its former headquarters in the French capital into the brand’s first luxury hotel within the next five years.

There have been challenges too. This week, LVMH backed out of plans to build a new Cheval Blanc hotel in California’s Beverly Hills (proposed design pictured) after the city voted against it. A union representing 32,000 local hospitality workers argued that there was not enough affordable housing in the city for staff. But with many of the conglomerate’s fashion labels expected to slow production as a result of its environmental impact, expanding into hotels offers another route to continued growth.

Image: Ben Moynihan

Culture / Australia

Second to nun

For more than a century, the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne was home to one of Australia’s largest Catholic congregations, as well as thousands of women and girls who were placed in its care – some against their will – prior to its closure in 1974. Today the Abbotsford Convent Foundation has carefully transformed the site’s 11 buildings into Australia’s largest arts-and-culture precinct. Its creative residents find inspiration in the building’s history.

“I love being surrounded by design and materials that don’t just last but age with elegance,” Johanna Howe, co-founder of clothing label Caves Collect, tells Monocle, pointing to the decades-thick layers of peeling paint and the stone archways under which DJ sets are hosted at the weekend. Upstairs, Ink & Spindle’s Lara Cameron and Caitlin Klooger handprint homewares in their studio. “As a female-led business, we are giving the space a more positive and empowered purpose,” says Cameron. The site has undergone two decades of restorations since going into community ownership in 2004 and it is now sensitively dealing with its dark past in order to have a brighter future.

For more on the Abbotsford Convent Foundation and agenda-setting stories on culture and the arts, pick up a copy of Monocle’s June issue, which is on sale now. Or subscribe today so that you never miss an issue.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto

Monocle Radio / The Menu

Summa, ‘Rice Table’ and Foodtank

Monocle’s Milan correspondent, Ivan Carvalho, heads to the Summa wine fair in South Tyrol and Chris Cermak chats to Danielle Nierenberg, co-founder of Foodtank, a US non-profit think tank focused on all things food and agriculture. Also in the programme: Andrei Nikolai Pamintuan speaks to Su Scott about her latest Korean cookbook, Rice Table, and we have the week’s top food and drink headlines.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: June issue, 2023

Ever dreamed of ditching the rat race for a life on the land? We meet the new Mediterranean farmers doing just that in the latest edition of Monocle. Issue 164 also includes an Art Special that puts collectors, galleries and this year’s Art Basel in the frame. Plus: a guide to the Venice Architecture Biennale and a rare venture into Syria. Order your copy today.


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