Tuesday 3 October 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 3/10/2023

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Fighting straw men: the UK’s transport secretary, Mark Harper

Image: Getty Images

POLITICS / Andrew Mueller

Empty promises

This week’s Conservative Party conference might be the last such conclave before the next UK general election. Given current polling, it is difficult to rise above comparisons with the supper service aboard the RMS Titanic on the evening of 14 April 1912. There is certainly an equivalent amount of idle chatter in the face of looming calamity.

It is never fair to judge a political party by the loopiest outbursts that you overhear at its conference – all such gatherings are beacons for the lonely and unhinged. It is, however, fair to judge one by the statements of members of the actual cabinet. Yesterday, Mark Harper, the secretary of state for transport, unmistakably endorsed a deranged conspiracy theory about “15-minute cities”.

The urban-planning concept holds that all of the amenities of everyday life should be within an easy stroll of the average citizen’s home: a noble goal. But in the US in particular, this idea has been seized upon by the tinfoil-hat community, who fear that authorities intend to make this convenience compulsory and deprive them of their God-given right to have to drive for an hour to buy a pint of milk or another shotgun. This is what Harper was invoking when he promised that the Tories would resist “local councils deciding how often you can go to the shops”.

Promising to prevent something that was never going to happen is an old political trick. But this was a depressing manifestation of it from a party that once prided itself on stolid, stoic common sense – and a dismal harbinger of how the Tories plan to fight the next election. They still have time to come up with some actual ideas. Ironically, the people most adamant about the sinister subtext of the 15-minute city are exactly the ones who should be confined to their own neighbourhoods and spare the rest of us from their nonsense.

Andrew Mueller is a contributing editor at Monocle and presenter of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle Radio. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Friends like these: Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba (on left), and the EU high representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell

Image: Alamy

Diplomacy / EU & Ukraine

Waning interest

Foreign ministers and top representatives of EU member states gathered in Kyiv on Monday to show support in a first-of-its-kind meeting outside the bloc’s borders. But some of Ukraine’s allies are wavering: the US Congress excluded funding for the country from an emergency spending bill on Sunday. Meanwhile, in Slovakia, Robert Fico, a pro-Russia former prime minister, won the largest share of votes in the elections over the weekend – a result that is likely to undermine the country’s support for Ukraine.

“Fico campaigned on a strong anti-Ukraine message, questioning a lot of basic policies when it comes to the war and speaking positively about Russia,” Rikard Jozwiak, Europe editor at Radio Free Europe, tells The Monocle Minute. “Warsaw was Kyiv’s best friend at the beginning of the war but recently Poland has become pretty critical. We are suddenly seeing Ukraine fatigue seeping into the body politic of many of these countries that used to be its biggest allies.”

For the latest on the EU representatives gathering in Kyiv tune in to ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio at 07.00 London time.

Urbanism / Tokyo

Towering achievement

A 49th-floor open-air infinity pool, a 205-room hotel designed by Denmark’s Space Copenhagen and a restaurant by Kei Kobayashi, the first Japanese chef to win three Michelin stars in France, are just some of the attractions at Mori Building Company’s newest mixed-use development, Toranomon Hills Station Tower, which opens in Tokyo this Friday. The 266-metre skyscraper is the inaugural Tokyo tower of architectural firm OMA and Shohei Shigematsu, who heads up its New York office.

Reaching for the sky: Toranomon Hills Station Tower

Image: Shinya Ohno, Asahi Shimbun
Image: Shinya Ohno, Asahi Shimbun

Cooking up a treat: Michelin three-star chef Kei Kobayashi

Image: Shinya Ohno, Asahi Shimbun

It sits directly above Toranomon Hills station and its atrium plaza, which opens onto the new station, is home to T-Market, a cluster of 27 bars, restaurants and shops, overseen by Tokyo design studio Wonderwall. On top of it all, cultural facility Tokyo Node will open with a thrilling, futuristic dance performance that will run until mid-November. Mori Building’s regeneration of Toranomon is a complex undertaking. This new tower is connected to the neighbouring skyscraper by a 18-metre-wide pedestrian bridge and both are linked to the station. The project shows the necessity of thinking long-term.

Culture / Turkey

The last word

The 60th edition of the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, Turkey’s longest-running international film festival, has had to be cancelled following government censorship. At the centre of the controversy is Nejla Demirci’s documentary Decree, which follows a doctor and a teacher who were fired from their jobs in 2016 in the aftermath of an attempt to overthrow Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The film was selected as part of the festival line-up before being excluded from the competition last week.

The country’s culture and tourism ministry branded the documentary as propaganda of “victimhood” that serves US-based Fethullah Gülen and his Feto terrorist organisation, which orchestrated the failed coup. The decision to drop the film to appease the government is troubling but the fact that film-makers and directors then pulled out of the festival is a sure sign that artists will still find ways to be heard.

Beyond the Headlines

Think local: Joshi Herrmann (on right) and the team at The Mill

Image: Dani Cole

Q&A / The Mill

Close and personal

A UK news outlet based in Manchester is bucking the trend when it comes to regional media. Founded in 2020, The Mill’s focus on in-depth local stories has proven so successful that it is now expanding to Liverpool and Sheffield. The publication’s founder, Joshi Herrmann, tells The Monocle Minute about what it was like to start a news outlet during the pandemic.

Tell us about the early days of The Mill.
I came up with the idea during the first lockdown. The inspiration came from seeing other people on Substack who had made paid newsletters. I saw an opportunity to create a high-quality local-news model that doesn’t have to produce 20 stories a day.

Was it hard to begin the project during the pandemic?
Actually, the timing was good because people really wanted to access local information. And there was also a sense that some of the national reporting could get a little sensationalist. Within a few months, we had about 5,000 people on the email list.

How is The Mill different from local newspapers? Is it a new way to cover a city?
We’re trying to reinvent what local journalism feels like. It shouldn’t just be about giving people information. It should also inspire them to feel better and more connected with the places that they live in.

You can hear more about The Mill on this week’s episode of ‘The Stack’ on Monocle Radio.

Monocle Films / Design

Shoemaking with Yohei Fukuda

Monocle Films visited the Tokyo studio of Yohei Fukuda, a master shoemaker who has been creating timeless pieces for decades. See behind the scenes at his studio and hear about his ethos in our latest film.


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