Friday 26 April 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 26/4/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

United front: Rishi Sunak and Jens Stoltenberg (on right)

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Alexis Self

Standing firm

As people continue to marvel at the Congressional support for a huge $61bn (€57bn) US military-aid bill for Ukraine, little is made of how, when it comes to this particular war, such bipartisan agreement is a given in the UK parliament. Of Ukraine’s major allies, the UK might be the only country where this is the case – where the government and opposition are engaged in a competition to prove which is more committed to Kyiv’s defence. It’s a scenario that would be difficult to imagine in Washington, Berlin or Paris.

There are several reasons for this. After Brexit, the UK’s role as a bridge between the US and Europe was diminished. Co-ordinating support for Ukraine has given it an opportunity to restore this. London has also been warning the world (and especially Europe) about the dangers posed by Vladimir Putin’s Russia since the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in the UK capital in 2006. But perhaps most salient is how much of the UK’s national identity is bound up with the Second World War when, for about a year between France’s capitulation and Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, it stood alone against Hitler. Ukraine’s plucky stand serves as a reminder of a moment that many believe was the UK’s greatest.

Then, as now, the UK enjoyed a number of particularities that made such a position more likely. In 1940, when a seaborne invasion was still a cumbersome endeavour, an island nation held a distinct advantage. Today, the UK has a long-serving Conservative government whose left-wing opposition is cleaving to the right. That’s why Rishi Sunak’s pledge to increase the country’s defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP by the end of the decade – made the day after the US aid bill was passed – won’t face much resistance. The prime minister also promised to support Kyiv for “as long as it takes”. For him, that probably won’t be much longer but it’s surely comforting for Ukraine to know that at least one of its allies is showing no sign of wavering.

Alexis Self is Monocle’s foreign editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings


Airs apparent

Monocle touched down in Munich yesterday for the official launch of Lufthansa’s new cabin seats, known as Allegris. The overhaul, with a focus on a more personalised, premium experience across seating categories, is due to debut next week aboard an Airbus A350-900, flying from Munich to Vancouver. The concept includes five different seating types in Business Class, though First Class suites won’t be coming until later in the year.

Warm welcome

Image: Getty Images

Full screen ahead: Business Class

Image: Getty Images

“We have been waiting a long time for this moment,” said Jens Ritter, CEO of Lufthansa Airlines. “But now that it’s here, let’s look to the future.” Working with seating specialists such as Recaro and Collins Aerospace, the airline clearly spared no detail. Over the next few years, it plans to retrofit every long-haul plane in its fleet with Allegris cabins, adding 27,000 new seats as part of a €2.5bn investment in its services. We’re sure that it will take off immediately.

For our interview with Lufthansa Airlines’ CEO, Jens Ritter, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio at 07.00 London time.


Bigger pictures

Singapore’s European Film Festival (EUFF) opened this week. The event, organised by the Delegation of the European Union to Singapore, launched in 1991, making it one of the nation’s longest-running film festivals. This year creatives from 24 European countries are taking part, showcasing recent domestic releases alongside older classics.

Highlights include Anselm, a new documentary from Wim Wenders, and Comandante, Italian director Edoardo De Angelis’s 2023 picture set during the Second World War. The EUFF is an important vehicle of cultural exchange for the EU, which also uses the event to support emerging Singaporean talents. Over the next month, five student films will be screened at the festival, which runs until 25 May at The Projector cinema.

Image: James Retief/Veja


Reuse, reduce, restock

Veja’s first UK shop opened yesterday in London’s Covent Garden, almost 20 years after Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion co-founded the ecological footwear label in Paris. As part of their mission to make their products last longer and be more sustainable, the duo included an in-house cobbler service in the new 137 sq m space. Meanwhile, restock pairs will be delivered to the shop every day by bicycle, and natural stone – which, unlike clay bricks, are made without firing – was chosen for the walls to minimise the carbon footprint.

“We have been designing trainers since 2005,” Kopp tells The Monocle Minute. “For 15 years, we have been trying to figure out what to do. Trainers are never recycled because that would be too complicated.” At its new London outpost, Veja is exploring smart alternative ways to be environmentally responsible – all while taking a big stride into one of its largest markets.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Getty Images

Photo of the week / Amber skies

Shifting sands

A cloud of dust from the Sahara descended over the Greek capital this week, turning its blue skies into an orange haze. Athenians flooded social media with posts comparing the scene to post-apocalyptic Hollywood films.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Menu

Rosebank, Johannesburg

This week we head to Johannesburg in South Africa. Known for its work-hard-play-hard culture, it’s a city that brings together a vibrant mix of cultures. Elna Schütz heads to the leafy suburb of Rosebank to sample its innovative restaurants.


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