Tuesday 14 May 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 14/5/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

A right mess: Geert Wilders

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Stefan de Vries

Coalition blues

Since the Netherlands’ November elections, in which Geert Wilders’ far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) unexpectedly won the most seats, four parties (the BBB, NSC, VVD and PVV) representing a peculiar mix of conservatives and populists have been locked in negotiations to form a government. Wilders quickly declined the role of prime minister, posting on social media, “I can only become prime minister if all parties in the coalition support it. They didn’t.” On Saturday, Wilders said that he had reached out to a potential prime minister who had agreed to take the mantle but he refused to disclose their name. The only thing that the other negotiating parties have agreed on is to form a cabinet that “provides all people in the Netherlands with support”.

This hollow phrase obscures the reality that the four parties have significant differences when it comes to immigration, the rule of law and more. Though the Dutch are used to lengthy coalition negotiations, voters are losing patience. Issues such as climate change, the war in Ukraine and a nationwide housing crisis require immediate attention. If the deadlock continues, the Green Party and the Labour Party, which went on the ballot as a coalition, might attempt to form a government.

This scenario would be a nightmare for Wilders but might be the only way out of this mess. Since November, the PVV leader has made a concerted effort to appear more moderate; indeed, the Dutch media have given him the nickname “Milders”. Yet, last month, he stormed out of negotiations, saying that he was “done with concessions”. Rejoining the opposition is beyond the pale, so he might prefer to push for new elections. His partners in the coalition have set a deadline of tomorrow to agree on a new leader. Despite the political chaos, life in the Netherlands remains largely unchanged. The Dutch are used to being governed by the civil service but they deserve better.

Stefan de Vries is a Monocle contributor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Energy / Ukraine

Keeping the lights on

Ukraine plans to import a record amount of electricity from its European partners this week, following an escalation in Russian drone and missile attacks on the country’s energy infrastructure. According to experts in the sector, Ukraine has lost more than 80 per cent of its thermal-power-generation capacity. This has been compounded by Russian strikes on hydroelectric stations across the country. Widespread blackouts have been reported in major cities such as Kharkiv, affecting business operations, air-raid alert systems and water supplies.

Neighbouring countries including Romania, Hungary and Poland will export their electricity to make up for the energy deficit. But in the long term, Ukraine will have to rely on its three nuclear power plants and fix the damage to its energy infrastructure, which will reportedly cost about €1bn. With experts warning that the strikes are a Russian tactic aimed at provoking a new refugee crisis, the West should heed Ukrainian calls and help the country to boost its air defences.

Star quality: Noémie Merlant on the red carpet

Image: Getty Images

Culture / France

In the Cannes

The 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival has arrived at the French Riviera. Over the course of 12 days, 35,000 visitors from 160 countries are expected to catch a screening or file through the Marché du Film, the movie market that takes place in conjunction with the festival. This year’s guest of honour is US actress Meryl Streep, with director Greta Gerwig leading the jury in charge of awarding the coveted Palme d’Or to one of the 22 films competing for the prize.

We’ll be keeping an eye out for César-winning French actor-director Noémie Merlant’s second title, a comedy-horror feature set in Marseilles called The Balconettes. Other hot tickets include Francis Ford Coppola’s self-funded Megalopolis and Iranian-Danish director Ali Abbasi’s The Apprentice, a biographical feature on Donald Trump’s 1970s and 1980s real-estate career in New York.

High hopes: Tourists looking out at Mount Fuji

Image: Alamy

Society / Japan

Ticket to climb

Lace up your hiking boots: the climbing season for Mount Fuji is looming. And those hoping to scale its summit will be able to do so more peacefully than in recent years. Last year the mountain’s trails almost looked busier than Tokyo’s Shibuya crossing, with 221,322 climbers reaching the top. But from 20 May, access will be organised in a more orderly fashion. Kotaro Nagasaki, the governor of Yamanashi prefecture, in which the mountain sits, announced yesterday that those intending to conquer its peak must book online and pay a mandatory advance fee of ¥2,000 (€12).

The maximum number of climbers will be limited to 4,000 a day and the most popular trail will be blocked at night to prevent those without reservations from making a dash for it. While the measures sound stringent, the idea is to address the reality of over-tourism – and lift the experience of a trip up Japan’s most famous mountain to a higher plateau.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Hole & Corner

Q&A / Robert Ettinger

Classics in the making

Robert Ettinger is the CEO of the Ettinger luxury leather-goods company, which has been known for its superior craftsmanship since 1934. When the company received a royal warrant from the then Prince of Wales in 1996, it helped to propel the brand’s recognition abroad. Ettinger talks to The Monocle Minute about his company’s ethos, its attitude towards new ideas and the importance of being a national heritage brand.

How would you describe the brand’s ethos today?
We are not high fashion and don’t change our collections every six months. Our products last a long time and can be repaired. In fact, we have just started a new repair service and are seeing products that have been used for 20 years. It’s important in this day and age for people to realise that they need to buy things that will last far longer. British craft is slowly coming back. We mustn’t lose the skills that we need to make things. Once they’re lost, they’re lost forever.

Do you like to engage with new ideas as a company?
Yes, we have brainstorming sessions at our Putney showroom in London every few months to think about new ways of doing things. This is how we have always worked as designers within the business. But we also get people from our factory involved so that they can tell us when something doesn’t work business-wise. But you can’t reinvent the wheel. A lot of our ideas are inspired by things that we made in the past. Our products have to be practical and hold whatever they’re made to hold. So we have to be sensible. We can tweak things and make small design changes but we can’t create something that doesn’t work.

How important is Britishness to your brand?
It’s fundamental. Having the royal warrant brings with it a lot of respect, both locally and when we’re exporting. It’s a seal of approval, quality and trust. I remember going to Japan about 25 years ago and no one wanted to take us up. When I went back the following year with the warrant, they approached us straight away and the rest is history.

To listen to our full interview with Robert Ettinger, tune in to episode 648 of ‘The Entrepreneurs’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / Monocle on Culture

Fraud and fortune in the art market

We meet Orlando Whitfield, once the best friend of contemporary art dealer Inigo Philbrick, to hear about how the latter was convicted of wire fraud. Whitfield’s new book, All That Glitters, tells the story of the pair’s friendship, Philbrick’s downfall and Whitfield’s experience of the world of fine art. Plus, commentator Melanie Gerlis puts Philbrick’s tale into the wider context of today’s art market.


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