Foresight News rounds up the key events that need to be in your news diary this week…
The findings from Sue Gray’s investigation into multiple potentially rule-breaking gatherings that took place on Whitehall during the pandemic months are expected to be released during this week. After a remarkable PMQs which saw Bury MP Christian Wakeford cross the floor and the previously loyal David Davis call for his immediate resignation, Boris Johnson appeared to have won over enough Tory MPs to at least delay, if not entirely dispel, talk of a potential leadership challenge. But Gray’s findings, which the prime minister has repeatedly encouraged detractors to wait for before promising any action, could still be damaging enough to bring about the end of his premiership.
Fresh from meeting his COP successors in Egypt and the UAE, Alok Sharma delivers a keynote speech at Chatham House on the successes of the Glasgow climate summit and the UK’s plans for the remainder of its presidency. In December, Sharma warned that progress at COP26 could be undermined by a lack of collective effort from ministers, and his challenge over the coming months will be ensuring the Glasgow outcomes remain at the top of the government’s agenda so that the UK and other major economies can build on that progress in Egypt next November.
The High Court hands down a further judgment in the case of Julian Assange, who is seeking permission to fight his extradition to the United States in the UK Supreme Court. A hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in December ruled the WikiLeaks founder should be extradited to face criminal charges over the publication of thousands of classified documents between 2010 and 2011. The judgment is expected at 10:45am.
The Foreign Affairs select committee meets with Ben Wallace as part of its inquiry to examine the government’s policies on Afghanistan. The Defence Secretary descended into a blazing row with then-Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab at the height of the crisis last summer, as two of Whitehall’s most important departments blamed each other for the chaotic evacuation. Wallace’s ire seemingly moved toward the United States when he appeared before MPs in the run-up to Christmas, claiming the US, UK and allied forces had “lacked resolve”.
Transparency International releases its annual Corruption Perceptions Index. For the second year, the index is set to demonstrate the devastating impact of systemic corruption on the global pandemic response. From bribery and misappropriated funds to human rights violations and reduced health care investment, the lowest-scoring countries continue suffer disproportionately from COVID-19. The detention of activists, suppression of protestors, and high-profile inquiries into corrupt leaders may also affect this year’s rankings.
The World Economic Outlook update, which we had been expecting on 19 January, is released today instead, having been delayed to incorporate last-minute data on the effect of Omicron. IMF economic counsellor Gita Gopinath hosts a press conference to discuss the findings.
BBC Director General Tim Davie appears before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee on BBC efficiencies and reform. In the wake of Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ controversial announcement that the license fee is to be frozen until 2024, Davie warned that the corporation faces a £285 million funding gap that will “inevitably” lead to a cut to programming.
Jozef Puska appears in court in Dublin charged with the murder of Ashling Murphy, who was attacked while running along the Grand Canal in Tullamore on 12 January. Murphy’s death has been described as a “watershed” moment in Ireland, leading to vigils, mass campaigns, and a government promise of a new strategy to tackle gender-based violence by March.
The Plan B measures introduced by the government in December to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant in England are lifted. From today, work from home guidance is lifted, masks are no longer mandatory, and the Covid Pass will only be used by venues that voluntarily decide to keep it. Labour leader Keir Starmer said he will back the changes so long as they are supported by evidence, warning Johnson must “reassure the public he is acting to protect their health, not just his job”. However, epidemiologists warn that the relaxation of measures could drive an “exit wave” of hospitalisations in April and May.
The influential Institute for Government think tank publishes its annual Whitehall Monitor report, analysing the government’s performance over the last year. This year’s edition considers how COVID-19 has changed how ministers work and the government’s agenda for the remainder of this Parliament. A launch event this morning features the Conservative MP and select committee chair William Wragg, who has already had lots to say about one minister’s performance in particular.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries follows up her week in the headlines with a speech at RENEW 2022, one of the advertising industry’s leading conferences. Although the BBC has been firmly in the government crosshairs, the Culture Secretary could use the speech as an opportunity to update on the potential privatisation of Channel 4.
Wales is due to introduce the final significant relaxation of its coronavirus restrictions as the country completes its move to alert level zero. Assuming the public health situation remains stable through this week, the relaxations mean nightclubs can re-open, the legal requirement to work from home will be lifted, and the “rule of six” for hospitality settings will be abandoned. Despite recent drops in the number of confirmed cases in Wales and similar easings already being announced for England, the Welsh Government has resisted calls to bring the relaxations forward.
Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic of Netflix’s Tiger King, appears in court for a resentencing hearing after an appeals court ruled that his 22-year sentence was incorrectly calculated. The controversial mullet-wearing zookeeper was found guilty in 2019 of plotting a murder-for-hire scheme against fellow big cat keeper Carole Baskin. Maldonado-Passage, now 58 and suffering from prostate cancer, could see his sentence reduced to 17 years.
It’s finals weekend at the Australian Open, with the women’s singles match taking centre stage on Saturday before the men’s singles concludes on Sunday. Britain’s Emma Raducanu couldn’t repeat her US Open heroics after a shock second round exit, while defending champion Naomi Osaka also crashed out to Amanda Anisimova. In the men’s draw, Novak Djokovic’s absence leaves the door open for Rafa Nadal to become the most successful men’s player of all time, though only one of the Spaniard’s 20 Grand Slam titles has come Down Under.
Voters go to the polls in Portugal for snap elections called in November after the Assembly rejected the budget put forward by Antonio Costa’s minority government. Costa’s Socialist Party won 108 of 230 seats in the October 2019 election, just short of a majority, but recent polls show a similar result is likely this time around, with a potential gain for the opposition Social Democrats. Costa’s government raised eyebrows last week as it announced a plan to allow people infected with COVID-19 to leave their homes to vote, with the recommendation that they visit ballot stations between 6pm and 7pm when they would be less busy.
The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.
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