A look ahead at the key events leading the news agenda next week, from the team at Foresight News. Delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Leading the week
Peers delivered a first shot across the bows of Rishi Sunak’s flagship policy this week by voting for a motion to delay approval of the UK-Rwanda treaty, and the sparring resumes in the House of Lords on Monday (January 29) with second reading of the Rwanda asylum bill. This stage of the bill’s progress should be straightforward, with the real battles likely to come during next month’s committee stages, but Monday’s debate will give detractors their first opportunity to set out the case against the deportation plans, and it’s also likely to give ministers a good idea of what to expect from opposition amendments down the line. We’ll get a chance to gauge the reaction at the top of government on Wednesday (January 31), when James Cleverly is grilled by MPs on the Home Affairs Committee on the Rwanda bill and migration policy more generally.
Nicola Sturgeon’s role in the Covid-19 pandemic is set to be closely examined this week as the former Scottish first minister appears at the UK’s pandemic inquiry for an all-day session on Wednesday (January 31). Module 2A of the inquiry, which focuses on the Scottish Government’s handling of the pandemic, has so far been dominated by internal WhatsApp messages (or lack thereof). While revelations of Sturgeon’s rather flowery descriptions of senior political figures attracted national attention last week, opposition politicians seized on evidence that decisions were routinely made via WhatsApp messages which were later deleted, accusing the government of a ‘deliberate cover up’.
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove is up first on Monday (January 29) to discuss his late-pandemic-era role as UK Minister for Intergovernmental Relations, followed by former Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman. On Tuesday (January 30), former controversial SNP leadership candidate and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes appears, followed by former Deputy First Minister John Swinney. Scottish Secretary Alister Jack appears on Thursday (February 1) to round off the week.
Brianna Ghey’s killers are unmasked at Manchester Crown Court at their sentencing on Friday (February 2). Ghey, 16, was found dead on February 11, 2023, after suffering from stab wounds in Linear Park, Culceth, Liverpool. Vigils were held around the country, with members of the trans community fearing her killing had been a targeted attack.
A boy and a girl, who were 15 at the time of Ghey’s death, were charged with her murder and faced trial, in which disturbing details were heard. The pair, known as Girl X and Boy Y, had been fascinated with murder, and discussed killing other children before they settled on Ghey, who X had befriended months earlier. WhatsApp messages revealed Boy Y had discussed killing the teen to ‘see if it will scream like a man or a girl’. Mrs Justice Yip has confirmed the killers’ automatic anonymity will be lifted upon sentencing, allowing them to be named and pictured.
It’s been a mixed bag for the UK’s economic and fiscal picture in recent weeks, with low public borrowing contrasting with stalling wage growth and recession-adjacent GDP figures. Those public finance figures are thought to be tempting Jeremy Hunt into lining up some tax cuts for his March budget, but before the Chancellor gets too carried away, he should take note of what Andrew Bailey has to say on Thursday (February 1) after the Bank of England’s latest interest rate decision and monetary policy report. The MPC isn’t expected to announce a cut this month, but the governor’s post-report press conference will nonetheless be closely watched for any guidance on when we can expect rates to start falling this year.
The US Senate Judiciary Committee holds a highly-anticipated hearing on online child sexual exploitation on Wednesday (January 31), which is set to feature rare public testimony from Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, TikTok’s Shou Chew and Twitter’s Linda Yaccarino alongside the CEOs of Discord and Snap. Their appearances come after the committee announced in November it had been forced to enlist the US Marshals Service to personally subpoena the CEOs after the firms refused to cooperate, in what was described as a ‘remarkable departure from typical practice’. The hearing is part of a wider Senate effort to tackle the negative effects the internet can have on children, with bills introduced last year to force platforms to report child sex trafficking and enticement crimes and senators expressing concerns over the addictive nature of smartphones and social media.
Amid uncertainty elsewhere in Congress about the likelihood of reaching an agreement on funding for Ukraine, European leaders gather in Brussels on Thursday (February 1) for an extraordinary summit aimed at agreeing on the bloc’s aid to Kyiv after Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban single-handedly blocked an agreement at their last summit in December.
The gathering follows the Turkish parliament’s vote this week approving Sweden’s accession to NATO, leaving Hungary the sole member of the alliance yet to sign off on Stockholm’s membership application in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In the wake of the vote by Turkish lawmakers, Orban is said to have provoked fury by inviting Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson to Budapest to ‘negotiate’ over the issue, though he subsequently appeared to backtrack. Kristersson has agreed to talks in Budapest but appears keen to discuss the matter when both leaders are in Brussels next week.
Elections are scheduled in El Salvador on Sunday (February 4), and the country’s youthful president, Nayib Bukele, is expected to easily secure a second term despite a constitutional ban on leaders serving consecutive terms. Bukele, a baseball-cap wearing Bitcoin enthusiast, has introduced a series of hardline policies since taking office in 2019 aimed at tackling crime in the country. And while his mano dura (iron fist) policies, including the imposition of a state of emergency in 2022 that suspends key rights for suspects, have been criticised by some, the dramatic results in terms of reducing murders look likely to be handsomely rewarded at the ballot box.