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
The government’s attempt to block its own inquiry from accessing Boris Johnson’s unredacted WhatsApp messages is heard at the High Court on Friday (June 30). Covid-19 Inquiry chair Baroness Hallett served the government with numerous deadlines to hand over messages, diaries and notebooks in May, but the Cabinet Office has applied for a judicial review of Hallett’s order, arguing that the inquiry’s powers don’t extend to compelling ‘unambiguously irrelevant’ material. While Johnson has offered to provide the unredacted messages himself, the government is arguing the case on principle amid reports that the inquiry could request similar material from serving cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The expedited hearing is scheduled to run over two days, continuing on Monday (July 3).
Ahead of the court hearing, the inquiry enters its third week with another set of high-profile politicians and health officials giving evidence on the UK’s pandemic resilience and preparedness. UKHSA chief executive Dame Jenny Harries is up first on Monday (June 26) to explain the role she played in pandemic preparation in her time as Deputy Chief Medical Officer between 2019 and 2021. The week’s blockbuster session comes on Tuesday (June 27), when pandemic-era Health Secretary Matt Hancock will have a chance to clarify his assertion that there was a ‘lack of concrete preparedness plans’ in place when he entered office in 2018. On Wednesday (June 28) the inquiry’s focus turns to Scotland, as a number of Scottish health officials give evidence, before beleaguered former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her former Deputy John Swinney appear on Thursday (June 29) to answer questions on the differences between the Scottish and UK governments’ pandemic preparations.
A media circus is expected to descend on Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday (June 28) as Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey appears in person to stand trial on a string of sexual assault charges. The American Beauty star has denied 12 counts of sexual assault, indecent assault, and causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent against four different men between 2001 and 2013, and has vowed to clear his name and restore his career. Netflix dropped Spacey from House of Cards in the wake of the charges, and producers of All the Money in the World even scrapped scenes with him, reshooting them with actor Christopher Plummer. But the actor said in a recent interview that he hopes people are ready to work with him again ‘the moment after’ the trial, which is scheduled to last four weeks. He faces a prison sentence if found guilty.
There’ll be plenty of MPs nervously awaiting the publication this week of the new constituency maps which are due to be in place for the next general election, with the four UK boundary commissions due to send final recommendations to Parliament by Saturday (July 1). Analysis of interim proposals for the redrawing of the political map released last autumn suggested the Conservatives would benefit from seat changes in England, though the party’s polling difficulties since then may temper expectations. England is set to gain 10 seats, while Wales and Scotland both lose seats and the number in Northern Ireland remains the same. Some big names face the prospect of competing for a merged seat or scrambling around for a new constituency before 2024, with Cabinet members Ben Wallace and Suella Braverman, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and Lib Dem leader Ed Davey among those set to be affected by the changes.
European leaders gather in Brussels on Thursday and Friday (June 29-30) for yet another summit dominated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, though leaders will also discuss economic issues, migration, China, and July’s summit with Latin American and Caribbean leaders. The meeting comes as the bloc finally agreed its latest sanctions package against Russia after weeks of negotiations that were threatening to overshadow the summit, and follows a breakthrough earlier this month in talks to overhaul EU asylum rules. But leaders are still working through disagreements over the Commission’s recent proposals for new checks on exports and investments to China, as Brussels pushes for tighter controls while member states look to protect their trade links with Beijing.
Leaders are also likely to use the summit to hold informal discussions on who should succeed Jens Stoltenberg as the next NATO chief amid suggestions that Stoltenberg could be asked to extend his term for a fourth time as allies struggle to agree on a replacement. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who was thought to be a contender for the job, told The Economist this week that he was out of the running as rumours about extending Stoltenberg’s term ramped up. Stoltenberg, meanwhile, is in Lithuania on Monday and Tuesday (June 26-27) as part of preparations for the Vilnius summit next month, where his successor is due to be unveiled.