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
Scotland’s new First Minister will enter office next week as the ballot closes for the SNP’s tumultuous leadership campaign at noon on Monday (March 27), with an announcement on the final result due shortly afterwards. A series of scandals over membership size and party funding have engulfed the party in recent weeks, the latter having led to the resignation of SNP Chairman Peter Murrell, the husband of departing leader Nicola Sturgeon. Meanwhile, the unexpectedly ferocious contest between Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan has raged on as it appears set to go down to the wire. Establishment candidate Humza Yousaf remains the bookies’ favourite going into next week, but polling suggests Kate Forbes, despite having made a number of controversial statements, may not be too far behind and is indeed more popular among the Scottish electorate at large.
Arguments between the three candidates over issues ranging from independence to gender recognition, not to mention the SNP’s record in government, have overshadowed the process of replacing Sturgeon. And while the outgoing leader has denied the party is in crisis and instead suggested it is merely going through ‘growing pains’, a resurgent Scottish Labour Party is increasingly confident it can exploit the widening fissures within the SNP to claw back some power in the country it once dominated. Whoever emerges victorious will now face the twin struggles of succeeding one of the most effective politicians in recent British history and maintaining the SNP’s position as the dominant political force in Scotland. After the result is announced, the process continues with a nomination vote in Holyrood on Tuesday (March 28) followed by a ceremony at the Court of Session in Edinburgh on either Wednesday (March 29) or Thursday (March 30) in which the victor will officially be sworn in ahead of a debut First Minister’s Questions on the Thursday.
A week after his former boss attempted to throw him under the bus during a gripping committee hearing, Rishi Sunak sits down for a grilling of his own by the Liaison Committee on Tuesday (March 28). Ongoing personal grudges aside, the hearing comes after a good few weeks for the Prime Minister: he’s enjoyed a productive reunion with Emmanuel Macron, his Chancellor delivered a budget that didn’t cause a meltdown in the markets, and he secured a huge majority in a vote on the Windsor Framework that effectively saw off the ERG as a parliamentary force. With one poll even showing the Conservatives significantly narrowing Labour’s lead, the Prime Minister can come into this session in a confident mood, though he shouldn’t expect an easy ride with the controversial pension changes announced at Budget sure to come up before the committee gets around to migration legislation and the small boats policy. And despite the best efforts of Number 10 to sneak the Prime Minister’s tax return out on Wednesday afternoon there are sure to be questions on the extent to which he has benefited from a change to taxation of capital gains which he voted for in 2016.
The Climate Change Committee, the UK’s independent adviser on the subject, delivers its biennial report to Parliament on progress in preparing for, and adapting to, the impacts of climate change on Wednesday (March 29). It comes hot on the heels of this week’s IPCC report which warned that limiting global warming to 1.5C may now be beyond reach. In a doomsday prophecy, the report concluded that many parts of the world will be unable to cope with the level of climate change the planet could experience by 2100 unless drastic action is taken. The committee’s last assessment accused the government of inaction, while a report released only two weeks ago said it will fail to deliver Net Zero by 2035 at current rates of infrastructure deployment. This suggests that the coming report will at the very least make for uncomfortable reading for the Sunak administration, though hearings on Wednesday in cases brought against Switzerland and France in the European Court of Human Rights may see the threat of future legal action start to influence ministers’ thinking.
Following his trip to Russia for talks with Vladimir Putin, next week will see Chinese President Xi Jinping host his Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Beijing for a summit on Tuesday (March 28) once again overshadowed by the conflict in Ukraine, although in public both leaders will likely be at pains to deny this. Lula is bringing with him a record-sized business delegation, in a clear sign that trade ties will be a major focus for the trip as far as he is concerned. Lula, who visited Washington in February not long after taking office, is generally viewed as a more natural ally of Western leaders than his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro. But his stance on the Ukraine conflict is at odds with most in the West, and he has resisted pressure to take sides in the conflict. This may prove to be an increasingly difficult position to maintain, especially after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on war crimes charges. In August, the annual summit of leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, and China and South Africa (BRICS) is due to be hosted by South Africa, a signatory to the Rome Statute who may have to choose between arresting Vladimir Putin or ignoring the court. Even more awkwardly, in 2024, Lula will face the same dilemma when he hosts the G20 summit.
Preparation for the first state visit for King Charles since his accession to the throne were thrown into disarray earlier today with the announcement by Buckingham Palace that the first leg to France had been cancelled amid escalating protests over President Macron’s pension reforms. Outrage over plans to raise the pension age in France had already seen several days of protests and strikes by sanitation workers, leading to piles of rubbish on streets across the country, but the sight of Bordeaux town hall on fire and increasingly violent action led the palace to act and offer to reschedule the trip, which was to have included events at the Arc de Triomphe and a State Banquet at Versailles, to a more convenient time. Plans for the King and Queen Consort Camilla to travel to Germany later next week are still, at the time of writing, due to proceed, with highlights of the trip including a banquet hosted by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at Schloss Bellevue on Wednesday (March 29) and an address to the Bundestag by the King on Thursday (March 30).