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
History will be made next week as King Charles III is crowned King of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Realms following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in September 2022. The coronation itself takes place on Saturday (May 6) at Westminster Abbey, where Charles III will be crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, before proceeding to Buckingham Palace where the King will appear on the balcony alongside the Queen Consort and the Prince and Princess of Wales. A host of political figures and dignitaries are confirmed to be attending the ceremony, among them former Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, First Ministers Humza Yousaf and Mark Drakeford, a US delegation led by First Lady Jill Biden, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Predictably, the coronation invitation list is not without its controversies. Last week, Sinn Fein leader Michelle O’Neill somewhat controversially confirmed she would attend the ceremony, saying she was committed to ‘being a First Minister for all, representing the whole community’. Meanwhile, Chinese Vice President Han Zheng, who previously oversaw a crackdown on civil liberties across Hong Kong, is heading up the Chinese delegation, much to the opprobrium of human rights activists and a number of Conservative MPs. Nor will all of the British public be sharing in the adulation surrounding the crowning of a new King: anti-monarchist campaign group Republic are planning to stage a #NotMyKing protest along the coronation procession route to call for the abolition of the royal institution, while Scottish independence campaigning group All Under One Banner (AUOB) are planning a similarly timed march in Glasgow to call for a second independence referendum.
A special concert to mark the second day of the coronation weekend takes place on Sunday (May 7) at Windsor castle, with performances from artists ranging from Andrea Bocelli to Katy Perry to Lionel Richie. The concert has so far been marred by ticketing issues, with some royal fans being told they had secured tickets only to find there were no longer any available. The weekend is rounded off by a special bank holiday on Monday (May 8).
Voters across England head to polling stations on Thursday (May 4) to decide who will be in charge of local services in more than 200 areas and to elect four new mayors in Bedford, Leicester, Mansfield and Middlesbrough. A party’s performance in local votes doesn’t always translate to a national level, though next week’s elections will be the first real pulse-taking of life under Rishi Sunak and will act as a useful bellwether of the state of play going into what is sure to be a wearing and acrimonious campaign for the 2024 general election. Some forecasts have the Conservatives losing as many as 1,000 council seats; the usual caveat about governing parties tending to fare poorly in local elections aside, this would still represent a major blow for the prime minister, with the Labour Party still polling consistently well at a national level.
Along with rows over questionable attack ads, the buildup to these elections has seen the main parties at odds over the controversial requirement for voters to show photo ID for the first time. The new rules were brought in by the government to prevent voter fraud, though Electoral Commission data from the 2022 elections suggests that impersonation at polling stations is far from widespread. Opposition parties have accused ministers of voter suppression and are warning that thousands of potential voters risk being turned away on polling day, with questions over what forms of ID are acceptable and reports of disinformation in recent days only adding to the confusion.
hile results will start to come in from Friday (May 5), the row over voter ID could rumble on for months yet, after local government minister Rachel Maclean told Parliament that the full number of voters who are turned away won’t be counted and the results of a study on the impact of the policy will not be released until November this year.
After the last-minute 72-hour extension to the shaky cease-fire between the warring parties in Sudan amid a rush to secure the evacuation of foreign nationals from the country, Monday (May 1) has become the new focus for international efforts to bring the country back from the brink of a full-blown civil war with potentially catastrophic consequences for the country and broader region.
Diplomatic efforts to broker talks between the Rapid Support Forces, led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo aka ‘Hemedti’, and the Sudanese army, led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, are being spearheaded by the so-called Quad, made up of the UK, US, Saudi Arabia and UEA, and Trilateral Mechanism (made up of the AU, IGAD and UN). However, planned talks in the South Sudanese capital for today between the RSF and Sudanese Army do not appear to have materialised at the time of writing, perhaps an ominous signal that, despite the ceasefire extension, the parties are in no mood to talk.
Following Foreign Secretary James Cleverly’s policy speech on Tuesday, relations with China will also remain high the international agenda with eyes on events in Washington and Goa next week. After hosting South Korean leader (and surprisingly accomplished crooner) Yoon Suk-yeol, US President Joe Biden keeps the focus on Asia with a visit from Philippine president Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr on Monday (May 1).
Marcos’s first US trip since taking office last summer comes as the Philippines finds itself increasingly entangled in the broader power struggle between the US and China. Just this month, the Philippines has been involved in joint ministerial meetings and the largest-ever joint military drills with the US, while China’s new foreign minister Qin Gang used a visit to Manila later in April to reiterate Beijing’s concerns about the increased US military presence in the country. Monday’s talks, as well as a planned address by Marcos at the CSIS on Thursday (May 4) are therefore likely to be closely watched in Beijing as Biden prepares to visit the region later in May for the G7 and Quad summits in Japan and Australia.
Western leaders will also be keeping a close eye on Goa, where Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang is expected to attend a two-day gathering of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on Thursday and Friday (May 4 and 5) alongside his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and likely Iran’s Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. The meeting of key non-Western players is likely to discuss the war in Ukraine, among other topics, and China-watchers will be looking out for new insights into Beijing’s stance in the wake of the recent phone call between Xi Jinping and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, their first since Russia’s invasion last February.
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee members will also be watching Washington this week as the Fed announces its latest interest rate decision on Wednesday (May 3) followed by the traditional press conference with Jerome Powell. Most observers are expecting a further 0.25% hike, which would mark the tenth consecutive rate rise by the US central bank as it attempts to control inflation. Whether it is the last such hike, as some are hoping, may well hinge on April’s inflation data, which isn’t out until May 10, though this week’s disappointing growth data makes that a more likely scenario. The MPC are considering a similar problem ahead of their rate decision later this month, following higher-than-expected March inflation data.