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
Next week brings another test of Rishi Sunak’s leadership as by-elections take place in the Wellingborough and Kingswood constituencies on Thursday (February 15). The votes follow the ousting of Peter Bone, who succumbed to a recall petition after being suspended from Parliament last year, and the resignation of Net Zero review author Chris Skidmore in protest at the awarding of new oil and gas licences.
The prospect of seeing his majority further reduced in an election year will be unwelcome enough for the prime minister, but with the ballots coming in the same week as the Rwanda bill returns to the House of Lords – where two days of debates and potential amendments are scheduled for Monday and Wednesday (February 12 and 14) – they also represent an opportunity to gauge how much impact one of the government’s flagship policies is having on its ability to return MPs. Labour’s top brass will fancy their chances of completing the first two victories in a potential February by-election hat-trick, though the presence of candidates from Reform UK on both ballot papers is a reminder that neither of the two main parties can afford to be complacent with a general election campaign looming. Results from the two votes will be announced on Friday (February 16).
The first set of quarterly GDP statistics this year are also out on Thursday (February 15), just days after the National Institute of Economic and Social Research said the UK may have entered recession at the end of last year. Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey may respond to suggestions the MPC’s policymaking was partly to blame during a speech at Loughborough University on Monday (February 12), where he’ll also have the opportunity to address the Treasury Committee’s critical views on Threadneedle Street’s quantitative tightening policies.
Thursday’s growth figures will not only confirm whether the UK is on track for a recession but also inform Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s decision-making as he enters the final stages of planning for next month’s Budget. In a bumper week for economic indicators there are also employment and wage stats on Tuesday (February 13) and inflation figures on Wednesday (February 14), with the former notable for including data from the ONS Labour Force Survey for the first time since its use was suspended last autumn over concerns about the quality of response data.
Awards season makes its way to London next week as the British Academy hosts the BAFTA Awards on Sunday (February 18), often seen as a bellwether of critical opinion for the Oscars in March. Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Oppenheimer has emerged as the favourite to sweep the ceremony, with Nolan, leading man Cillian Murphy, and the film itself tipped to win Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Film gongs. Other nominees for Best Film include French legal drama Anatomy of a Fall, coming-of-age dramedy The Holdovers, and Martin Scorsese’s historical epic Killers of the Flower Moon. Emma Stone, star of Yorgos Lanthimos’ dark comedy Poor Things, stands as the likely frontrunner for the Best Actress category, with Oscars rival Lily Gladstone a surprising omission from the nominees list for her role in Killers of the Flower Moon. Even so, Barbie megastar Margot Robbie, whose Oscar snub caused a minor Twitterstorm last week, could have an outside chance of taking home the prize.
Following a week where developments in the Middle East have to a degree overshadowed the conflict in Ukraine, expect a renewed focus on Kyiv’s efforts to withstand Russia’s military campaign, starting on Tuesday (February 14) when the defence ministers from the US-led Ukraine Defence Contact Group are due to meet in Brussels. US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will chair the gathering and hold a news conference after, as he makes his first foreign trip since returning to work following his secretive treatment for prostate cancer in December. The talks come after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced a long-mooted shakeup of the armed forces yesterday amid calls for a change in approach, replacing commander in chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi with General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of the country’s land forces.
The conflict is likely to feature prominently at the NATO defence ministers’ meeting on Wednesday (February 15), when Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov will join alliance counterparts for the afternoon session, as well at the Munich Security Conference – dubbed the ‘Davos of Defence’ – which opens on Friday (February 17) and lasts through the weekend. Although the final programme is usually only announced just before the conference opens, confirmed speakers already include NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Israeli president Isaac Herzog.
Presidential and legislative elections take place Tuesday (February 14) in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world by population and the world’s third-largest democracy. Incumbent President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo is term-limited, though his 36-year-old son Gibran Rakabuming is the running mate of leading presidential candidate and current defence minister Prabowo Subianto, who’s hoping the third time’s the charm after being defeated by Jokowi in 2014 and 2019. Although Prabowo, who has vowed to build on Widodo’s policies, has a comfortable lead in polls, it’s not clear he has enough votes (50 per cent overall and at least 20 per cent in each province) to avoid a runoff that won’t be held until June 26. The new president will take office in October.