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
Following the Privileges Committee’s bombshell report yesterday, MPs vote on Monday (June 19) on whether to accept the committee’s findings that Boris Johnson deliberately misled the House and its recommendation to permanently revoke the access to Parliament usually afforded to former MPs. Conservative MPs have been given a free vote on the motion, which happens to come on the day of Johnson’s 59th birthday, meaning we may get to see the true scale of support that remains for the former prime minister. While a handful of hardcore Johnson allies have pledged to vote against the committee’s findings, a larger number of Tories are expected to abstain, which would allow the motion to pass but likely do nothing to heal the ever-more-public divisions in the party.
Johnson remains bullish on his future, vowing to return to politics, but rumours abound about what he may do while he waits for a safe seat to become available. He’s been unveiled as the Daily Mail’s ‘erudite’ new columnist, with his first effort due out tomorrow, while others have speculated about an eventual return to the Telegraph, as his former editor William Lewis – recently knighted on Johnson’s controversial honours list – reportedly mulls over a bid for the right-leaning paper. A whisper in the FT even suggests a tilt at next year’s London mayoral race as an independent, which would keep him in the political arena but put him directly at odds with the party that is unlikely to stand by him en masse next week.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron may be grateful attention is elsewhere on Monday (June 19) when he becomes the first politician to appear before the Covid-19 inquiry as a series of high-profile names from past governments are questioned on how policies prior to the pandemic shaped the nature of the government response from 2020 onwards. Cameron’s appearance, followed by his chancellor George Osborne and close ally Oliver Letwin on Tuesday (June 20), comes shortly after the release of a TUC report claiming public spending cuts imposed under Cameron’s flagship austerity policy left the government and public sector ‘hugely unprepared’ to respond to the pandemic. On Wednesday (June 21), Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden appear before the inquiry, where Hunt’s tenure as Health Secretary between 2012 and 2018 is likely to be under scrutiny. Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and former Chief Scientific Advisor Patrick Vallance round out the week on Thursday (June 22).
The latest inflation figures are out on Wednesday (June 21) followed by the Bank of England’s interest rate decision on Thursday (June 22) as the UK grapples with higher-than-expected wage growth, core inflation and borrowing costs. The global battle to control inflation saw the Fed pause its programme of hikes this week, but the European Central Bank announced another quarter-point rise and the BoE is expected to follow suit with an increase that would take the bank rate to 4.75%, the highest level since July 2007. Markets are now predicting that the rate will peak at 5.75% this year and potentially reach 6% in 2024. Households struggling with high bills are now facing the prospect of a further inflationary pressure as lenders respond to the central bank’s actions by raising mortgage rates and withdrawing or repricing deals, with both existing homeowners and new buyers looking at higher payments over the coming months.
We’re only weeks into the post-Sturgeon era and the SNP already seems to be in perma-crisis mode, with the party making headlines for all the wrong reasons. New leader Humza Yousaf will attempt to move the conversation on from arrests and dodgy finances when he sets out his vision for independence at a party event in Dundee on Saturday (June 24), with a promise of details on how Scottish voters will be able to give a view on their country’s future. Yousaf admitted last weekend that there was no clear majority for independence right now, so he’ll need to use this speech to work on convincing the coalition of groups who still favour a breakaway that he’s the man to succeed where Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond failed. Yousaf also said he wouldn’t take the SNP into alliances with either the Salmond-led Alba party or the Conservatives, though he didn’t explicitly rule out working with the Labour Party, so we could also get further indications on the role the SNP leader envisions for his party in Westminster as a general election looms.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will be looking to divert attention away from Conservative Party infighting and grim economic news and onto the UK’s leading role in supporting Ukraine when he hosts the Ukraine Recovery Conference on Wednesday and Thursday (June 21-22). The June 6 destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine, which was under Russian control at the time, is likely to feature prominently in discussions as floodwaters recede and the scale of the humanitarian and ecological impact emerges. A major focus this year is on mobilising the private sector’s involvement in Ukraine’s reconstruction, currently forecast to cost more than $411 billion, over twice the country’s annual GDP. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy promised on Thursday to ‘rebuild everything’, vowing to leave no ruins to serve as a reminder of Russian aggression. The Ukrainian leader addresses the opening plenary of the conference alongside Sunak on Wednesday, though it’s unclear whether he plans to attend in person.
Antony Blinken is among the conference attendees, fresh from a trip to Beijing on Sunday and Monday (June 18-19) for two days of talks with Chinese officials. Blinken’s visit, the first by a US Secretary of State since 2018, had been scheduled for February but was postponed at the last minute amid the spy balloon row. It follows a series of recent interactions between Chinese and US officials that have signalled an attempt at a rapprochement, though China notably turned down a proposed meeting between the countries’ defence ministers on the margins of a conference in Singapore earlier this month. Blinken is likely to use his visit to reiterate warnings against Chinese involvement in Ukraine, but Washington is already managing expectations ahead of the trip, with a senior diplomat warning ‘a long list of deliverables’ is not anticipated.
French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, is hosting the Summit for a New Global Financial Pact in Paris on Thursday and Friday (June 22-23). Organisers say over 100 heads of state and government are set to attend the gathering, with participants expected to discuss how IMF reserve assets known as ‘special drawing rights’ (SDRs) could be used to direct finance to developing countries as well as how reforms to international financial institutions could assist global efforts to combat climate change. China, notably, has confirmed new premier Li Qiang will attend as part of his first foreign visit since taking office.