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
An already-busy week in Westminster is now also set to feature discussions on UK military engagement after four RAF jets participated in US-led airstrikes on Houthi positions in Yemen yesterday. The Liberal Democrats immediately demanded a recall of Parliament, and there are sure to be questions on why MPs were not consulted before the action took place. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak may choose to use a ministerial statement on Monday (January 15) to set out the government’s position on the strikes and the possibility of further action, though Speaker Lindsay Hoyle may also be keen to grant urgent questions to allow for a fuller exploration of events.
The controversial Rwanda bill is back in the spotlight as it returns to the Commons on Tuesday and Wednesday (January 16-17), where it is expected to get a rough reception from the hard-right members of the so-called ‘Five Families’ after the government avoided a mooted rebellion during the second reading in December. The legislation, brought forward after the Supreme Court deemed the deportation policy unlawful, has split the party down the middle, with right-wingers arguing it doesn’t go far enough to block illegal immigrants from entering the country and centrists concerned it would put the UK in breach of international law.
Whips may have their work cut out in trying to steer the bill through to the next stage without too much outside interference. Hardliners including Robert Jenrick, who quit as immigration minister over what he saw as Sunak’s ‘weakening’ of the bill, have proposed amendments which could include overruling the ECHR and blocking legal challenges from migrants, and insist they won’t vote for the bill in its current form. Centrist ‘One Nation’ Tories led by former Justice Secretary Robert Buckland have submitted their own amendments calling for all clauses that declare Rwanda a safe country to be deleted and to follow the lead of the ECHR, and have vowed not to vote for a bill which goes any further than the current version.
The ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office has propelled the struggle of former sub-postmasters to the forefront of the public’s mind since the start of the year, leading to a flurry of activity from ministers this week as they attempt to address the injustice suffered by victims of the Post Office Horizon scandal. But while the series may have focused attention in Westminster on the victims’ struggle, this is a story decades in the making, and the public inquiry that began more than four years ago continues on Tuesday (January 16) with senior figures from Fujitsu, the company responsible for the Horizon software, due to give evidence all week as part of the inquiry’s fourth phase.
Rishi Sunak told MPs on Wednesday that he would introduce legislation to quash all outstanding convictions, but with the new bill’s publication still potentially weeks away, the House of Lords will examine existing legislation on Tuesday that’s already been waved through by MPs. Down the corridor, it will fall to Post Office Minister Kevin Hollinrake to talk up the government’s efforts at an accountability hearing with the Business and Trade Committee that will also hear from Alan Bates, the figurehead of the Post Office employees whose story inspired the TV series, along with current Post Office CEO Nick Read and the campaigning former Conservative MP Lord Arbuthnot. While interest in SW1 may wane once the legislative process concludes, the inquiry is set to continue with a further two phases of work throughout the rest of 2024.
A big week looms in Northern Ireland as matters come to a head once again in negotiations to form an executive amid escalating industrial action and political turmoil. After more than a year of stonewalling by the DUP in protest at post-Brexit trade barriers with the UK, the deadline for executive formation arrives on Thursday (January 18), after which Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris will be obliged to call assembly elections by May (or extend the deadline yet again) if inter-party negotiations have still not borne fruit. On the same day, public sector staff working in sectors including health, education and transport undertake coordinated strike action in protest at the lack of any new pay offers as a result of the political deadlock. Described by Nipsa general secretary Carmel Gates as ‘having all the characteristics of a general strike’, the industrial action is likely to cause mass disruption to services across the region, and place yet more pressure on the DUP to come to some form of political settlement.
After months of campaigning, the Republican presidential primary officially begins on Monday (January 15) with the Iowa caucuses. Donald Trump is heavily favoured to win but his margin of victory will be an important indicator as attention moves to New Hampshire on January 23, where the results are expected to be significantly closer. Ron DeSantis, meanwhile, has invested heavily in Iowa and a loss to Nikki Haley on Monday could prove decisive given her polling lead in New Hampshire, especially given the consensus that she stands to benefit from Chris Christie’s decision to drop out of the race. Conversely, if DeSantis does beat Haley for second place in Iowa, he’ll likely be looking for a decent performance in Nevada’s February 8 GOP caucuses, which Haley has decided to skip in favour of the state primary on February 6 as she prepares for the all-important vote in her home state of South Carolina on February 24.
A host of news-making world figures will be in Davos next week for the World Economic Forum, which begins in earnest on Tuesday (January 16) when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Chinese premier Li Qiang, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, NATO head Jens Stoltenberg and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan are among notable speakers. Assuming his plans don’t change as he struggles with lawlessness back home, Ecuador’s new president Daniel Noboa is due to speak on Wednesday (January 17), when we’ll also see interventions from Polish President Andrzej Duda and Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape, two leaders facing domestic crises of their own. Also speaking Wednesday are UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Argentina’s firebrand new leader Javier Milei and French President Emmanuel Macron, who this week named 34-year-old Gabriel Attal as his next prime minister in what was viewed as a response to the rise of 28-year-old far-right figure Jordan Bordella.
On Thursday (January 18), Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will get the chance to follow in Rishi Sunak’s techbro footsteps when he takes part in a session with OpenAI’s Sam Altman. Thursday also sees interventions from Greek leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Iraqi Prime Minster Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani. As the conference winds down on Friday (January 19), IMF head Kristalina Georgieva and ECB president Christine Lagarde are among participants at a discussion on the global economic outlook. Organisers announced earlier this week that Israeli President Isaac Herzog would be participating this year too, though his intervention has yet to appear on the official program.
Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, meanwhile, will host leaders from the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement for two-day summit on Friday and Saturday (January 19-20) directly followed by the 134-member G77’s Third South Summit which begins on Sunday (January 21). There’s no shortage of topics for leaders to discuss at the back-to-back meetings for developing nations, from the conflicts in Ukraine, Gaza, Sudan and Yemen to reforming the United Nations, where veto-power wielding nations are increasingly viewed as an anachronistic vestige of a previous world order which fails to represent the interests of the Global South.