A look ahead at the key events leading the news agenda next week, from the team at Foresight News.
Leading the week
One of the most dramatic weeks in British politics reached a climax yesterday with Boris Johnson’s announcement that he would step down as Conservative leader, handing responsibility for selecting the next prime minister once again to MPs and party members. Johnson’s downfall was triggered by anger among MPs over the background to Chris Pincher’s appointment as deputy chief whip and Downing Street’s handling of fresh allegations; the suspiciously closely-timed letters announcing the departures of senior Cabinet ministers Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid were then followed by a whirlwind of resignations, sackings and appointments which culminated in Johnson following the well-trodden path to a lectern outside No.10 to deliver his own valedictory statement to the nation.
The timetable for the leadership election will be set on Monday (July 11) when the backbench 1922 Committee votes for new members of its executive. The elections to the ’22 executive were initially seen as a potential mechanism for ousting Johnson via a change of the rules around leadership confidence votes; the new grouping will instead be responsible for agreeing the process and timings for the election of Johnson’s replacement, with his suggestion that he remain in place until conference season receiving a mixed reaction. Senior committee figure Bob Blackman said today that the final two candidates would be identified by the time Parliament rises for recess on July 21, with the new leader expected to be in place by autumn.
The jostling among ambitious Tory MPs had begun before the Johnson premiership was officially over, with Attorney General Suella Braverman telling ITV’s Peston show on Wednesday night that she would put herself forward. This contest could see a transfer of power to the newer generation of Conservative parliamentarians after Foreign Affairs Committee chair Tom Tugendhat followed Braverman in declaring his candidacy and former contenders Matt Hancock, Dominic Raab and Andrea Leadsom ruled themselves out of the running. The real battle, however, is likely to involve some of the biggest names from latter-day Johnson Cabinets, with Liz Truss, Ben Wallace, Rishi Sunak, Priti Patel and Nadhim Zahawi expected to be among the frontrunners.
Westminster-watchers will also be keeping an eye on Wednesday‘s Prime Minister’s Questions, when Johnson appears at the despatch box for the first time following his resignation. Labour leader Keir Starmer can use the session to urge Johnson to hand over to a caretaker prime minister and leave sooner, secure in his own position after Durham Police announced he and deputy Angela Rayner would not be fined over the ‘Beergate’ allegations.
NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) jointly release the first tranche of full-color science images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope on Tuesday (July 12), including the deepest image of the universe ever taken. The $10 billion infrared observatory reached its prescribed orbit in January and completed its alignment in April, marking the official start of a mission that has been in development since 1996. Webb’s purpose is to detect radiation from the ‘dark age’ of the universe and expand our understanding of how planetary systems formed and galaxies interact and grow.
Kevin Spacey is due at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday (July 14) charged with four counts of sexual assault and a separate charge of causing a man to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent. The Oscar-winning actor is accused of sexually assaulting three men in London and Gloucestershire between 2005 and 2013, during his tenure as artistic director of the Old Vic Theatre Company. Spacey was first accused of sexual misconduct in October 2017 by actor Anthony Rapp; he strenuously denies the allegations. The hearing is expected to lay out a formal timetable for the charges to be brought to trial.
Reverberations are likely to continue into next week following the shocking news that former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has died after being shot while speaking at a campaign event earlier today in the city of Nara. Abe had been Japan’s longest-serving prime minister before stepping down in the summer of 2020 due to health issues, and the former LDP leader remained a prominent national figure up until his death. At the time of writing, upper house elections scheduled for Sunday (July 10) were still due to go ahead, with Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki among voices arguing that postponing them would damage democracy in Japan, where such incidents are almost unheard of. Funeral arrangements may emerge in the coming days, and world leaders are likely to descend on Japan to pay their respects in due course.
US President Joe Biden’s first trip to the Middle East since taking office begins on Wednesday (July 13), with stops planned in Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and Saudi Arabia.
One of Biden’s first engagements upon arriving Wednesday is expected to be a visit to Palmachim air base to inspect Israel’s new laser-defense system, dubbed Iron Beam, where he is likely to reiterate US support for Israel’s defence against rocket attacks. Biden is expected to hold formal talks on Thursday (July 14) with new prime minister Yair Lapid, who has taken over from Naftali Bennett until fresh elections, the country’s fifth in three years, scheduled for November 1. Biden is also rumored to be planning a meeting with former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is said to be plotting a return to the post, despite his significant legal woes.
Biden is expected to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem on Friday (July 15), when Abbas is likely to raise concerns over the investigation into the May 17 shooting of Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, likely by an Israeli soldier. It follows this week’s announcement from the State Department regarding the shooting, which prompted a furious response from Abu Akleh’s family. Later that day, Biden arrives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where his schedule – at least according to Saudi officials – includes talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Biden has faced criticism for holding the meeting, given his previous comments over MBS’s role in the gruesome killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October 2018.
Saturday (July 16) will see Biden participate in a regional summit with leaders from the Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq. The White House will likely want to use the gathering to reaffirm its engagement in the region and to assuage concerns that attempts to revive the Iran nuclear deal imply a softening of position regarding Iran’s destabilizing influence on the region. Biden is also likely to urge oil producers to increase output amid spiking energy prices linked, in part, to the war in Ukraine.