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 sees a procession of high-profile government figures appear before the Infected Blood Inquiry to answer questions on the response to the scandal which saw thousands of NHS patients given blood transfusions containing HIV and hepatitis C in the 1970s and 1980s. Former Paymaster General and current Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt appears before the inquiry on Monday (July 24), followed by her successor Jeremy Quin on Tuesday (July 25), Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday (July 26) and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt on Friday (July 28).
Of particular interest to the inquiry will be the government’s response, or lack thereof, to chair Brain Langstaff’s recommendation in April that a formal compensation framework be established to support victims of the scandal, after many missed out on the first interim payments which began last year. But with modelling showing the final compensation bill could top £20 billion amid heightening financial pressures on the government, Sunak and Hunt may be keen to avoid any concrete commitments to bring the four-year long inquiry to a close.
It’s going to be a big week in the courts, with a number of high-profile cases coming to a close. A verdict could be delivered as early as next week in the Kevin Spacey trial, with the jury expected to retire on Monday or Tuesday (July 24-25). The Hollywood actor is charged with nine sexual offences concerning four men which are alleged to have been committed between 2001 and 2013. He denies all charges, and claims directors are ready to work with him ‘straight away’ if he is found not guilty.
At the Old Bailey, Jaswant Chail will become the first person since 1946 to be sentenced for treason in a hearing running over two days on Thursday and Friday (July 27-28). The court previously heard how Chail had regular conversations with his AI chatbot girlfriend before attempting to enter the grounds of Windsor Castle with a crossbow, telling officers ‘I’m here to kill the Queen’. Also on Thursday, Louis De Zoysa is sentenced for murdering Sgt Matt Ratana, who he shot dead after smuggling a gun into Croydon Custody Centre in September 2020.
On the back of the hottest June in history, the Met Office publishes its annual report on the State of the UK Climate on Thursday (July 27), which looks at significant meteorological events and the ongoing impact of global temperature rises on the UK. This year’s report comes amid extreme temperatures around the globe, with intense heatwaves battering the Mediterranean, the US, and China, which recorded an all-time high temperature on Sunday. The Met Office’s 2021 report found the weather in the UK was ‘warmer, wetter and sunnier’ than in previous decades, and this year’s edition is expected to show more of the same. The results are bound to make miserable reading for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has been criticised for ‘lackadaisical’ approach to climate change.
Months of protests and political wrangling come to a head in Israel on Monday (July 24) as the government’s judicial reform bill goes to the Knesset for second and third readings. Public anger over the reforms, which the opposition claims will undermine democracy, led to the legislation being paused in March after unions launched a general strike. The revived bill centres around a ‘reasonableness standard’, placing a limit on the Supreme Court’s ability to overrule government decisions it deems unreasonable.
Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets this week as the final vote loomed, including hundreds of marchers carrying out a ‘pilgrimage’ from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Mass demonstrations are expected outside the Knesset on Sunday and Monday, while pro-reform supporters are gathering in Tel Aviv. Nine universities have also announced a strike on Sunday when the bill is first brought back before parliament.
The Indo-Pacific is back in the spotlight as Emmanuel Macron, Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin all make trips to push competing French and US visions for the region amid tensions with Beijing. Macron begins his week with a three-day visit to the French territory of New Caledonia from Monday to Wednesday (July 24-26), his first since the most recent of three divisive referendums that rejected independence. His stops in Vanuatu on Thursday (July 27) and Papua New Guinea on Friday (July 28) mark the first time a French president has ever visited any of the South Pacific islands that aren’t under French control. Macron has talked of ‘recommitting’ to the region as part of an ‘alternative’ to a US-Chinese battle for supremacy, particularly in the aftermath of France being shut out of the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal in 2021.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will make their own push for US influence as they also do some island-hopping ahead of ministerial talks in Australia. Blinken is in Tonga on Wednesday (July 26) to dedicate a new US Embassy before heading to New Zealand on Thursday (July 27) to meet with government officials (and take in a USWNT World Cup match). Austin, meanwhile, will beat Macron to Papua New Guinea, where he’s expected midweek. He’ll become the first sitting US defence secretary to visit the country amid reports that the US military will be granted access to the island as naval base for 15 years. Blinken and Austin will then meet in Brisbane for the AUSMIN talks on Friday and Saturday (July 28-29) aimed at deepening security cooperation.