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
Nicola Sturgeon faces one of the most significant weeks of her political life, as the UK Supreme Court considers the ramifications of her second Scottish independence referendum planned for next year. While the legal teams finalise their arguments, the First Minister will be in Aberdeen on Monday (October 10) to deliver her keynote address to the SNP’s autumn conference. Having been branded a member of the ‘anti-growth coalition’ by Prime Minister Liz Truss, Sturgeon is sure to deliver a fiery response when she takes to the stage shortly after 3pm. The SNP leader has already lambasted Truss’s government over its top rate of tax U-turn, suggesting its handling of the cost-of-living crisis increasingly makes independence a more urgent prospect.
Officials in both London and Edinburgh will then be fixated on proceedings in the Supreme Court on Tuesday and Wednesday (October 11-12) as it finally hears the hugely anticipated referendum case. The hearing has been prompted by Scotland’s most senior legal officer, the Lord Advocate, who has asked the court to rule on whether Holyrood has the necessary powers to call a referendum without Westminster’s approval. While a ruling is unlikely for several weeks, Truss has already strongly re-affirmed her opposition to an independence ballot regardless of the court’s decision. Pro- and anti-independence camps are certain to dig in as the court considers its judgment, meaning cost-of-living and constitutional crises will be leading our political discourse for some time to come.
The tough days are set to continue for Kwasi Kwarteng when Parliament returns after conference recess, with a first round of departmental questions coming in the same week as a series of potentially pivotal economic markers. The chancellor will lead Treasury questions in the House of Commons on Tuesday (October 11), just minutes after the IMF publishes its annual World Economic Outlook and ahead of the release of monthly GDP figures on Wednesday (October 12). The IMF’s latest projections for the global economy are unlikely to be a significant improvement on April’s gloomy forecast, so Kwarteng may need to deliver a more dynamic performance than he showed on stage in Birmingham last week, while a buoyant opposition will be keen to exploit divisions among Conservative MPs over the government’s performance.
After some apparent disagreement at the highest level of Cabinet over the publication of the medium-term fiscal plan, Kwarteng may also use the session to clarify the timetable on plans to demonstrate the fiscal discipline touted by Liz Truss in her own conference speech while also delivering the growth promised repeatedly since the pair took up residence in Downing Street last month. The prime minister’s broadly well-received speech has restored some faith in her government’s ambitions for now, though with remarks on the economy due from both Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey (Tuesday) and chief economist Huw Pill (Wednesday) there’s potential for another run on trust in the Truss government before the central bank’s first turbulence-calming gilt operation is due to conclude on Friday (October 14).
After Russian President Vladimir Putin formally annexed four Ukrainian regions earlier this week, NATO defence ministers, including Ben Wallace, meet in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday (October 12-13) for meetings once again dominated by the conflict. The gathering includes a meeting of the US-led Ukraine Defence Contact Group, where further arms supplies to Ukraine will likely be discussed as Kyiv continues to make impressive territorial gains despite Russia’s partial military mobilisation. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, meanwhile, will deliver a special address to the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly on Thursday (October 13) as Putin travels to Kazakhstan for a series of regional summits on Thursday and Friday (October 13-14).
On Sunday (October 16), one of the most significant gatherings in recent history will begin with the opening of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. The meticulously orchestrated meeting takes place every five years, but this year is unusual as President Xi Jinping is all-but-certain to secure an unprecedented third term as party leader. There will also be particular interest among China-watchers in the make-up of the new Politburo Standing Committee, the country’s most influential body, for indications as to the extent of Xi’s authority over the party.