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
Public interest in the ongoing Covid-19 Inquiry will ramp up next week as high-profile figures from Boris Johnson’s government are set to give evidence, beginning on Monday (October 30) with Johnson’s former PPS Martin ‘Party Marty’ Reynolds, whose emails lay at the centre of the Partygate scandal. Former No.10 Director of Communications Lee Cain, who has been publicly critical of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s accounts of the pandemic, follows that afternoon. On Tuesday (October 31), controversial former No.10 Chief Strategist Dominic Cummings appears for what’s likely to be a blockbuster session on the inner workings of the Johnson government at the very height of the pandemic in early 2020. To round off the week, former ethics chief Helen MacNamara – who was fined by Met Police over the Downing Street parties – appears on Wednesday (November 1), followed on Thursday (November 2) by former NHS England CEO Simon Stevens, who may face questions on his apparent opposition to the government’s ‘Protect the NHS’ slogan.
The Home Office is before the courts to once again defend a controversial plan for asylum seekers. Both Braintree District and West Lindsey District Councils are at the High Court on Tuesday and Wednesday (October 31-November 1) to challenge Suella Braverman’s plans for migrant camps at former RAF bases at Wethersfield and Scampton. The councils argue that neither site is suitable to house thousands of migrants, and accuse the Home Office of breaching planning regulations.
With Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to end the use of 50 asylum seeker hotels and a Supreme Court judgment on the government’s Rwanda scheme due in the coming weeks, more space will need to be found in the short-term. Should the court reject the councils’ applications, the Home Office could still face another court battle over its asylum seeker camps. Charity Care4Calais has given Sunak until November 11 to respond to a pre-action letter, describing the Wethersfield camp as a detention centre, and demanding that all asylum seekers are moved out of it immediately.
Some of the leading lights of the tech world are due in town as the UK hosts the Global Summit on Artificial Intelligence at Bletchley Park on Wednesday and Thursday (November 1-2). Rishi Sunak’s hopes of using the summit to tout the UK as a global leader in AI safety regulation have been somewhat undermined in the lead up to the event by suggestions that high-profile European counterparts may stay away, while there’s reported unrest among certain Conservative MPs at the prospect of a Chinese presence at the conference.
However, an intervention on AI systems released early this week by some of the biggest names in the game will have been welcomed in Downing Street, while Sunak himself set the groundwork for the summit with a speech yesterday in which he announced the creation of a safety body to be based in the UK. The conference will be a welcome return to safe territory for the techy PM, though it remains to be seen whether he can convince fellow leaders to commit to a joint statement and make a real success of the event.
The UK monetary policy committee announces its latest interest rate decision on Thursday (November 2), with Bank of England policymakers expected to follow counterparts in Europe and the US by keeping the rate on hold. Recent sluggish growth and the weak jobs numbers in this week’s labour market release mean the UK bank rate is likely to remain at 5.25% after September’s decision brought an end to 14 consecutive increases, though the ONS decision to change its methodology for the latest statistics could influence the thinking of some on the MPC. Whatever the decision next week, the impact of stubborn inflation, slow growth and reduced hiring on the economy will continue to raise concerns over the prospect of a recession as we enter the final months of 2023.
The crisis in the Middle East looks set to dominate the international agenda again next week, as frantic negotiations to secure a humanitarian pause to get aid into Gaza coincide with the most recent signs that an Israeli ground operation could still come at any moment. Thursday’s overnight raid came despite suggestions that the US is pushing Netanyahu to delay an invasion to buy more time to secure the release of hostages being held by Hamas and prepare for the regional implications of such an operation.
King Charles and Queen Camilla undertake their third state visit this year with a trip to Kenya from Tuesday (October 31) to Friday (November 3) that comes at the invitation of President William Ruto as the country prepares to mark 60 years of independence. This latest visit is likely to see the royals in a reflective mood after a pair of more celebratory trips to Germany and France earlier this year. Ahead of the monarch’s arrival, Mau Mau veterans have campaigned for an apology for the British government’s response to the 1952 rebellion, and the royals are due to acknowledge ‘the more painful aspects of the UK and Kenya’s shared history’ during the visit, with Charles set to spend time ‘deepen[ing] his understanding’ of Kenyans’ suffering during the Emergency period. This understanding is likely to be reflected more in private during the Royals’ engagements than in any public apology, though The King is due to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Uhuru Gardens during the visit.