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
The beginning of the final session of the current Parliament on Monday (September 4) heralds what’s sure to be a dramatic few months for British politics, taking in a potential wider Cabinet reshuffle, a first King’s Speech for nearly 70 years and the start of a third general election campaign in five years. Before we step onto the campaign trail, however, there’s the day-to-day Westminster business to attend to: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will lead Treasury questions on Tuesday (September 5), when we may start to get some hints about Autumn Statement content alongside questions on tax cuts and the country’s economic prospects.
Wednesday (September 6) sees the first PMQs of the new session, in which Rishi Sunak can expect to field questions on crumbling school buildings, ULEZ, migrant arrivals and the government’s green credentials. Meanwhile, Labour leader Keir Starmer is reportedly set for a reshuffle of his own top team after welcoming Sue Gray as his chief of staff, while the Lib Dems are gearing up to break convention and move the writ for the Mid-Bedfordshire by-election if the government delays in order to avoid a vote the day after the Conservative Party conference wraps up.
The fallout from this week’s mass flight cancellations continues as airlines and passengers alike await the results of an investigation into the chaos, with a report to Transport Secretary Mark Harper due on Monday (September 4). The technical issue, apparently a result of data received by the National Air Traffic Services (NATS), led to the cancellation of over 2,000 outbound and inbound flights in the UK last week, leaving many passengers stranded abroad on their summer holidays. Harper has said that the preliminary report from NATS and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will be made public. Airlines, which are projected to have lost up to £100 million in revenue because of the disruptions, have already expressed concerns over the sudden shutdown of NATS’ air traffic control system, and industry body IATA have called for a reform to passenger compensation in light of the system’s failure.
As the international community scrambles to respond to this week’s military coup in Gabon, the junta responsible for ousting President Ali Bongo Ondimba is pressing ahead with its takeover on Monday (September 4), when interim leader General Brice Oligui Nguema is sworn in as president. Bongo has ruled the Central African country since 2009, when he took over from his father, Omar Bongo, and claimed to have won a third term in disputed elections on August 26. Minutes after the election results were officially announced early Wednesday morning, soldiers appeared on state TV to announce the end of Bongo’s regime on behalf of the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions.
As with recent coups in Niger, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Chad and Mali, international condemnation was swift – the African Union suspended Gabon yesterday, and the Economic Community of Central African States said the bloc’s leaders would meet ‘imminently’ to examine the political and security situation.
The instability is likely to be on the agenda for the G20 summit in New Delhi on Saturday and Sunday (September 9-10), with African Union chair Azali Assoumani among attendees as leaders mull a proposal to grant the AU permanent member status. While India is hoping to use the summit to reach a consensus on several issues affecting the global south, including debt reduction and sustainable development, most of the pre-summit coverage has focused on what won’t be happening in New Delhi. Russian President Vladimir Putin will be noticeably absent from the gathering, and it looks likely Chinese President Xi Jinping will be missing as well amid disagreements over the war in Ukraine, climate change and human rights.
Xi’s decision to skip the G20 would be seen as a particular blow given his recent attendance at the BRICS summit in South Africa, and would dash hopes of a first face-to-face meeting for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak following Foreign Secretary James Cleverly’s trip to Beijing earlier this week. More significantly, it also kills the chance for a long-awaited meeting between Xi and US President Joe Biden as officials look to stabilise the increasingly tense relationship between the two countries.