News diary 14-20 February: Govt takes BBC to court over 'spy' story, latest children's media literacy stats and Winter Olympics end - Press Gazette

News diary 14-20 February: Govt takes BBC to court over 'spy' story, latest children's media literacy stats and Winter Olympics end

Foresight News rounds up the key events that need to be in your news diary this week…

MONDAY

Home Secretary Priti Patel and London Mayor Sadiq Khan begin the search for a new Met Police Commissioner this week following Cressida Dick’s dramatic resignation.  Dick announced she would step aside on Thursday evening, just hours after insisting she was the right person to lead the looming root and branch shake-up of the force. Speculation over the Commissioner’s long-term future had been rife in recent weeks, with Khan ultimately demanding Dick’s resignation over her plans to regain public trust following a series of recent scandals. National Police Chief Council Chair Martin Hewitt, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, and the Met’s current head of counter-terrorism Matt Jukes are all seen as the early favourites to fill the role.

University staff begin a series of walkouts that mark an escalation in the University and College Union’s long-running disputes over pay and conditions and changes to the USS pension scheme. This week’s action involves staff from more than 40 institutions, with further walkouts planned through the rest of this month and into early March to coincide with a national student strike coordinated by the National Union of Students.

With no sign of tensions between Russia and the West abating any time soon, the crisis is set to continue to dominate international news this week, starting with a high-profile visit by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Ukraine on Monday, followed by a trip to Moscow on Tuesday for talks with Vladimir Putin. Scholz’s travel to Ukraine follows a visit by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock last week, when a planned meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky was cancelled at the last minute, prompting speculation about a rift between Berlin and Kyiv over Germany’s arguably lukewarm support for Ukraine.

TUESDAY

The Supreme Court hears arguments as part of the legal challenge to the voter ID pilot schemes trialled in the May 2019 local elections. The case could have enormous implications for the Elections Bill currently moving through Parliament, which would make photo ID mandatory for all UK-wide and English elections. Though the planned legislation was approved in the House of Commons, critics warn the new rules could result in voter suppression and tarnish the integrity of future ballots.

The Government releases national statistics on the emissions of major atmospheric pollutants, including air pollution, traffic, household heating and agriculture and industrial pollutants. London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned in January that car use had returned to pre-pandemic levels, coinciding with Londoners being advised to avoid strenuous physical activity for an entire day due to pollution levels hitting band 10, the highest level on the scale. Recent analysis has also shown that all of the capital’s hospitals and medical centres are situated in areas that fall short of World Health Organisation standards for pollution.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport is expected to hear evidence in the case of Russia’s Kamila Valieva before her scheduled appearance in the individual figure skating event in Beijing today. News of the teen sensation’s positive drugs test at the end of last year emerged on 8 February after she had already helped the Russian Olympic Committee to gold in the team event. The International Olympic Committee has asked the CAS to reinstate a suspension which was overturned by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency ahead of the Winter Games.

WEDNESDAY

The ONS publishes inflation data for January, with the cost of living firmly in crisis territory after last month’s figures showed the CPI hit a 30-year high at the end of 2021. Today’s numbers will be particularly closely watched for signs that consecutive interest rate rises are starting to have the desired effect amid stark warnings of a difficult spring for struggling households if the Bank of England’s seven per cent becomes a reality.

The Government takes the BBC to the High Court seeking an injunction to block the broadcaster from airing a story revealing the identity of a spy operating abroad. The case was first heard last month, when a judge committed to largely public hearings in March, though issues of national security will be discussed behind closed doors. Although the content of the programme has not been confirmed, the BBC claims the story is “overwhelmingly in the public interest” despite government claims that its publication could risk lives.

Ben Wallace joins his NATO counterparts in Brussels for a two-day meeting likely dominated by the current tensions with Russia. Ukrainian defence minister Oleksii Reznikov joins the gathering on Thursday to discuss developments after a flurry of diplomatic activity in recent weeks  NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds press conferences on both days.

THURSDAY

One of Russia’s key talking points regarding Ukraine, namely Kyiv’s supposed failure to properly implement the so-called Minsk accords aimed at resolving the conflict in Luhansk and Donetsk, is the subject of a UN Security Council debate scheduled for today. The accords – which date back to 2014 and 2015 – failed to quell fighting between the parties and are interpreted very differently by Moscow and Kyiv. While the agreements are being pitched as providing a potential off-ramp from escalating tensions, Russia’s close ties to separatists in the Donbas region and its repeated accusation that Ukraine is “clearly and increasingly unwilling to fulfil its obligations” make this a tough sell.

Ofcom publishes its annual Children’s and Parents’ Media Literacy Tracker report, which investigates children’s media literacy and parents’ views about their kids’ media use. Last year’s Ofcom report on media use found British children turning away from older social media platforms such as Facebook in favour of TikTok and Snapchat in a year when stay-at-home measures changed the media consumption habits of both adults and children.

FRIDAY

Transport for London’s emergency funding agreement is once again due to expire following a breakdown in talks between TfL and the Government. The capital’s transport network is seeking more than £1 billion in funding until April 2023 to compensate for the drop-off in passenger numbers during the pandemic, by which time TfL is required to break even on a day-to-day basis. TfL’s commissioner Andy Byford told the London Assembly that he was not expecting a “blank cheque” from the Government, but he did not support a temporary deal that has “intolerable or unacceptable conditions”.

Another key statistical release from the ONS this week, with retail sales figures for January coming after the latest British Retail Consortium snapshot suggested the high street had bounced back strongly following an Omicron-afflicted Christmas trading period. The recovery may yet prove to be short-lived, however, with rising prices and flatlining incomes likely to curb consumer spending over the coming months.

World leaders gather for the opening of the Munich Security Conference. This year’s speakers include US Vice President Kamala Harris, who will use her remarks to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to NATO and its European allies. The speech marks Harris’ debut in the international security arena and will be closely watched as an indicator of her competence on the world stage as a likely future presidential candidate. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also delivers remarks following his visit to Russia earlier in the week.

WEEKEND

The International Olympic Committee gathers for its 139th session on Saturday as the Winter Games in Beijing reach their conclusion with Sunday’s closing ceremony. Despite reassurances to the contrary, the Games have proven to be every bit as controversial as initially feared. Amnesty International has criticised the decision to award China the games over its human rights record, while ongoing concerns over the well-being of tennis star Peng Shuai have also loomed large over the games. With Russia continuing to amass troops at the Ukrainian border, some fear that the end of the games will give Putin the green light to launch a military campaign.

There’s been no respite in the actual competition, either: organisers have been hit with an avalanche of complaints from athletes, and a bizarre doping mystery continues to surround the figure skating competition. The winter torch will now be passed to Italy, where it is hoped that the Milan 2026 Games will take place against a less strained international backdrop, unaffected by COVID-19.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

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