News diary 17-23 February: Brit Awards to showcase new Bond theme and Prince Andrew turns 60

Foresight News provides a look-ahead to the key events that need to be in your news diary for next week… 

Jonty Bravery is sentenced at the Old Bailey on Monday after admitting the attempted murder of a six-year-old boy who was thrown from the viewing platform of the Tate Gallery.

Bravery, who suffers from autistic spectrum disorder, admitted the charge during a hearing in December. His prosecution has prompted a Serious Case Review into his care, the findings of which are expected to be published in September. French lawmakers in the National Assembly begin considering legislation on controversial reforms to pensions which have provoked widespread protests and industrial action since the end of 2019.

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Several unions are again organizing industrial action to coincide with the start of the debate, and failure to placate his critics and secure approval for the changes in the French parliament would be a significant blow to Emmanuel Macron as he begins to gear up for re-election in 2022.

Five members each from the Libyan government forces and the Libyan National Army meet in Geneva on Tuesday for a second round of UN-hosted talks aimed at securing a permanent ceasefire in the west of the country.

The 5+5 Joint Military Commission met earlier this month to discuss a tentative truce reached in January, but could not reach an agreement on how to ‘restore normalcy’ to allow the return of internally displaced persons; the UN estimates over 146,000 people have been displaced since the fighting began.

Stormzy, Harry Styles and Lizzo are among the performers at the BRIT Awards as the venerable UK music event celebrates its 40th anniversary. A number of changes are introduced to this year’s event in a bid to tackle falling ratings, including giving acts more direction over their performances and rebranding the Critics’ Choice Award as the Rising Star Award. The highlight, however, is likely to be 18-year-old Billie Eilish’s (pictured) performance of her Bond theme song No Time To Die.

On Wednesday, the European Commission is set to publish three major proposals: A Strategy for Europe – Fit for the Digital Age, the European Data Strategy, and a White Paper on Artificial Intelligence. The AI paper’s release by EU digital chief Margarethe Vestager, known for her clashes with Google and Facebook as competition commissioner, is particularly keenly anticipated amid reports that Europe plans to introduce a ban on facial recognition technologies.

Celebrations to mark Prince Andrew’s 60th birthday are set to be muted in what is turning out to be another annus horribilis for The Queen. Local authority flags will not be raised and the traditional birthday promotion has been deferred while the Duke remains off active royal duty amid his reported refusal to cooperate with US authorities investigating his ties to Jeffrey Epstein.

The Irish parliament reconvenes on Thursday following the 8 February elections which saw Sinn Féin come out on top for the first time. Despite securing the most votes, the nationalists will not be the biggest party in the Dáil, having run fewer candidates in Ireland’s proportional voting system. Centre-right Fianna Fáil, the largest party with 38 seats, has ruled out including Sinn Féin in any electoral coalition, and will instead look to form a government with one of the country’s smaller parties or even with rivals Fine Gael.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse holds a hearing to address allegations made against the late Lord Janner. The Labour peer passed away in December of 2015 while facing a string of spurious accusations of child sexual abuse stretching back some 50 years. Janner had been deemed unfit to stand trial over the accusations just weeks before his death – his advancing dementia cited as mitigation. The inquiry’s full public hearings on the allegations are due to begin in October.

University staff walk out for the first of 14 days of strike action in an escalation of a long-running dispute over pensions and pay. Strike action began in November and December last year, though the number of institutions now involved is rising from 60 to 74 and the UCU estimates that around 200,000 additional students will be affected by the time the action concludes with a week-long walkout in March.

The sentencing of Roger Stone, a long-time friend and ally of President Trump, is scheduled to take place following controversial interference in the case by the Department of Justice.

The intervention, seeking to reduce the length of Stone’s sentence, is suspected to be under pressure from the President. The Department’s involvement has resulted in four prosecutors resigning in protest. Stone is charged with obstruction of justice, false statements and witness tampering for his involvement in protecting the President in the wake of the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The nominations and endorsements are in, so Labour members can finally begin voting on Friday for the party’s next leader and deputy leader. Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey appear to be set for a two-horse race for the leadership, though neither is assured of reaching the magic 50% threshold so second preference votes could yet be the deciding factor.

Angela Rayner, meanwhile, is the runaway favourite for the deputy role, though with almost six weeks to go until voting closes and no candidate proving immune to criticism there’s still plenty of time for an upset come 4 April. Iranians head to the polls in parliamentary elections, which come amid a tumultuous start to the year for the Islamic Republic.

Observers will be watching closely to see whether the unprecedented recent protests across the country is reflected in the voting booth, especially given the public reaction to Iranian authorities eventually conceding responsibility for the shooting down on 8 January of a passenger plane, killing all those aboard.The elections also come amid widespread anger over the assassination earlier that month of top Iranian general Qassem Suleimani in Iraq in a US drone strike.

A man will be sentenced at Auckland’s High Court after being convicted of the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane. Having spent time travelling across New Zealand, Millane disappeared in December 2018 after meeting a man through the Tinder dating app. The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was subsequently charged with Grace’s murder and found guilty following a trial in November of last year.

On Saturday, supporters of Extinction Rebellion take to the streets of London to protest what the group calls government ‘inaction’ on climate change after its campaign of demonstrations and civil action last year succeeded in raising awareness of climate issues. Failed prosecutions against several members and the inclusion of XR on a controversial police extremism guide have resulted in the remit for this march to involve a defence of the right to peaceful protest.

The latest stage of the US presidential race takes place in Nevada, where caucuses present the first opportunity to see how candidates fare among black and Latino voters and strong labour unions. Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren will be hoping to capitalise on this change of demographic, having fallen far behind frontrunners Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. Nevada also marks the first-time former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is on the ballot, making the results still highly unpredictable.

Voters go to the polls in Hamburg on Sunday for a regional parliament election which takes place with the fallout from the Thuringia political storm still reverberating nationally.

The installation of the FDP’s Thomas Kemmerich as state premier with the backing of CDU and AfD lawmakers went against a post-war convention of refusing to cooperate with far-right parties and led to the resignation of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as CDU leader. AfD support in Hamburg remains low, but electoral embarrassment for Angela Merkel’s party is likely to further complicate her withdrawal from power.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

 

Picture: Reuters/Danny Moloshok

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