News diary 18-24 April: PM's 1,000th day in office, Assange in court and Queen turns 96 - Press Gazette

News diary 18-24 April: PM's 1,000th day in office, Assange in court and Queen turns 96

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

The domestic news agenda will continue to be dominated by the renewed partygate fallout this week as Downing Street braces itself for the possibility of a fresh round of fixed penalty notices. Though the prime minister and chancellor have seemingly weathered their latest political storm (for now), further revelations in the coming days could test the resolve of Conservative supporters who have been dismissive of the birthday party fines, especially with whispers that Sue Gray’s final report could be on its way. 

Monday 

The global finance industry gathers in Washington for the IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings amid a backdrop of rising global inflation, soaring energy and food prices, and the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Highlights for the week include Tuesday’s World Economic Outlook and Global Financial Stability Report, with all eyes on how the war in Ukraine will affect the forecasts for the global economy.  

After the reports are published, IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva and World Bank president David Malpass hold a discussion on “the way forward”, and Georgieva will also participate in a debate on the global economy with European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde and Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell on Thursday. G7 and G20 finance ministers meet on the sidelines of the conference on Wednesday, meaning Rishi Sunak will head across the pond for the first time since revelations that he held a US green card for nearly two years while serving as chancellor. 

The legal requirement for the use of face masks in Scotland comes to an end, as the country continues rolling out its strategy to live alongside coronavirus. The use of face masks on public transport and in shops and other indoor settings becomes guidance from today, though people are encouraged to continue with the practice wherever significant numbers of people are present. The advice to regularly test for coronavirus with lateral flow tests also ends today, though MSPs have raised concerns over the possibility of restrictions being reintroduced in future. 

Tuesday 

The Commons returns from recess on Tuesday with the opposition champing at the bit to question Boris Johnson on the partygate fines. The Conservative party has tried to draw a line under the issue following Johnson’s apology, but the prime minister is expected to spend his 1,000th day in office making a statement to MPs arguing that he did not mislead the House when he was questioned on parties last year. Labour leader Keir Starmer can then decide whether to have another go at PMQs on Wednesday, or he may prefer to touch instead on Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s tax woes under the familiar theme that it’s “one rule for them”. 

P&O ferries are due to resume their Dover-Calais services as the cross-channel carrier looks to sail into calmer waters following weeks of controversy. The firm’s ships have remained largely in port since last month’s sacking of some 800 staff, with the ongoing suspensions also causing chaos for holidaymakers planning Easter getaways. P&O had initially planned to resume sailings in time for the Easter weekend, but outstanding safety inspections by the Maritime Coastguard Agency have prompted the delay.    

Wednesday 

A bumper day on committee corridor sees the public accounts committee examining the value for money of PPE contracts awarded during the pandemic, partygate defender-in-chief Jacob Rees-Mogg being grilled on his role as Brexit Opportunities Minister, Anne-Marie Trevelyan appearing before the international trade committee, and Nadhim Zahawi giving evidence to the education committee. The pick of the sessions though falls to the home affairs select committee, who discuss the work of the embattled Metropolitan Police Service with Acting Commissioner Sir Stephen House, while the women and equalities committee takes evidence from Equality and Human Rights Commission chair Baroness Falkner following the EHRC’s recent guidance on excluding transgender people from single-sex spaces. 

Newlywed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appears in court for the latest hearing in his battle against extradition to the United States. Today’s proceedings are expected to result in an order to proceed with the extradition, which will be sent to Home Secretary Priti Patel for approval, and Assange’s defence will then have until 18 May to file its own submissions. The hearing follows the Supreme Court ruling in March rejecting Assange’s request to appeal his extradition. If convicted in the US, he faces up to 175 years in prison. 

Thursday 

Andrew Bailey addresses the Peterson Institute in Washington DC, where the cost of living crisis is likely to dominate his remarks. Just weeks ago the Bank of England governor warned Britons face an “historic shock” to their incomes, as soaring inflation, slowing economic growth, and surging energy prices stretch household budgets. Bailey has suggested the squeeze could last for the next two years, bringing his morale boosting views on salary increases into even sharper focus. He also takes part in a debate on inflation tomorrow at the IMF Spring Meetings. 

The Queen turns 96 today. The monarch’s birthday will be recognised by a traditional 21-gun salute for the first time in two years, ahead of her public birthday and jubilee celebrations in June. Due to her frailty and recent bout of Covid, the Queen is expected to make limited public appearances at the historic celebrations. The festivities follow a difficult few months for the royal family, marred by a controversial visit to the Caribbean by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and ongoing revelations regarding Prince Andrew’s connections to the late paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. 

Indian media are reporting that Boris Johnson is due to make a long-awaited two-day visit to India, including a summit in Gujarat with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A trip was cancelled at this time last year as the Delta variant emerged and cases in India skyrocketed, and Johnson faced criticism that he had delayed putting India on the travel red list because of his impending visit. No confirmation yet from Downing Street on the rescheduled travel, but one to watch out for as the government looks to wrest control of the news agenda. 

Friday 

The ONS publishes retail sales figures for March, which are expected to show consumer spending slowing as the cost of living crisis takes hold. Figures from the British Retail Consortium released last week showed the biggest drop in consumer confidence since the 2008 financial crisis, with rising inflation and ongoing concern over the Omicron variant holding shoppers back. Last month’s retail data showed the beginnings of the inflationary squeeze, with consumers spending more money on a smaller volume of goods. 

The Earl and Countess of Wessex visit Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines as part of the series of Royal tours this spring to mark The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Following an uncomfortable trip to the region for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge last month, the Wessexes have been warned to face similar “incoming missiles” as they seek to promote the role of the monarchy in the Commonwealth. 

Saturday 

Climate activists Extinction Rebellion begin a new phase of action to demand an end to the fossil fuel economy in coordination with the group Just Stop Oil. Despite causing mass disruption across the capital during the weekend of 9 April, the group was praised by Conservative Environment Network chair Ben Goldsmith. The brother of minister and peer Zac said on Twitter that he was “with Extinction Rebellion”, much to the ire of Conservative MPs who called for him to resign from the CEN and his position as a non-executive director at DEFRA. 

WBC World Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury takes on Dillian Whyte at Wembley Stadium, in a bout which the “Gypsy King” claims will be his last. Fury has an unblemished record as a professional and cemented his status as one of boxing’s all-time greats with a knock-out win over long-time rival Deontay Wilder last October. Despite insisting he’ll walk away from the sport, the lure of a potential clash with Anthony Joshua or Oleksandr Usyk later in the year could prove too tempting for Fury to turn down. 

Sunday 

Voting takes place in the second round of France’s presidential election, a rematch of the 2017 contest between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Polls suggest a closer race than five years ago, with Le Pen’s focus on everyday local issues and softened rhetoric apparently effective as Macron spent much of the early campaign focused on the crisis in Ukraine. A potentially decisive issue will be how supporters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon choose to vote today. The far-left candidate’s campaign surged in the run-up to the first round with strong support in Paris and the north of the country, and while he has made clear he does not support Le Pen, at the time of writing he has also stopped short of urging his supporters to vote for Macron. 

Sunday also marks two months since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. By all accounts, President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s military leadership grossly underestimated Ukrainians’ resolve and the fact that the conflict has gone on as long as it has is a testament to that. Russia’s withdrawal of troops from around Kyiv – despite the grim aftermath – is also viewed as a sign that Russia may have bitten off more than it can chew with its so-called special military operation. But there are also fears that things in the south and east of the country are about to get a lot worse, especially if Russia aims to wrap up the operation in time for the 9 May Victory Day celebrations in Moscow. 

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: PA Wire/Matt Dunham

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