News diary 20-26 June: Biggest rail strike in a generation and Wakefield by-election - Press Gazette

News diary 20-26 June: Biggest rail strike in a generation and Wakefield by-election

RMT Strike

A look ahead at the key events leading the news agenda next week, from the team at Foresight News.

Leading the week 

Rail networks across the country will be brought to a virtual standstill from Tuesday (June 21) as Network Rail staff walk out in a dispute between unions and operators over pay and proposed job cuts. The first day of industrial action affects some 13 operating companies and coincides with a strike on the London Underground, and two further walkouts are planned for Thursday (June 23) and Saturday (June 25) in what the RMT union suggests will be the biggest rail strike for a generation.

With commuters facing maximum disruption for most of next week and entire communities reportedly at risk of being cut off, the political blame game was in full swing as Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer clashed at PMQs amid competing briefings by the government and opposition parties. Describing the walkouts as ‘Labour’s strikes’, the Prime Minister accused Starmer of staying silent while the Labour leader accused Johnson of wanting to ‘feed off the division’ caused by the travel chaos.

The rhetoric was ramped up even further at the end of the week as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps rejected a meeting with RMT officials, who he accused of failing to act in good faith, before warning workers about the potential impact of striking on their future employment and calling union bosses militant. There seems little chance, then, of a last-minute suspension, meaning the rows will continue through next week’s disruption and as further strike action looks likely to take place over the course of the summer.

Thursday (June 23) is high noon for the Conservative Party as voters go to the polls in the hotly anticipated Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield by-elections. The ballots, triggered by the resignation of Neil Parish and the conviction of Imran Khan, offer the most significant insight into the Tory party’s current national standing since it’s thumping 2019 General Election win. Tiverton and Honiton has been a party stronghold since 1997, and Neil Parish held the seat for the Tories with a majority of 24,239 in the last election. Parish’s Parliamentary viewing habits notwithstanding, the ongoing fallout from the partygate scandal and the deepening cost of living crisis have now manoeuvred the Lib Dems into pole position to pull off a stunning victory.

The real national bellwether though is the fight facing Boris Johnson in Wakefield – a key red wall target seat that he successfully turned blue three years ago. Imran Khan’s conviction for sexual assault has handed Labour a reported 20-point lead in the Yorkshire constituency, which if translated into votes on the day would leave the Conservatives with a sizeable crack in their northern bulwark as the next general election looms into view.

If the stakes weren’t already high enough, rumours abound that Justice Secretary Dominic Raab will unveil his new Bill of Rights this week in an attempt to help prop up the government’s floundering asylum deal with Rwanda. A pre-polling day introduction would allow the Tories to focus minds on ‘taking back control’ of human rights law from Europe and potentially woo some undecided voters, though a roll-out immediately following two very plausible defeats could prove to be a timely distraction.

Looking abroad

Three major international summits are set to dominate international news this week: a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels starting on Thursday (June 23-24), a virtual summit of BRICS leaders hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday (June 24), and the three-day G7 summit hosted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz starting on Sunday (June 26). The Ukraine war and its sprawling ramifications, laid out in stark terms in a recent UN report, are set to cast a shadow over all three gatherings as the conflict enters its fifth month.

With Ukraine’s NATO aspirations shelved for the foreseeable future, attention has turned to its bid to join the European Union, and the question of whether to grant candidate status is set to be discussed at the European Council after a positive European Commission recommendation today. The BRICS summit, meanwhile, will allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to highlight the support Moscow continues to enjoy from strategic partners and counter claims Russia has become a global pariah as a result of its invasion. Complicating matters, at least two of the participants in the BRICS meeting, India’s Narendra Modi and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, are expected to participate in the G7 summit as ‘outreach’ partners, but have already faced criticism from the West over their neutral stances on Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has also accepted an invitation to join the talks.

Also look out for 

Monday 20 June

  • Guildford pub bombings inquest opens
  • EU foreign ministers discuss Ukraine

Tuesday 21 June

  • Barbara Woodward address to RUSI on Ukraine
  • Andy Burnham in conversation at IfG event
  • Primaries in Virginia and DC; run-offs in Alabama and Georgia
  • Summer solstice

Wednesday 22 June 

  • UK inflation figures
  • PMQs
  • National Windrush Monument unveiled at Waterloo Station
  • Italy hosts World Meeting of Families
  • Glastonbury Festival begins

Thursday 23 June

  • Boris Johnson addresses Commonwealth Business Forum
  • David Lammy and Lord Frost at UK in a Changing Europe conference
  • Ofcom releases BBC Performance Tracker report
  • WHO Emergency Committee meeting on Monkeypox

Friday 24 June

  • Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield by-election results
  • Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting begins
  • TfL emergency funding expires
  • Ryanair workers hold three-day strike across Europe
  • British Athletics Championships begins

Saturday 25 June

  • Wimbledon draw

Statistics, reports and results 

Monday 20 June

  • Housing purchase affordability stats (ONS)
  • Rightmove House Price Index
  • Results from: Associated British Foods

Tuesday 21 June 21

  • Bank for International Settlements chapter on the future of the monetary system
  • Property transactions in the UK

Wednesday 22 June

  • UK house prices
  • IEA World Energy Investment 2022

Thursday 23 June 

  • UNODC World Drug Report
  • UK public sector finances
  • US Federal Reserve stress test results published
  • Argentina Q1 GDP
  • Results from: FedEx Corporation

Friday 24 June

  • UK retail sales
  • GfK UK consumer confidence barometer

Anniversaries and awareness days 

Monday 20 June

  • World Refugee Day

Tuesday 21 June

  • Duke of Cambridge turns 40
  • National Selfie Day

Wednesday 22 June

  • National Windrush Day

Thursday 23 June

  • Olympic Day
  • 50 years ago: Sex-based discrimination banned in US schools (Title IX)

Friday 24 June

  • One month ago: Uvalde school shooting
  • Four months ago: Russia invaded Ukraine

Saturday 25 June 

  • Armed Forces Day
  • London Climate Action Week (to July 3)

Sunday 26 June

  • Seven years ago: Gay marriage legalised by US Supreme Court
  • 25 years ago: First Harry Potter book published

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

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