News diary 21-27 February: Mullin in Old Bailey to defend sources, 10 years since Colvin death - Press Gazette

News diary 21-27 February: Mullin in Old Bailey to defend sources, 10 years since Colvin death

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

MONDAY

Boris Johnson unveils his Strategy for Living with Covid, including plans to end all remaining coronavirus restrictions in England a month early. The Prime Minister is expected to lift the legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive test and to present a timetable to wind down universal free testing. Ahead of the announcement, nearly 20 charities have called on the prime minister to ensure immunocompromised people are adequately supported and not “left behind as the pandemic’s forgotten victims”.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss heads to Brussels to lead the UK delegation at a meeting of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee, with the EU side headed by Vice President Maroš Šefčovič.  Prospects of any imminent breakthrough seem slim given fundamental differences over Northern Ireland; the pair’s last meeting only produced an agreement on the “need for progress”. The turmoil prompted by the resignation of First Minister Paul Givan over suspended Irish Sea border checks and uncertainty over upcoming Assembly elections in May are likely to complicate efforts to resolve differences between London and Brussels any time soon.

TUESDAY

Nicola Sturgeon sets out her own strategy to the Scottish Parliament to manage Covid north of the border “more sustainably and less restrictively”. Sturgeon’s plan may continue to be more cautious than Johnson’s, with measures like facemasks on public transport remaining in place for longer. Sturgeon has stressed the importance of a “sustained” return to normal over short periods of freedom followed by further disruption.

Tuesday marks 10 years since the death of Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin, who was killed in 2012 alongside French photographer Remi Ochlik while covering the siege of Homs in Syria. In 2019, a US court found the Syrian government liable for Colvin’s death, calling it an “extrajudicial killing”.

WEDNESDAY

Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer face off over the despatch box for the first PMQs of the new term, and there’s plenty of material for both to draw on after an eventful recess week. MPs from both sides of the House are likely to have questions on the situation in Ukraine, even if the prime minister opts to make a statement earlier in the week, while the Labour leader may seek some contrition from Johnson after reporting that he had received deaths threats over the Jimmy Savile claim.

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey returns to Parliament for a second grilling of the year by the Treasury Committee, with this week’s session focused on the Bank of England’s last monetary policy report. The central bank said in that report it expected inflation to reach seven per cent by this spring, and this month’s figures showed that the CPI remains well on track to meet that unwelcome milestone. The committee may also have questions for Bailey on his recent remarks on pay, which were widely perceived to be out of touch amid the cost of living struggles affecting many households this year.

At the UN General Assembly in New York, a debate is being held on the situation in Ukraine, where the annexation of Crimea and situation in the Donbas are set to be discussed. Given the veto-wielding power of Russia (and China) in the Security Council, the General Assembly – which in 2014 adopted a resolution affirming Crimea to be a part of Ukraine – provides another forum for Ukraine to highlight international support for its cause. The debate comes ahead of a virtual meeting of G7 leaders tomorrow, hosted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

THURSDAY

Journalist and former MP Chris Mullin appears at the Old Bailey to challenge a West Midlands Police order under the Terrorism Act to reveal sources from his investigation into the 1974 Birmingham Pub bombing. Mullin’s investigations throughout the 1980s led to the release of the six wrongly convicted men in 1991, and police say documents in his possession could assist in their ongoing investigation, while Mullin says the order breaches the principle that journalists are entitled to protect their sources.

Members of the London Assembly meet to vote on Sadiq Khan’s final budget plans for 2022/23. As part of this year’s budget, Khan must contend with a TfL funding requirement of £1.1 billion for 2022/23 and the Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime seeking an additional 3,287 police officers. Although Khan enjoys a Labour majority in the Assembly, there are likely to be vocal objections to proposals to increase the mayor’s London council tax share by 8.8%, taking the average household bill to almost £2,000 per year.

The MAGA wing of the Republican party gathers in Orlando for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Taking place just days ahead of the Texas primary, the midterm elections will be a key theme, with Trump-endorsed candidates such as Hillbilly Elegy author JD Vance speaking. Potential presidential hopefuls including Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo also feature, though Donald Trump’s remarks will undoubtedly be the main event, despite increasing scepticism over his role as kingmaker. Mask and vaccine mandates, record breaking inflation and President Biden’s handling of the Russia-Ukraine crisis are also likely to be discussed.

FRIDAY

A pre-inquest review into the death of Dawn Sturgess is held at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Sturgess died in July of 2018 after being exposed to the Novichok nerve agent, which had been used to target Sergei and Yulia Skripal just months earlier in Salisbury. Home Secretary Priti Patel announced the establishment of a public inquiry into Sturgess’ death in November, with the investigation set to examine the role of the Russian state in her poisoning.

The Conservative Councillors Association’s annual get-together kicks off in Oxfordshire today with speeches from Cabinet big hitters Michael Gove and Oliver Dowden on the opening day. The agenda this year is weighted towards levelling up, with Gove’s speech followed by a DLUHC Q&A, though a session on Saturday with CCHQ’s director of campaigning Tony Lee shows the party is also focused on crunch local elections this May. The weekend also offers senior party figures the opportunity to take the temperature of the grassroots amid the many distractions affecting the leadership.

SATURDAY

The Democratic Unionist Party is expected to gather in Belfast for its first conference in three years. The DUP’s opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol has sparked yet another political crisis in the country, with Paul Givan’s resignation as First Minister prompting the collapse of the power-sharing Executive. The leader of the Ulster Unionists has warned the DUP’s stance could prove fatal to hopes of restoring the Stormont government, as the country prepares to head to the polls in just three months.

SUNDAY

Belarusians vote in a constitutional referendum that was announced by long-time President Alexander Lukashenko last year, responding to the political crisis prompted by the previous summer’s disputed presidential election. Predictably, the referendum that was first touted as a concession to protesters – some say under pressure from Vladimir Putin – now looks set to further concentrate power under Lukashenko. If passed, the changes would provide Lukashenko immunity from prosecution and weaken parliament while strengthening the so-called All-Belarus People’s Assembly. Although presidential term limits would be introduced, this would only apply going forward, and it would bar candidates who had fled the country from running in future.

Chelsea and Liverpool meet in the final of the Carabao Cup, contesting the first major piece of domestic silverware of the year. Both sides have considerable pedigree in the tournament with 13 titles between them, but have only met in the final on one previous occasion. The Blues have injury concerns over Mason Mount as they aim for a repeat of their 2005 triumph, while Jurgen Klopp’s side are expected to be at full strength.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

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