News diary 22-28 June: FA Cup resumes and actors return to Old Vic stage

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

Monday

Department for Health and Social Care Permanent Secretary Sir Chris Wormald, Chief Executive of NHS England Sir Simon Stevens and National Medical Director of NHS England Steve Powis take part in a Public Accounts Committee session to answer questions on how to ready the NHS and social care sector are for a peak in the pandemic in the UK.

Health bosses have reportedly backed Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s push for a deal to treat NHS patients in private hospitals to combat the increasing backlog of regular patients, although the Treasury is said to be blocking the plan over cost concerns.

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Wales reaches arguably the most significant milestone to date in its easing of coronavirus restrictions with the re-opening of non-essential retail. The move heralds the first shoots of the country’s wider economic recovery, and marks a new chapter in First Minister Mark Drakeford’s self-confessed “cautious approach”.

The re-openings are the first tranche in a package of measures being readied for the coming weeks, including pupils returning to schools on 29 June and the gradual re-opening of the wider Welsh tourism sector from 9 July.

MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee publish the findings from their inquiry into the DWP’s response to coronavirus. The committee has been investigating the effects of the unprecedented demand on the benefits system  over a period which has seen record numbers of Universal Credit claimants and huge upheaval within the department, with particular concern in the inquiry’s evidence sessions over the effect of the five-week delay on new claimants.

After being criticised for her response to footballer Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey could find herself in the headlines again after today’s report.

Tuesday

England’s fourth review of lockdown measures isn’t due until Thursday, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement to the Commons today on the re-opening of the hospitality sector, currently planned for 4 July.

With the announcement that the Covid-19 threat level has been downgraded from four to three, ministers spent the weekend teeing up some significant changes, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying England is “clearly on track” to re-open pubs, restaurants and hairdressers as scheduled, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak hinting that the review of the two-metre social distancing rule would “make an enormous difference” to businesses.

The Supreme Court hears the latest stage in a long-running legal battle between Shell and thousands of Nigerian citizens who seek damages over the devastation caused by oil spills in the Niger Delta. The communities argue that Shell is legally responsible for the damages inflicted by one of its subsidiaries, though the High Court has previously ruled that any compensation claims cannot be pursued in the UK.

A recent report was highly critical of Shell’s attempts to clean up oil pollution in the region, accusing the energy giant of failing to implement most recommendations put forward by the United Nations.

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton releases his tell-all memoir The Room Where It Happened, after a last-minute Trump administration attempt to block the book’s release was rejected. The book includes damning claims over Trump’s efforts to garner Chinese assistance in his re-election, approval of concentration camps, and general ignorance of foreign policy.

Bolton’s decision to withhold these revelations and retrospectively criticise House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry has sparked criticism given his repeated refusal to testify. Meanwhile, Trump addresses students in Arizona, where he is unlikely to resist mentioning “the disgruntled boring fool”.

Wednesday

The IMF releases an update to the World Economic Outlook, its biannual report on the health of the global economy. The latest report, released in April, anticipated a global contraction of three per cent in 2020, predicated on the pandemic easing in the second half of the year and conditions returning to somewhere approaching normal.

However, the Fund’s chief economist Gita Golpinath wrote last week that negative growth is set to be worse than expected and that the impact on the world’s poor would be “devastating”, suggesting that the outlook has worsened considerably over the last two months. An update to April’s Global Financial Stability Report is released on Thursday.

Ofcom publishes its BBC Performance Tracker, measuring audience opinion on performance against its four public purposes, which include quality of output and impartiality. The regulator’s most recent annual report on the Beeb said that the broadcaster was still the UK’s primary news source but warned that younger audiences, the over-65s and those outside London were increasingly switching off amid the rise of streaming and news consumption on social media.

That report was followed by an election campaign in which the BBC was accused of bias from all angles, allegations which have continued to crop up in recent weeks. As trust in media continues to fall globally, this report may give incoming Director General Tim Davie an indication of the scale of the task he will take on this autumn.

Candidate nominations open to kick off the second Liberal Democrat leadership election in the space of two years. Initially planned for May after Jo Swinson lost her seat in last year’s general election, the contest was rescheduled in response to the coronavirus outbreak: first to 2021, then back to this summer so the new leader can be in place for the party’s online autumn conference. Among the contenders are acting leader Ed Davey, a coalition-era veteran who was defeated by Swinson in 2019, and 2017 intake MPs Layla Moran and Wera Hobhouse.

Thursday

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair takes part in a discussion with Reuters Editor-at-Large Axel Threlfall as part of the newswire’s Newsmaker series. Blair, who has been critical of the UK government’s coronavirus policy as well as wider global coordination during the pandemic, is due to discuss global leadership in the post-coronavirus world, as well as the continued rise of nationalism. Though not officially on the agenda, the Q&A that follows could also give Blair a chance to discuss two of his favourite topics: Brexit and the future of the Labour Party.

Jonty Bravery is sentenced at the Old Bailey after pleading guilty to the attempted murder of a six-year-old boy who was thrown from the viewing gallery of the Tate Modern in August last year. The incident sparked a serious case review following revelations that Bravery, who is autistic, had previously confessed to carers a plan to carry out a murder. The victim continues to recover from a litany of injuries sustained in the incident, including a fractured spine and a brain injury.

The Committee on Climate Change publishes its annual progress report tracking the UK’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Last year’s report found that between June 2018 and the report’s publication in July 2019, the Government had only delivered one of the 25 policies deemed necessary to curb emissions. This year’s report is published shortly after the executive director of the International Energy Agency warned that the next six months is the only time the world has left to change the course of climate change.

Friday

The Old Vic holds its first socially-distant performance of Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs, the first UK theatre to do so. Actors Claire Foy and Matt Smith (pictured) will be at least two metres apart for the entire performance, which will be conducted in an empty auditorium and virtually streamed to up to 1,000 paying audience members.

Nearly 100 nominees for the Olivier and Theatre awards, including actors Phoebe Waller-Bridge and James McAvoy, recently wrote a letter to the Government saying that without investment, the entire industry faces financial ruin as a result of the pandemic.

William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. appears in court charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery on 23 February. Arbery’s death at the hands of three white men marked the first in a recent series of murders of Black men and women caught on film, sparking widespread protests over police brutality and racially motivated violence. The hearing comes as Minneapolis City Council considers the abolition of its police department, an indication of the major structural change made possible by international pressure for reform.

Saturday

Human rights activist Peter Tatchell leads a march through the capital to mark the London Gay Liberation Front’s 50th anniversary. The march is only open to Gay Liberation Front veterans to ensure it complies with social distancing regulations, and goes ahead in place of what should have been the London Pride parade. Fifty years after the Gay Liberation Front emerged in the wake of the Stonewall riots, LGBTQ+ allies achieved a victory in the US last week after the Supreme Court ruled that workers cannot be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Hot on the heels of the Premier League’s return, the FA Cup resumes at the quarter final stage with Norwich City hosting Manchester United. The game will be played behind closed doors as professional sport continues its recovery from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, though it’s hoped a limited number of fans may be able to attend the final on 1 August.

Sunday

Poland holds its presidential election, initially scheduled for 10 May and reluctantly delayed at the last minute due to the pandemic and a fiasco over planned postal voting. Incumbent Andrzej Duda had been an easy favourite for re-election in May, but his popularity has slipped in the runup to the vote, and Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski could be on track for a second-round victory on 12 July.

Trzaskowski’s relatively progressive record – he was the first mayor to attend Warsaw’s pride parade in 2019 – has been portrayed as extremist by Duda supporters, in contrast to the president’s own campaign pledge to “fight LGBT ideology”.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Helen Maybanks/Old Vic

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