News diary 29 June-5 July: New Evening Standard editor takes helm and NHS turns 72

Emily Sheffield

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

Monday

The government’s first statutory review of the quarantine measures imposed on travellers coming into the UK is due. The measures have been widely panned since before they came into effect on 8 June, and the government is expected to announce “air bridge” agreements to remove restrictions on travellers coming to and from countries the UK has made reciprocal deals with, while the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will introduce a traffic light system for travel advice based on prevalence of the virus.

Reports suggest countries such as France, Spain and Greece will be included, but the move has already been criticised for being “unenforceable”.

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The four men charged over the death of George Floyd are scheduled to appear in court. Since their arrest last month, international protests have helped restart a long-awaited conversation on police reform, the removal of confederate statues and support for Black Lives Matter.

Since Floyd’s death, old cases have been revisited and investigated, putting the spotlight on the longstanding nature of police brutality, but the continued frequency of such incidents demonstrates the immense challenge in confronting such a systemic issue.

News UK launches the new Times Radio, boasting a presenter line-up which includes the likes of MP-turned broadcaster Michael Portillo, former Home Secretary Amber Rudd, and ex-BBC journalist John Pienaar.

The station promises listeners “intelligent and thought-provoking news” throughout its 24-hour-a-day programming schedule, and debuts with a breakfast show hosted by Aasmah Mir and Stig Abell. Other names featuring across the week’s schedule include Mariella Frostrup, Matt Chorley, Cathy Newman, Tom Newton Dunn and Carole Walker.

Tuesday

Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a major speech to set out his plans for reviving the UK economy after the coronavirus crisis. In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Johnson promised the country would “build our way back to health”, focusing on infrastructure spending including new hospitals, schools and housing developments, and rejecting the austerity measures of David Cameron’s era.

Johnson’s plan tees up an economic statement from Rishi Sunak next month, with the Chancellor reportedly keeping a close watch on consumer behaviour to guide any stimulus package, including the rumoured cut in VAT.

The pressure to agree a deal with the European Union by the end of this year gets ramped up a notch with the expiration of today’s deadline to request an extension to the transition period. Michael Gove took the prospect of extra negotiating time very firmly off the table at the last Withdrawal Agreement committee meeting, meaning a successful conclusion to the weekly negotiation rounds which kicks off on Monday is now crucial in order to avoid a no-deal scenario in January.

The Prime Minister remains characteristically optimistic about the prospect of an agreement being reached over summer, while Michael Barnier would only concede last week that a deal was still possible.

A week-long lockdown in parts of North Rhine-Westphalia is due to end. The lockdown was re-imposed in the city of Gütersloh and surrounding areas last week as a result of a sudden spike in Covid-19 cases, linked to one of Germany’s biggest meat-producing factories.

The outbreak, which led to more than half a million people being placed back in lockdown, has shed light on the conditions faced by those working in confined factories, and has shown Europe that localised, “stop-start” lockdowns may be necessary for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday

The Local Government Association’s flagship annual conference is one of several major events going ahead virtually this year in a much-reshaped political calendar, and the first keynote speaker to swap the arena stage for a webinar is Keir Starmer.

While the Labour leader has been unable to deliver a major set-piece speech since replacing Jeremy Corbyn, a slow and steady approach to building his profile has seen Starmer participate in weekly Zoom sessions with voters around the country and become the first opposition leader with a regular radio phone-in show. The former DPP’s forensic style at PMQs has won plaudits, and the opportunity to avoid big stages and comparisons with Boris Johnson’s crowd-pleasing turns may, for the time being at least, suit the Labour leader and his team.

London’s Evening Standard begins life under a new editor as Emily Sheffield (pictured) takes the reins from former Chancellor George Osborne. The sister-in-law of former Prime Minister David Cameron, Sheffield previously served as deputy editor of Vogue and joined the Standard as a columnist in 2018.

Sheffield takes control during what is likely to be a tumultuous period for the paper, with Osborne describing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic as a “very serious business problem”. Osborne remains on hand to help steer the paper as its new editor-in-chief.

Russia’s referendum on constitutional reforms culminates with the main day of voting (early voting having begun on 25 June). The vote was supposed to take place in April, but was delayed as coronavirus spread throughout the country.

If approved, which seems all but certain, the changes would allow President Vladimir Putin to run for office again in 2024 and in theory remain in power until 2036, though this detail has been almost entirely absent from the relentless advertising campaign around the vote.

Thursday

The main draw from the LGA conference is a session with Robert Jenrick, whose appearance comes after sustained criticism of his involvement in the planning application for a new east London housing development proposed by former Express owner Richard Desmond.

A Labour Party debate on the matter in the Commons last week led to the publication of documents which showed the Housing Secretary was in close contact with Desmond ahead of the decision to approve the development. Labour then referred Jenrick to Parliament’s standards commissioner after Boris Johnson declared the matter closed, which suggests that the negative headlines may continue to overshadow the Housing Secretary’s regular duties.

In Hong Kong, a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people expires, a day after the anniversary of the territory’s handover to China from Britain in 1997, which is traditionally marked with large pro-democracy protests. With China’s new national security laws for Hong Kong expected to have been approved earlier in the week, the lifting of the ban paves the way for fresh unrest this summer over Beijing’s tightening grip on the territory.

Friday

The ONS publishes new figures on the effect of Covid-19 on care homes, including deaths registered up to 20 June and the first results from a study of 9,000 care homes in England which looked at positive tests among staff and residents as well as risk factors for infection.

The last set of care home-specific stats were published in mid-May, and found that over a quarter of deaths in care homes since March had involved coronavirus, with the virus designated the leading cause of death in male care home residents and the second-leading for women.

A preliminary hearing into the death of Steve Dymond, who died in a suspected suicide last May after appearing on the Jeremy Kyle Show, takes place in Portsmouth. Dymond’s death proved to be the catalyst which prompted a wide-ranging review of the show’s practices and led to its ultimate cancellation.

An initial hearing in October of last year heard that Dymond had stopped taking anti-depressants in order to take a lie detector test on the show, and allegedly confessed to a researcher that he “wished he was dead” shortly after filming had concluded.

Further lockdown measures are eased across Northern Ireland. From today, tourist accommodation, hotels, cafes, restaurants and coffee shops will be allowed to reopen, pubs and bars can begin serving customers on a table-service basis, and tourist attractions will also be allowed to re-open with safety measures in place.

Northern Ireland, which, like the other UK nations has been reviewing its lockdown procedure unilaterally, has been praised for its low number of Covid-19 cases, and on 20 June announced its first day with no new infections.

Saturday

It’s Super Saturday, or the end of “hibernation” in England, as the most significant set of changes to lockdown measures come into effect. Pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, museums and playgrounds are among places re-opening, while two households can now meet indoors and stay overnight, allowing for some long-awaited, if socially-distanced, family reunions.

But not as distant as before – from today, the two-metre rule is reduced to one-metre-plus, with people advised to use common sense to keep as much distance as possible. The decision not to re-open gyms and swimming pools has proved controversial, and Business Secretary Alok Sharma has raised hopes that they could open their doors as early as next week if the government’s five tests continue to be met.

America celebrates Independence Day, with the holiday coming as the nation grapples with a disturbing rise in coronavirus cases, an economic recession, and continued demands for police reform and racial justice. Despite official guidance on mass gatherings, the traditional White House celebration is due to go ahead as planned; President Trump’s annual remarks will likely seek to celebrate his management of the pandemic even as the nation surpasses 130,000 deaths.

Sunday

The NHS turns 72, and the public is encouraged to celebrate with a nationwide clap to thank frontline workers. Broadcasters are expected to halt programming to mark the occasion, and major public buildings, including the Royal Albert Hall and the Blackpool Tower, will light up blue the night before in commemoration. The initiative has been organised by the Together coalition, which features major names in British culture including astronaut Tim Peake, presenter Gary Lineker and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

The new Formula One season finally gets underway following a three-month coronavirus-enforced delay, which has seen a total of 11 races across the globe being either cancelled or postponed. Defending champion Lewis Hamilton enters the season opener in Austria with history firmly in his sights – a defence of his world title will draw him level with Michael Schumacher as the most successful driver in F1 history.

Hamilton is also expected to lead drivers in a public show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, having announced his own commission into diversity in motorsport.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: ESI Media

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