Foresight News rounds up the key events that need to be in your news diary this week…
Monday 6 September
MPs return to the Commons after an interrupted recess which was dominated in its final weeks by the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan. Members will expect statements from senior ministers, not least the Prime Minster to update on his talks with fellow G7 leaders, while there are sure to be plenty of willing candidates to ask urgent questions after criticism from both sides of the House over the government’s handling of the withdrawal of British troops. The regularly scheduled business includes questions to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, who will likely be asked about vaccinations for under-16s and the return of pupils to schools.
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The week is set to be dominated by recent events in Afghanistan and the coming anniversary of 9/11, and away from Parliament the main draw today will be Tony Blair’s address to the RUSI think tank on the West’s response to Islamic extremism in 2001. The former Prime Minister made headlines last month when he described the withdrawal of troops as “tragic” and driven by an “imbecilic slogan”.
Long-awaited proposals for the reform of adult social care are rumoured to be coming this week, with the finer details expected to be thrashed out at today’s Cabinet meeting. Boris Johnson famously promised on the steps of Downing Street to fix social care “once and for all” in 2019, though a pandemic and much wrangling over funding have prevented him from producing any concrete plans. Sajid Javid reportedly favours an increase to National Insurance to meet the increased cost of social care provision, while a predecessor as Health Secretary thinks higher taxes are the way to go. Either method would mean an unwelcome broken manifesto promise and an even more unwelcome hard sell to the electorate.
Fresh from agreeing a power-sharing deal with the Scottish Green Party, Nicola Sturgeon delivers her new Programme for Government at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood. Much of the focus will be on whether Sturgeon puts forward a tentative timeline for a future independence referendum, just days after claiming an “undeniable mandate”. The First Minister may also use the speech to make firmer commitments on four-day working week pilots, which hit the headlines last week.
Nearly six years after the horrors of the Paris terrorist attacks of November 13, 2015, the trial of 20 men accused of involvement in the atrocities is set to open at a special court in Paris. Salah Abdeslam, presumed to be the sole surviving member of the group directly involved in carrying out the killings at the Bataclan, Stade de France, and Paris streets, is among the 14 accused who will be physically present for the trial, which is due to last until at least May next year. Over 130 people died in the attacks, with at least 350 people injured, in what was described by then-President Francois Hollande as an “act of war” by Islamic State.
England, Wales, and Northern Ireland continue their qualifying campaigns as the road to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar gathers pace. England travel to Poland looking to keep their unblemished qualifying record intact, while Northern Ireland look for their first win against Switzerland. Wales welcome Estonia to Cardiff but will be without key man Aaron Ramsey who misses the game with a thigh injury.
The winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction is announced at a public party in Bedford Square Garden, hosted by this year’s chair of judges Bernardine Evaristo. The six-book shortlist includes only first-time nominees this year, with a focus on “little-told stories” from marginalised communities, including Brit Bennett (The Vanishing Half), Susanna Clarke (Piranesi), Claire Fuller (Unsettled Ground), Yaa Gyasi (Transcendent Kingdom), Cherie Jones (How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House), and Patricia Lockwood (No One Is Talking About This). Clarke is the favourite to take the prize.
The nominee to replace Elizabeth Denham at the head of the ICO faces a grilling by the DCMS committee after Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden finally announced New Zealand Privacy Commissioner John Edwards as the government’s preferred candidate. Committee chair Julian Knight had earlier been critical of No.10’s role in the delayed process, and today’s session may be spicier than the typical pre-appointment hearing as Edwards sets out his vision for the UK’s post-Brexit data protection regime.
Members of the UN Security Council meet this afternoon to discuss the latest on the situation in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover and final departure of US troops. The meeting comes ahead of the planned renewal of the mandate for UNAMA, the UN’s mission in the country, on September 17. Ireland’s Ambassador to the UN, Geraldine Byrne Nason, who currently chairs the Security Council, has made clear that she plans to pay particular attention to the role of women and girls in Afghanistan under the Taliban, describing it as a “fundamental red line issue”.
Another big award this week as the Mercury Prize winner is announced, with a shortlist also dominated by first-time nominees. Ten out of the 12 artists are up for the first time, including the likes of Arlo Parks, Celeste, Ghetts, Hannah Peel and SAULT, who was identified as an early favourite alongside the collaboration between producer Floating Points, saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders (the oldest-ever nominee), and the London Symphony Orchestra.
The SNP kicks off this year’s autumn party conference season with a four-day virtual gathering. The party’s three policy themes for this year’s conference are independence, next year’s council elections, and climate change as Glasgow prepares to host the COP26 summit . Though the precise agenda for the conference is yet to be confirmed, Nicola Sturgeon will deliver her traditional keynote address, and members will vote on a motion to move Trident from Scotland within three years of an independence vote. The motion comes amid recent reports of UK government contingency plans to move the submarine bases abroad or create a leased British territory in the current location in the event of a yes vote.
Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy is due to appear at Chester Crown Court charged with rape and sexual assault. The French international is accused of carrying out the alleged attacks on three complainants between October 2020 and August of this year, and was denied bail in a recent hearing. Mendy will now remain in custody before any potential trial, with today’s hearing likely to set a formal timeline for the continuation of proceedings.
Twenty years ago today, members of Al-Qaeda hijacked four US planes, crashing them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing almost 3,000 people. President Joe Biden and former President George W Bush are due to speak at commemoration ceremonies marking the occasion, despite opposition from victims’ families. The anniversary follows the withdrawal of the last British and American troops from Afghanistan, ending the “forever war” that began in response to the attacks, but the resurgence of the Taliban and the recent terror attack by ISIS-K has reignited the debate over the value of this kind of military intervention.
Six weeks of classical music conclude with the last night of the Proms. Taking place at full capacity, this year’s finale sees the return of Rule, Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory sung in full, despite criticism of their “jingoistic” and imperial connotations.
The TUC’s annual congress remains a virtual affair this year and there’s a heavy focus across the agenda on the response to Covid-19, with a motion calling for a national day to remember those who lost their lives to coronavirus and the sacrifices of workers during the pandemic. Elsewhere there are demands for a publicly funded government climate plan, increasing investment in arts funding to one per cent of GDP, ending fire and rehire, supporting the introduction of a Universal Basic Income pilot, and permanently retaining the £20 Universal Credit uplift. Labour leader Keir Starmer is among the keynote speakers.
Pope Francis begins a four-day visit to Hungary and Slovenia with a stop in Budapest, where his schedule includes talks with controversial Prime Minister Viktor Orban and a mass in the city’s Heroes’ Square. Earlier in the summer, there had been reports that the Pope would not meet with Orban during his trip, allegedly due to their opposing positions on refugees, prompting a furious backlash.
The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.
Picture: Shutterstock/Keith Burke