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May 17, 2024

News diary 20-26 May: Infected blood inquiry report, Assange appeal ruling

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

By Foresight News

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

Leading the week

Next week sees the conclusion of the long-running infected blood inquiry when its chair, Brian Langstaff, publishes his final report and recommendations at a Westminster event on Monday (May 20). The inquiry, established back in 2018, has been investigating the provision of contaminated blood products to over 30,000 NHS patients in the 1970s and 1980s, which resulted in an estimated 3,000 deaths from HIV or hepatitis C contracted from the treatments. Initially set to be published in 2023, the final report was delayed by Langstaff last autumn due to the ‘sheer scale and seriousness of the criticisms’ it contains.

Meanwhile, the prospective £10 billion compensation scheme set to be established following publication of the report has already become a politically contested issue, with Rishi Sunak’s government suffering the first defeat of his tenure back in December after MPs voted to speed up payments. Seeking to avoid a similar defeat, the government supported a Labour amendment to the Victims and Prisoners bill that promises the establishment of a compensation scheme within three months of the legislation passing. While the government may have negotiated the parliamentary obstacles, the size of the compensation bill may have implications down the line for Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s ability to offer tax cuts ahead of the general election if they want to avoid breaking their own fiscal rules.

Julian Assange’s UK legal saga could be coming to an end on Monday (May 20) as the High Court looks set to rule on his final attempt to appeal his extradition to the US to face charges that he helped former US soldier Chelsea Manning steal classified files in 2009 and 2010. The WikiLeaks founder was arrested in 2019 after spending seven years holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy to avoid extradition, first to Sweden where he faced sexual assault complaints which were later dropped. He has been held in Belmarsh Prison since his arrest, where his wife says his health has deteriorated to the point where he ‘will die’ if sent to prison in the US.

A decision on whether to grant the final appeal was delayed in March after the court requested assurances from the US government on several grounds, including that it won’t seek the death penalty if Assange is extradited. A ruling against the appeal would mean Assange could be on his way to the US, barring a last-minute intervention from the European Court of Human Rights. US President Joe Biden said earlier this year that he is considering pardoning Assange, remarks that were welcomed by Australian prime minister and AUKUS ally Anthony Albanese, who has repeatedly called for charges to be dropped.

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Rishi Sunak and the CCHQ social media machine will be back out next week to insist the plan is working as the release of key inflation and immigration statistics look set to give the prime minister’s priorities a further boost. Sunak’s goal of halving inflation by the end of 2023 was comfortably met, and the release of CPI data on Wednesday (May 22) could see the rate edge even closer to the Bank of England’s official 2% target. Meanwhile, quarterly migration statistics out on Thursday (May 23) are predicted to show a fall in net migration, which Migration Advisory Committee chair Brian Bell this week ascribed to a ban on foreign students bringing family members to the UK, igniting a row with business leaders over the impact on the university sector and the UK’s skills base.

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But Labour, who got ahead of the good economic news last week by accusing the government of ‘gaslighting’ the British public, are likely to continue their focus on prisons as the expanded End of Custody Supervised License (ECSL) scheme comes into effect on Thursday (May 23), meaning prisoners can be released up to 70 days before their sentence ends to help tackle overcrowding in prisons. The temporary scheme was introduced in October 2023 and initially allowed prisoners to be released 18 days early, later increased to 35 and then to 60 as pressures on prisons have failed to ease. The expansion comes amid news that emergency Operation Early Dawn measures are also being implemented to delay bail hearings for defendants in police custody to avoid triggering a transfer to jails where there is no space for them.

Looking abroad

After Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen finishes giving evidence in Trump’s hush money trial on Monday (May 20), the former US president’s legal team will have its chance to make the case for acquittal. In its opening statement, Trump’s team provided the broad outline of its case: that the money paid to Cohen was for his legal services, that Trump wasn’t personally involved in producing Trump Organization business records, and that Stormy Daniels’ NDA agreement was more about preventing her claim of a sexual encounter reaching his wife than it was about hiding it from voters.

While Trump has suggested he would testify in his own defence, in court his lawyer has made no such commitment, perhaps unsurprisingly given the legal risks it would expose Trump to. As proceedings wrapped up yesterday, Judge Juan Merchan told the parties to be ready to make their closing arguments on Tuesday (May 21), after which the case will be in the hands of the jury.

The world reacted with shock and horror to the shooting of Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico on Wednesday while he was greeting members of the public in the small town of Handlova, and the fallout from the incident is likely to continue generating headlines. President Zuzana Caputova, who opposes Fico, held talks with her successor and Fico ally Peter Pellegrini yesterday, and the pair will jointly host a meeting with leaders of all parliamentary parties on Tuesday (May 21) in an effort to promote unity and calm.

Tensions have been running particularly high ahead of European elections in June, as Fico’s government moved ahead with plans to pass a Georgia-style foreign agents law and proposals to give the government greater powers over the RTVS public broadcaster. The Slovak parliament, which had been debating the RTVS bill when Fico was shot, may resume its sitting as early as Tuesday.

Also look out for

May 20

  • Constance Marten and Mark Gordon jury resumes deliberations
  • David Cameron at committee on EU relationship
  • King and Queen attend Chelsea Flower Show VIP day
  • Mohammed bin Salman visits Japan
  • Lai Ching-te takes office in Taiwan
  • SCO foreign ministers meet in Astana
  • Indian election phased polling day

May 21

  • IMF publishes Article IV consultation on the UK economy
  • London Defence Conference 2024
  • Lords questions to David Cameron
  • Boeing Starliner manned launch
  • Andrew Bailey lecture at LSE
  • South Korea hosts mini-AI summit
  • England Euro 2024 preliminary squad announced 
  • International Booker Prize winner announced

May 22

  • Paula Vennells gives evidence at Horizon Inquiry
  • Alderney ‘Nazi Death Camp’ review published
  • WMO publishes Global Climate Update
  • Sunak and Starmer face off at PMQs
  • Northern Ireland junior doctors strike
  • Ofcom report on news consumption in the UK
  • Hearing in Trump classified documents case
  • Dutch parliament debate on new coalition government
  • Europa League final: Atalanta v Leverkusen

May 23

  • Simon Case gives evidence at Covid-19 Inquiry
  • Home Office publishes Migrant Journey report
  • European Commission presidential candidates’ debate
  • Joe Biden hosts William Ruto for White House talks
  • US House committee hearing on antisemitism at colleges
  • G7 finance ministers meet in Italy
  • Ivor Novello awards

May 24

  • Ofgem announces quarterly price cap
  • Mum sentenced for murdering son
  • Three in court charged with spying for Hong Kong in Britain
  • Anti-tourist demonstration in Ibiza
  • Furiosa released in cinemas

May 25

  • FA Cup final: Manchester City v Manchester United
  • Donald Trump addresses Libertarian Party National Convention
  • Joe Biden delivers West Point commencement address
  • Hassan Nasrallah speech expected in Lebanon
  • Indian election phased polling day
  • Cannes Palme d’or Award
  • Women’s Champions League final: Barcelona v Lyon
  • Jack Catterall v Josh Taylor II

May 26

  • Championship play-off final
  • Emmanuel Macron state visit to Germany
  • Lithuania presidential election runoff
  • NSPCC conference on child safety
  • Monaco Grand Prix
  • London Lantern Festival

Statistics, reports and results

May 20

  • NAO report on UK trade border
  • Tony Blair Institute report on governing and AI
  • Rightmove House Price Index
  • China Loan Prime Rate announcement
  • Results from: Ryanair

May 21

  • Shell AGM
  • Register of political donations
  • EU foreign trade statistics
  • Tony Blair Institute report on harnessing data for health
  • Results from: Macy’s, Kingfisher, Lowe’s Companies

May 22

  • Public sector finances
  • UK house price index and private rental prices
  • Amazon ASM
  • Results from: Nvidia, Marks & Spencer, Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE), British Land, Target

May 23

  • Provisional stats on long-term international migration for 2023
  • Annual figures on abortions in England and Wales
  • Annual stats on UK dwelling stock
  • Quarterly NHS figures on bed availability and occupancy
  • Quarterly stats on young people not in education, employment or training (NEET)
  • OECD quarterly GDP growth
  • Results from: Royal Mail Group, Nationwide, JD Sports Fashion, Tate & Lyle, National Grid

May 24

  • UK retail sales
  • Germany and Nigeria Q1 GDP

Anniversaries and awareness days

May 20

  • World Bee Day
  • British Sandwich Week (to May 26)
  • Arts Education Week (to May 26)
  • National Walk to School Week (to May 24)
  • Scams Awareness Fortnight (to June 2)

May 21

  • World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

May 22

  • World Goth Day

May 23

  • Seven years ago: Manchester Arena bombing
  • 75 years ago: Federal Republic of Germany founded
  • International Day to End Obstetric Fistula
  • World Turtle Day

May 24

  • Two years ago: Uvalde elementary school shooting (Texas)

May 25

  • Four years ago: George Floyd killed
  • Resistance and Liberation Day (Lebanon)
  • International Missing Children’s Day
  • Africa Day
  • Wear the Lilac Day
  • Towel Day
  • Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories (to May 31)

May 26

  • National Day of Healing (Australia)

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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