The fortnight ahead: Journalists' guide to news events for Christmas and the first week of the New Year

A guide to the big news stories ahead for Christmas and the first week of the New Year provided for Press Gazette readers by Foresight News.

It’s Boxing Day, and train drivers are striking. No, this isn’t a 2010 retrospective; it’s happening again. Despite a late, unsuccessful High Court challenge, ASLEF union members will walk out on December 26, having asked that the day be deemed voluntary, requiring London Underground to provide ‘special incentives’ for drivers to work. Further strikes are scheduled for January 16, February 3, and February 13.

Monday is also the 20th anniversary of the disbanding of the Soviet Union. The Soviet parliament formally voted the USSR out of existence on December 26, 1991.

December 27 is the final day for grieving North Koreans to get a glimpse of the body of Kim Jong-il lying in state. The Dear Leader’s funeral takes place in Pyongyang on Wednesday, with the Democratic People’s Republic sure to expect more of the public outpourings of grief that greeted the news of Kim’s death on December 17.

In other popular dictator news, the trial of Hosni Mubarak resumes on December 28. The former Egyptian President and his sons Alaa and Gamal are charged with attempted and premeditated murder in connection with the deaths of protesters during last January’s uprising. The trial was delayed in September to consider a request from lawyers of the victims’ families for a change of trial venue and judge; the request was rejected on December 7.

The ongoing battle between the Occupy London movement and the City of London Corporation may well come to a head on December 30 as the eviction enforcement notice served on the protesters takes effect. The Occupy movement has taken to the High Court in an attempt to thwart the Corporation’s intentions.

On the last day of 2011, GOD retires. Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell steps down as head of the civil service after six years at the top. Permanent Secretary at Number 10, Jeremy Heywood, takes over from Sir Gus in a slightly reformed capacity, combining Cabinet Secretary duties with advising the PM on policy.

The Presidency of the Council of the European Union transfers from Poland to Denmark on January 1, and with the future of the euro uncertain, Danes are apparently divided over whether to support the fiscal accord agreed at the December 9 European Council. The Socialist People’s Party, lead by Foreign Minister Villy Soevndal, is calling for a referendum on whether to adopt the agreement; Danish voters have proven in the past to be less than enamoured with the euro, having twice voted against joining the single currency.

Back in Egypt, its protracted lower house elections conclude with the third and final round on Tuesday January 3. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party is currently leading the way with its manifesto of reform coupled with religious conservatism.

Also on Tuesday Emma West appears for committal after being accused of delivering a racist rant to passengers on a Croydon Tramlink. A Youtube clip of the video was posted reportedly weeks after the event, leading British Transport police to make an arrest, despite at the time choosing not to take any action.

January 5 sees the Unite union’s national committee of health workers meet to discuss government proposals for public sector pensions. The majority of unions with public sector members have agreed to negotiate based on the new offer, but the Unite union has withheld its support, while the PCS union has flatly rejected the deal.

On January 7 Republican candidates gather for a TV debate in Manchester, New Hampshire. The show precedes the New Hampshire primary, deemed the first representative test of the hopefuls’ credentials after the deeply conservative Iowa sets the campaign rolling.

South Africa’s governing African National Congress party holds its centenary celebrations on Sunday January 8, with President Jacob Zuma delivering the keynote address. Headed by Nelson Mandela, the party came to power in 1994 and has never relinquished its ruling status in post-apartheid South Africa.A

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