The week ahead: Colvin funeral, drought report, one year of conflict in Syria, German election

Here’s a journalists’ guide to the big diary stories of the week ahead provided by forward planning service Foresight News.

The week begins with Foreign Secretary William Hague chairing the UN Security Council’s ministerial debate on change in the Middle East. Recent terror attacks in Yemen and the ongoing situation in Syria are likely to dominate discussions. The Security Council is currently split down the middle on the response to Assad’s brutality after permanent members Russia and China chose to veto a resolution calling for the president to stand aside.

The human toll of the conflict in Syria comes into sharp focus elsewhere on Saturday, as a funeral mass is held to honour the life of fallen Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin, killed in Homs back in February. The respected correspondent’s missives helped throw light on the appalling humanitarian situation in the battered city and the gathering will give family, friends and colleagues a chance to look back on a lifetime’s work.

On the domestic front, Tuesday sees the release of a traditional bellwether of the state of the economy, as the CPI and RPI Basket of Goods and Services is made public. An annually-reviewed ‘shopping basket’ of items, it reflects changes in prices and tracks consumer spending, setting the Consumer Price Index and Retail Price Index. With the Chancellor’s Spring Budget around the corner, it’ll provide a crucial snapshot into the plight of the so-called ‘squeezed middle’.

Tuesday also sees the release of the Environment Agency’s report on the prospect of Britain being hit with a drought during spring and summer. The Agency has already seen fit to move the south east of England and East Anglia into official drought categories, and there is some speculation that a hosepipe ban could be brought in as a matter of urgency.

Dereck Chisora appears before the British Boxing Board of Control on Wednesday after the unedifying February 18 frenzy in which he slapped Vitali Klitschko during a pre-fight weigh-in, spat water in the face of Wladimir Klitschko and got involved in a brawl (and viral sensation) with retired Brit fighter David Haye during the post-fight conference. The World Boxing Council has already handed Chisora an indefinite ban and a large fine.

Barack Obama and David Cameron meet on Wednesday for a summit and state dinner at the White House. In spite of Obama reportedly once referring to Dave as a ‘lightweight’, the two leaders seem to have struck up a genuine friendship since Cameron’s ascent to Number 10. Likely to be in tow: a British press corps desperate for any sign of a slight downgrading in the usual ‘special relationship’ praise.

As the carnage in Syria continues, Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the dramatic escalation in anti-Governmental protests. A year ago this day opposition to President Assad’s regime sprung up in cities across the country, following large-scale demonstrations in Damascus and Aleppo. At this point Syria’s interior ministry was denying the protests were political in nature, with Assad claiming there was no chance of political upheaval in the Middle Eastern state.

It’s an all-party day out on Thursday as Liberal, Labour and Tory ministers convene in Central Hall to speak at the British Chambers of Commerce’s annual conference. Coalition big-hitters Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and rail reformer Justine Greening are set to share a stage with Labour’s attack dog Ed Balls.

Lulzsec and former Anonymous member Ryan Ackroyd appears at Westminster Magistrates’ Court charged with two counts of hacking computer systems on Friday. Ackroyd, who allegedly went by the online moniker ‘kayla’, was arrested last week and is accused, with other hackers, of carrying out sensitive attacks on the computer systems of Fox Broadcasting Co., Irish political party Fine Gael and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Ahead of the April 22 poll, Friday sees the close of the window for French Presidential election hopefuls to submit their candidacy. With the titanic battle seeming to be between Socialist François Hollande, and the diminutive Nicolas Sarkozy – eyes are beginning to focus on right-wing National Front candidate, (and, if Private Eye is to be believed, twinkle in Heffer’s eye) Marine Le Pen, as she bids to obtain the required 500 signatures from elected officials to qualify for the ballot.

The tragic case of PC David Rathband, found dead at his Northumberland home on February 29, and who was blinded after being shot in the face by gunman Raoul Moat, comes to the fore again on Saturday when the traffic officer’s funeral takes place in Stafford.

Germany elects its new President on Sunday, as the EU’s economic powerhouse looks to move on from the second successive resignation of its head of state, this time Christian Wulff, following Horst Köhler in May 2010 – the only two to have done so in history. The two main candidates Joachim Gauck and leftist nominee Beate Klarsfeld will hopefully fare better than their short-lived predecessors.


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