A journalists’ guide to the week ahead provided by Foresight News.
Monday’s 2% above-inflation increase in alcohol duty is unlikely to have many drinkers toasting the Chancellor. Combined with the Government’s definitely-not-rushed-out-to-distract-from-the-budget Alcohol Strategy, including controversial proposals to set a minimum price for units of alcohol, today’s rise means those looking for some liquid comfort in austere times may soon find themselves priced out of the market.
Tuesday sees the publication of the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework, a proposed overhaul of the UK planning system touted as a key plank of the Government’s growth strategy. Delivering his Spring Budget, George Osborne modestly trailed the NPPF as ‘the biggest reduction in business red tape ever undertaken’ and promised to replace ‘1,000 pages of guidance with just 50’. The Draft Framework published last year has already drawn fire from environmental and rural campaign groups who fear it’ll pave the way for a development free-for-all.
Bolton’s rearranged sixth round FA Cup tie with Spurs takes place Tuesday evening, with midfielder Fabrice Muamba apparently making a steady recovery following a major cardiac arrest during the two teams’ March 17 clash. Spurs fans and players rallied around Muamba following his collapse and the abandonment of the match. Despite a brighter prognosis in recent days, Bolton manager Owen Coyle has suggested his players may still struggle to return to White Hart Lane.
Members of the National Union of Teachers and University College Union take part in regional strike action over the Government’s proposals for pension reform on Wednesday. The strike will be seen as a warm-up for co-ordinated national public sector strike action planned for April, and should leave supply teachers in London valiantly battling against kids answering their mates’ name on the register.
Wednesday also sees Olympic bigwigs the from IOC visit London for the final time before the Summer’s sport-stravaganza. The IOC’s Coordination Commission, in the capital for three days, is tasked with ensuring that the Olympic Charter and Host City Contract are followed and applied properly. In the unlikely event that they’re not, London could technically lose the Games, resulting in mass pyres of Wenlock and Mandeville stuffed toys and a lingering sense of national shame.
Speaking of shame, George Galloway is among the candidates in Thursday’s Thursday’s Bradford West by-election, after long-standing incumbent MP Marsha Singh stepped down on health grounds. Although the safe seat looks likely to be a shoo-in for Labour’s Imran Hussein, the by-election will be seen as a key bellwether for both the state of Ed Miliband’s leadership and reaction to last week’s Spring Budget.
Continuing the Continent’s wave of unrest, Spain’s largest unions hold a general strike Thursday against their government’s proposed labour reforms. Earlier this month, similar protests attracted over a hundred thousand demonstrators, angry at plans to slash unemployment benefits and loosen regulation on industry. The government maintains that the reforms are necessary to make Spain more competitive and bring its deficit down.
The first day of a four-day sitting takes place at the High Court on Friday to decide the ownership of assets held by the beleaguered football club Rangers. The club’s administrators are locked into a battle with Ticketus, Merchant Turnaround and the Jerome Group Pension Fund over some £3.6m that was seized from the account of owner Craig Whyte’s lawyers. Celtic fans have so far celebrated the downfall of their Glasgow rivals, but a weakened Old Firm could affect the ability of Scottish football as a whole to attract the all-important TV revenue.
Johnny Nelson, brother to Jesy Nelson of popular beat combo Little Mix, appears at Basildon Crown Court on Friday charged with supplying cocaine. Charges were only levelled against the 28-year-old after The Sun launched a sting operation in which an undercover reporter successfully bought the Class A drug from Nelson. With press ethics under the spotlight of late, this could be one to watch.
Saturday sees a European anti-Islamic rally take place in Aarhus, Denmark. The rally, hosted by the Danish Defence League, features an appearance by the EDL ringleader Tommy Robinson, as well as Anders Gravers, founder of Stop the Islamification of Europe. Whether even more incendiary rhetoric is really necessary in the wake of the Toulouse tragedy is a matter unlikely to be subject to much scrutiny today.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy takes part in by-elections in Myanmar on Sunday. Her party was dissolved in 2010 after refusing to register for elections, but with the ruling military junta appearing to make tentative steps toward political reform in recent months, Sunday’s vote will mark an important test of its commitment. In a worrying sign, by-elections in three of the 48 constituencies due to vote Sunday were recently suspended over what the government called ‘security concerns’.