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News diary 18-24 November: ITV hosts first election debate and Extinction Rebellion plans hunger strike

Foresight News provides a look-ahead to the key events that need to be in your news diary for next week… 

The Confederation of British Industry holds its flagship annual conference on Monday and, with less than four weeks of campaign time left, it offers an opportunity for political speakers including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson to make an election pitch directly to an influential business audience.

Labour will be particularly keen to make a positive impression after its spending plans came in for heavy criticism in recent weeks, from the Conservative Party’s disputed £1.2tn claim to the CBI’s own estimate of a £196bn price tag on the party’s renationalisation proposals.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is due to appear in court as part of ongoing proceedings to secure his extradition to the United States.

Assange faces numerous charges including conspiring to hack government computers and violating espionage laws. A full extradition hearing is scheduled for February.

Climate activist group Extinction Rebellion begins a series of hunger strikes among its supporters in 22 countries to “highlight the vulnerability of our food supplies” should global governments not acquiesce to the group’s calls for action.

In the UK, the group will also be submitting letters to the political parties running in the upcoming general election, requesting support for a bill formulated by Extinction Rebellion to urgently tackle the climate emergency.

On Tuesday, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn go head-to-head for their first direct confrontation of the election when ITV broadcasts its leaders’ debate live from Manchester.

The Prime Minister’s decision to compare his opposite number to Josef Stalin at the Conservative campaign launch, along with the pair’s past clashes at PMQs, suggest it’s unlikely to be the friendliest face-off. The broadcaster’s decision to exclude other parties has prompted legal action from the Liberal Democrats and SNP.

An anonymous official from the Trump administration releases A Warning, a book which builds on a bombshell op-ed published in the New York Times last year entitled: “I am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.”

The book is expected to provide a damning account of the Trump presidency, although it has received criticism from his administration for its lack of specifics and allegedly false statements.

On Wednesday, US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland appears before the House Intelligence Committee for a public hearing in the ongoing impeachment inquiry. Following his closed-door deposition, Sondland reversed his testimony, revealing he had personally told a Ukrainian official they would have to give Trump the investigations he was seeking in order to receive military aid.

Sondland will also have to respond to the revelation by Bill Taylor at his public hearing that a second official overheard his phone conversation with the President over the investigations. Further officials testifying this week include National Security Council director for European Affairs Alexander Vindman and former US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker.

Voice of The Listener and Viewer holds its autumn conference with speakers including BBC chairman Sir David Clementi, ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall, and former Today programme presenter John Humphreys.

Clementi’s speech on ongoing issues facing the BBC may touch on the broadcaster’s ongoing dispute with the Government over funding for free TV licenses for people over the age of 75, something Labour have said they would fund centrally should they win power in the upcoming General Election.

Chelsea’s legal representatives appear before the Court of Arbitration for Sport to challenge the transfer ban FIFA imposed on the club in February. Chelsea are forbidden from signing any new players until the summer transfer window after being found to have breached numerous regulations governing the signing of foreign academy talent.

The club argue that FIFA’s actions have been “inconsistent” in comparison with other European sides, and manager Frank Lampard has already hinted at new recruits being targeted in the New Year.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk is in London on Thursday to speak at a Chatham House conference on the administration’s plans for government under Volodymyr Zelensky.

The new president enjoys a strong mandate after his party’s landslide victory in July’s parliamentary elections, though he faces a difficult task in preparing for talks with Vladimir Putin on the conflict with Russia at the same time as avoiding a backlash from his association with the impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.

Honcharuk, a fellow political novice, achieved an early domestic legislative victory last week by steering a contentious law removing a ban on sales of farmland through the Verkhovna Rada.

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang hosts the annual meeting with the six heads of major international financial institutions, including new the International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva.

A press conference follows the gathering, where the state of play regarding the trade war with the United States is likely to be addressed. Recent data has shown worrying signs about the impact of the trade war on China’s economy, and some are speculating that the government may be forced into more aggressive measures to stimulate the economy in the absence of a deal with Trump.

Barring any late campaign trail disasters, Boris Johnson today surpasses George Canning’s 119 days in office and avoids the unwanted milestone of becoming the UK’s shortest-serving Prime Minister.

A Cabinet minister in several Tory governments, Canning was appointed Prime Minister in April 1827 but died suddenly from pneumonia in August of that year. Next on the list is Viscount Goderich, who replaced Canning but resigned after only 144 days amid a collapsing coalition government.

A special edition of Question Time on Friday brings together Johnson, Corbyn, Swinson and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon for a live pre-election debate. Each party leader will be given 30 minutes to answer questions from the audience in separate slots, with Fiona Bruce moderating.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage is scheduled to appear in a separate edition, but reports suggest he may lose his slot after announcing the party would not field candidates in Tory seats.

In Manchester, the first preliminary hearing of the newly-established inquiry into the 2017 Manchester Arena terror attack takes place. Inquiry chairman Sir John Saunders ruled in September that the part-heard inquests into the deaths of the 22 victims should be adjourned in favour of a wider-ranging inquiry.

The inquiry will be partly heard behind closed doors during evidence sessions, with security and intelligence officials expected to be called as witnesses. A criminal trial against the perpetrator’s brother Hashem Abedi is expected to begin in January.

The US Federal Communications Commission meets to vote on formally designating Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE as security risks. Attorney General Bill Barr said ahead of the FCC meeting that the companies cannot be trusted, arguing that they threaten the security of American networks and those of its allies.

Following a visit to Thailand this week, the Pope arrives in Japan on Saturday in the first visit to the country by a Pontiff since Pope John Paul II’s environmental tour in.

Pope Francis’s trip includes a message on nuclear weapons in Nagasaki and a visit with the victims of the country’s “triple disaster” in 2011, when an earthquake caused a tsunami and triggered the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown.

Bougainvilleans (residents of the semi-autonomous island region that is currently part of Papua New Guinea) are set begin voting on whether to become fully independent. The vote continues until 7 December, with the results not expected until around 20 December.

A pro-independence result is widely anticipated. The island saw a bloody conflict in the 1980s and 90s that was caused in large part by disputes over the distribution of mining profits (the island is rich in copper and gold). Given its resources, a newly-independent Bougainville, in need of income, may well find itself at the centre of geostrategic rivalries.

On Sunday, District Council elections are scheduled in Hong Kong with pro-democracy protesters seeking to maintain focus on the administration of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, whose response to the protests has been broadly criticised.

Although those elected have little to no power to influence broader Hong Kong politics, a pro-democratic wave would certainly send a message. Given this, and the broader context of ongoing unrest, there is speculation that the elections may not take place after all, an outcome that would only exacerbate dissatisfaction with authorities.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Pictures: Nigel Roddis/PA Wire and Daniel Leal-Olivas/Pool via Reuters

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