News diary 24-30 May: Dominic Cummings faces questions from MPs and Ofcom shares Covid-19 news consumption stats

Foresight News rounds up the key events that need to be in your news diary this week…

Monday

Northern Ireland follows the rest of the UK in relaxing lockdown restrictions, with people able to mix indoors and the re-opening of indoor hospitality. The country is also expected to adopt the traffic light system already in place in the rest of the UK, though there is still potential for some variance in the rules. The measures come as Northern Irish Health Minister Robin Swann announced that 25 to 29-year-olds can now book vaccinations in a bid to slow the spread of the new Indian variant.

The main governing body of the World Health Organization, the World Health Assembly, begins its annual session. The opening day features an address from Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and a discussion on the recently-published independent report into the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That report found a myriad of failures, including the WHO’s delay in declaring the outbreak an international emergency, the slow response of many countries to the initial outbreak, and an unseemly “winner takes all” scramble to secure equipment and medicines. The gathering also comes amid a spat over Taiwan’s status at the WHO, with China responding angrily to a call by the G7 to allow Taiwan to participate meaningfully in the gathering.

Tuesday

Today marks one year since George Floyd was killed by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Last month, Chauvin was found guilty of murder and awaits sentencing in June; he also faces an impending federal lawsuit accusing him of using excessive force and violating Floyd’s civil rights. Though President Joe Biden has targeted today as a deadline for police reform legislation, the continued frequency of Black deaths at the hands of white police officers demonstrates the difficulty in addressing such a systemic problem.

The ONS publishes statistics on how UK trade has been impacted by the simultaneous effects of coronavirus and Brexit. Rows over trade have continued to make headlines as ministers clash with the EU, neighbouring governments, and each other over post-Brexit arrangements. A recent Institute of Directors survey suggested firms expect trade with Europe to decline this year, and today’s figures  will give a clearer picture of how the sector is faring five months on from the end of the transition period with COVID-19 recovery still a while off.

Wednesday

Dominic Cummings (pictured) is the star turn at what promises to be the most dramatic select committee evidence session since Rupert Murdoch was attacked with a foam pie in 2011. The Prime Minister’s former chief adviser will face questions from MPs on the health and science committees about decisions taken during his time in government, with particular focus on the early months of the pandemic, the scientific advice ministers received, and the effectiveness of public health messaging. Cummings set the tone for today’s session with a series of highly critical tweets last week, so look out for some personal score settling if he decides to go off-piste during his grilling.

The world-renowned Hay Literary Festival gets underway, with this year’s event taking place online, away from its idyllic rural Welsh setting. Notable speakers include former British and Australian Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and Julia Gillard, who discuss how society should adapt to the post-Covid world, and poet Lemn Sissay, who curates a series of events marking the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s killing.

Bashar al-Assad’s rule in Syria looks set to continue for the foreseeable future as the country holds widely-discredited elections. While the result is not in doubt, and has been pre-emptively condemned by a number of Western nations, it is nevertheless likely to further hamper the beleaguered UN-backed efforts to draw up a new constitution leading to international recognised elections.

Thursday

The inquest into the death of London Bridge terror attacker Usman Khan opens in London’s Guildhall. Khan was shot and killed by armed police during the November 2019 attack, after inflicting fatal injuries on Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt. The inquest into the deaths of his victims revealed MI5 had considered closing their investigations into Khan in the run-up to the attack, despite his psychologist warning against his eventual release from prison.

The long-anticipated Friends reunion episode arrives on HBO Max over a year after it was initially due to air. James Corden hosts the unscripted special, which features re-creations of iconic scenes and a table read of “The One with the Jellyfish”. Alongside the original cast, the special features a raft of famous faces including David Beckham, Malala Yousafzai and Justin Bieber.

Friday

The UK hosts a third virtual meeting of G7 finance ministers ahead of next month’s first in-person gathering for the grouping for over a year. Discussions on climate finance will again top the agenda as the UK counts down top COP26, though Chancellor Rishi Sunak is likely to come under pressure to clarify the UK’s position on Biden’s global business tax proposal before US heavyweights Janet Yellen and Jerome Powell arrive in London.

Ofcom publishes its annual report on how news is consumed in the UK after a year in which televised government press briefings became required viewing for many. The report compares news consumption across multiple platforms, and last year’s major finding was a substantial fall in the number of people getting their news from social media, along with lower ratings for trust and accuracy. The BBC remained the UK’s top news source last year, and will be hoping not to see any further fall in trust levels after a bad news week, with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden threatening further governance reforms.

Saturday

Arlene Foster steps down as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party after her resignation in April. Despite handing the reins to Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots, Foster plans to stay on as first minister until the end of June. While Poots has already said that he will not put himself forward for the role, he’s criticised  Foster’s handover period as “far too long”, and will be keen to get one of his DUP colleagues appointed to the post as soon as possible.

Porto hosts an all-English Champions League final as Chelsea take on newly-crowned Premier League winners Manchester City. The match marks Chelsea’s third Champions League final appearance, with both their loss in 2008 and their win in 2012 being decided by a penalty shootout, while Manchester City have yet to taste European glory. City owner Sheikh Mansour has pledged to personally cover the cost of travel for the limited number of fans permitted to attend.

Sunday

South Korea hosts its first major climate meeting, the P4G Summit, which brings together government, business, and international organisations to work toward the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. South Korea has faced criticism over its own climate policy; while President Moon Jae-in committed to the 2050 goal last year, the country is one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide and still uses coal for 40% of its electricity generation. Seoul’s climate envoy has promised bigger policy changes in the run-up to the summit.

The main draw of the delayed French Open tournament gets underway at Roland Garros. Organisers postponed the competition by a week back in April as France imposed new lockdown restrictions amid a rise in coronavirus cases. The delay was also meant to maximise the chances of spectators being able to attend as restrictions ease, and as a result up to 1,000 fans are expected in the first 10 days of the tournament, and up to 5,000 in the later stages.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: PA Wire/Jonathan Brady

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