Week Ahead: Rules reimposed and a by-election battle for Boris Johnson and Conservatives

A return to restrictions to stem coronavirus, a test for the Tories in a true blue seat, Strictly bows out and musical magic in Yorkshire. John Blow looks at the week ahead.

Restrictions reimposed

Restrictions on the public will be reimposed as the country aims to protect itself from the threat of the fast-spreading Omicron variant of coronavirus in the run-up to Christmas.

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This includes a return to home working where possible from tomorrow and mandatory Covid ‘passports’ for large venues from Wednesday.

A man wears a face covering at the Great Yorkshire Show earlie this year. Masks are once again required in most indoor venues in England.

A return to wearing masks in most indoor venues in England came back into force on Friday.

Pub and hospitality bosses last week urged the Government to also reintroduce tax cuts, furlough and business grants amid fears that the ‘Plan B’ restrictions would deliver a “devastating” blow to the industry.

They highlighted that work-from-home guidance and vaccine passports will have a particular impact during the key Christmas period on retail, hospitality and leisure firms which have been battered by the pandemic for the past two years.

Critics, meanwhile, were quick to point out the curious timing of the restrictions announcement on Wednesday evening – timed for 6pm, when the evening television news begins – as Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Government were surrounded by accusations and fury over alleged parties at 10 Downing Street while London was under Tier 3 lockdown in December last year.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid acknowledged the decisions will have a “real impact on our liberties” but insisted that taking action now is the only way to avoid having to impose tougher measures later.

By-election test

The Conservatives face a major test of the electorate’s faith on Thursday when the Parliamentary by-election for the North Shropshire constituency takes place in the wake of Owen Paterson’s resignation.

Votes will be counted overnight with a result expected on Friday.

Mr Paterson – who was re-elected with a majority almost 23,000 in December 2019 – resigned after he was found to have breached lobbying rules and after the Government U-turned in a bid to save him from immediate suspension.

There have been just two instances of non-Tory MPs in the North Shropshire area in the past 189 years, reports the Shropshire Star, and it has been consistently blue since 1906.

But bookmakers Ladbrokes and Betfair last week said that Liberal Democrat candidate Helen Morgan was favourite over the Conservative pick, Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst.

It looks too close to call but should the Tories lose the seat for the first time since 1906, it would be another blow to a weary-looking Government.

Last dance

In what’s become a good old fashioned television event for all the family to crowd around, the Strictly Come Dancing 2021 final will air on BBC One.

The show is the highlight of many a viewer’s Saturday night as professional dancers and celebrities battle it out on the floor to take the prize. Those who are sad to see it go can look forward to the festive special over Christmas.

Festive fun

An Opera North Christmas concert will take place at Dewsbury Town Hall on Thursday.

Ticketholders can expect seasonal favourites such as Will Todd’s Jazz Carols and music by Yorkshire-born composer Angela Morley – who during worked with film score legend John Williams – performed by the Leeds-based company’s orchestra, chorus and youth chorus, and conducted by Chorus Master Oliver Rundell.

The show is part of the Kirklees Concert Season 2021/2022. Tickets and show times can be found at https://tickets.kirklees.gov.uk/