Week Ahead: Batley and Spen by-election, Wimbledon return, Anne Robinson on Countdown and England v Germany in Euro 2020

Batley and Spen by-election, the return of Wimbledon, Robinson joins Countdown and England meets Germany. John Blow looks at the week ahead.

Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer and Batley and Spen by-election candidate Kim Leadbeater tour Batley Bulldogs Rugby league stadium on June 10. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.
Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer and Batley and Spen by-election candidate Kim Leadbeater tour Batley Bulldogs Rugby league stadium on June 10. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

By-election battle

Constituents in Batley and Spen will head to the polls for the fifth Parliamentary by-election in just six years on Thursday.

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The Conservatives are eyeing a seat that’s been Labour-held since 1997 after former MP Tracy Brabin stood down to focus on her role as the Mayor of West Yorkshire.

General view of Serena Williams and Alison Riske in action at the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

It comes after the fifth anniversary of the death of Jo Cox MP, whose murder in June 2016 sparked the last by-election, won by Brabin, who kept the seat in 2017, and even more narrowly so in 2019.

Cox’s sister Kim Leadbeater is vying to follow in her sister’s footsteps, but Tory Ryan Stephenson will be hopeful that he can regain the seat for his party - Conservative Elizabeth Peacock was its incumbent from its formation in 1983 until 1997’s Labour landslide - after its recent success in the North.

On Thursday last week, it was reported that the Tories were polling at 47 per cent – up 11 per cent from the 2019 general election – while Labour was on 43 per cent, according to Survation’s phone poll of adults earlier this month. Scrutiny of Sir Keir Stamer’s Labour leadership will intensify if the party loses the seat, having overseen the crushing defeat to the Tories

in the former heartland town of Hartlepool last month.

Wimbledon returns

Wimbledon will return on Monday after a year away following its cancellation in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But with restrictions set to be lifted for good in a matter of weeks, the famous tennis tournament is back.

It does come with some rules, though. The Government has allowed Wimbledon to admit 21,000 spectators each day – half of its normal capacity –while Centre Court can seat full crowds of around 15,000 for the women’s and men’s finals.

Ticket holders will be required to wear face coverings while moving around the grounds, but not while seated on court.

Plans to show matches on the big screen in front of Aorangi Terrace, better known as Henman Hill since its installation in 1997, are currently in place, although the logistics have yet to be finalised. Therefore it remains unclear whether masks will have to be worn on the hill and how many spectators will be allowed to congregate there.

Fans won’t be able to have a special one-to-one moment with professionals, however, because this time there will be no courtside autographs or selfies between spectators and professionals, and access to practice courts will be restricted.

Countdown debut

Anne Robinson will become the first woman to host Countdown.

The former host of The Weakest Link will tomorrow replace Nick Hewer on Channel 4’s longest-running series.

Before the pandemic Robinson, 76, had been lined up to front Channel 5 show The Kings And Queens Of England which was subsequently cancelled.

In an interview last week which The Yorkshire Post ran, she said: “I got several more offers that I didn’t fancy doing, and then Countdown came along. I’ve had all those years thinking on my feet, and it looked to me like an opportunity to interview contestants, to interview the guest, to be a bit waspish.”

Classic match-up

England will face Germany in the round of 16, the first knock-out stage of the Euros, at Wembley on Tuesday.

Fans will expect high drama from a fixture that has raised eyebrows here ever since England’s triumph against West Germany in the final of the World Cup in 1966.

However, we’ve not fared so well in penalty shoot-outs during subsequent competition clashes...