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It’s Wild Wednesday! Dozens flock to gym as it reopens when lockdown ends on the stroke of midnight

People in England were quick to seize upon greater freedoms after the national lockdown ended and was replaced by a tiered system of restrictions.

Some of the most hardcore fitness fanatics even hit the weights for a midnight workout as one London gym owner threw open his doors at the stroke of midnight.  

All non-essential shops are allowed to open from today, paving the way for a festive spending spree that will likely drive people back to the nation’s ailing high streets. 

A fire sale at Debenhams is expected to fuel the shopping bonanza as bargain-hunters are lured by price cuts of up to 70 per cent ahead of the company’s impending liquidation following the collapse of rescue talks.

A precursor to today’s likely stampede for generous discounts – as the chain reopens its soon-to-be axed 124 stores – was seen last night when more than a million people swamped the department store’s website.  

The sudden burst of activity as England flings off the blanket restrictions is being dubbed ‘Wild Wednesday’ – but will still see the overwhelming majority of the public living under draconian laws.  

Boris Johnson last night overcame the largest Tory rebellion of his premiership for his new tier system to clear the Commons by 291 to 78, with abstaining Labour MPs getting the vote across the line.

It heralds a tack back to the Government’s previous strategy of carving the country into three ‘alert levels’ – albeit this time with harsher measures and with 99 per cent of the country facing the top two tiers. 

Pubs have had their curfew extended to 11pm but are grappling with the fresh regulations. In Tier 2, they can only serve alcohol with a ‘substantial meal’ and in Tier 3 they are limited to just takeaways. 

But despite the presence of the pandemic still looming large over everyday life, many Britons were jubilant as the showering of freedoms came into effect today. 

Some of the most hardcore fitness fanatics even hit the weights for a midnight workout as one London gym owner, Andreas Michli, (pictured), who was previously fined for breaching lockdown, threw open his doors on the stroke of 12

Hundreds of thousands of shoppers have swamped the Debenhams website to snap up generous discounts as the department store tries to clear its stock before closing for good

Debenhams  are prepared for liquidation after 242 years of trading with 12,000 jobs at risk after JD Sports declined to buy the brand in the chaos caused by Arcadia's collapse

Hundreds of thousands of shoppers have swamped the Debenhams website to snap up generous discounts as the department store tries to clear its stock before closing for good

Debenhams on Oxford Street in London last night. The 242-year-old brand entered administration and shops will shortly close

Debenhams on Oxford Street in London last night. The 242-year-old brand entered administration and shops will shortly close

 

Boris Johnson said there was a 'compelling case' for the regional tiers as he faced a Commons showdown over his new coronavirus rules

Boris Johnson last night overcame the largest Tory rebellion of his premiership for his new tier system to clear the Commons by 291 to 78, with abstaining Labour MPs getting the vote across the line 

PM suffers biggest revolt of his premiership – but wins tiers vote  

Boris Johnson got his brutal post-lockdown tiers approved by the Commons last night thanks to Sir Keir Starmer’s tacit support after suffering the biggest Tory revolt of this Parliament as more than 50 Tories defied the whip. 

The new three-tier system was signed off by a margin of 291 to 78 and came into force at midnight after Labour opted to abstain, despite complaining the regime was not tough enough and there was not enough support for hospitality firms which have been crippled by government shutdowns.    

While the headline 213 majority was healthy, the rebellion of 55 Tories – including Julian Lewis, who is suspended – made the uprising the biggest of this Parliament yet, after 44 previously went against the pubs curfew. 

Another 17 appear to have abstained, though it is not clear how many were given permission to stay away. Sir Keir also suffered his own revolt, with 15 defying the whip, alongside Jeremy Corbyn and eight DUP politicians. 

Though the Labour move guaranteed No10 victory, it left Mr Johnson exposed to the anger of his own benches. Had all the opposition parties voted against the Government, the PM would have easily been defeated.

The rebellion may have permanently dashed the possibility of using blanket shutdowns to suppress the virus in the future, and is likely to have set off alarm bells in No10 as the premier’s authority continues to wane. 

As England woke up to eased restrictions of varying degree: 

  • Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove has said two scotch eggs would be ‘a starter’, 24 hours after Environment Secretary George Eustice said one is a substantial meal for the purposes of buying alcohol in pubs in Tier 2. But Mr Gove added to the confusion by saying later it could also count as a main meal;
  • Sir Keir Starmer was accused of ‘playing politics’ in the middle of the pandemic after he ordered his MPs to sit out the crucial vote tonight on the rules that will replace lockdown; 
  • Stratford-on-Avon District Council mounted a legal challenge against being placed into Tier 3; 
  • Mr Gove has denied that Britons will need ‘immunity certificates’ to go to the pub – despite a fellow minister raising the prospect yesterday;
  • Mr Gove pointed to Wales as an example of how lockdown should not be done, after it announced pubs will be forced to close at 6pm and banned from selling alcohol drinks from Friday as the country faces new curbs just weeks after the ‘firebreak’ ended; 
  • The Government announced a further 603 Covid deaths on Tuesday, bringing the UK total to 59,051. 

Gym boss Andreas Michli, 34, was mobbed by supporters tonight as he threw his doors open on the stroke of midnight.

The owner was fined £67,000 and taken to court last month by Haringey Council after a stand-off with more than 30 police officers over three days at the Zone Gym in Wood Green, North London.

But last night he was back in business and welcomed around 60 people through his doors – and boasted the prime minister had been swayed by his protest.

As crowds queued up to get back on the treadmills, Mr Michli told MailOnline: ‘There’s no doubt in my mind we succeeded in changing the Prime Minister’s mind about allowing gyms to open.

‘He saw what was going on and he listened. But the war goes on and now it’s not just about gyms anymore. I feel like I’m fighting on behalf of businesses of all kind.

‘So many business owners are suffering, so it’s great to see the buzz here tonight and the excitement now that we are opening up again.’

Among those first in the door was personal trainer Sophia Sammee, 35, from Friern Barnet, North London who said: ‘You can see the happiness in people’s faces here tonight.

‘Everyone is buzzing that lockdown is over.’ This gym has been my home and I really wanted to be here on the stroke of midnight. Andreas was brave to stay open and I was proud to support him.’

Paralegal Dennis Adjei-Sarpong, 26, said: ‘There are so many smiles here tonight now that this place is back open. People just want to get lost in their work-outs and their fitness again. I myself can’t wait to hit the weights. It’s a great moment.’ 

Zone Gym in Wood Green in North London welcomed around 60 people through his doors at the stroke of midnight

Zone Gym in Wood Green in North London welcomed around 60 people through his doors at the stroke of midnight

Mr Michli told MailOnline: 'There's no doubt in my mind we succeeded in changing the Prime Minister's mind about allowing gyms to open'

Mr Michli told MailOnline: ‘There’s no doubt in my mind we succeeded in changing the Prime Minister’s mind about allowing gyms to open’

Just 18 local authorities see Covid cases rise 

Just eighteen authorities in England have seen a rise in Covid-19 cases over the most recent week, according to official figures that call into question whether 99 per cent of the country needs to be in the toughest two tiers of lockdown.

Only eight areas – Ashford, Dover, Folkestone and Hythe, Maidstone, Medway, Tonbridge and Malling, Boston in Lincolnshire and South Ribble in Lancashire – will be subject to Tier Three restrictions, which will see all pubs, bars and restaurants forced to shut.

The other areas that have seen a spike in infections – Mendip, Torridge, Surrey Heath, Woking, Basildon, Harlow, Ipswich, North Norfolk, Peterborough and Waltham Forest – will fall under the second harshest bracket. Residents living in Tier Two will be banned from mixing indoors with other households.

It means the other 297 lower-tier authorities in England – home to around 53million people – saw a fall in coronavirus cases in the seven-day spell ending November 25, the most recent week of data.

Despite Public Health England data showing Covid outbreaks are shrinking across the rest of the country, 55million people will find themselves living in either Tier Two or Tier Three when the national lockdown ends tomorrow.

Mr Michli clocked up a fortune in fixed penalty notices only to rip them up on his Instagram channel and invite members back to his gym -only for magistrates to close him down.

Despite breaking the law during lockdown he says he had been swamped with messages of support from well-wishers across the country.

‘I’m not paying the fine and if Haringey Council want the money then they will have to take me to court, because I’m not handing over a penny. I feel like the public have swayed behind me and it’s an incredible feeling.

‘We were expecting a big crowd at twelve because we’ve had so many people saying on social media they wanted to be here for when the doors open.

‘We’ve had a lot of love and support from across the country backing us. Because we’re a 24-hour gym, it made sense to open on the stroke of midnight.’

Mr Michli has 1,200 members but social distancing rules mean he will be limited to 85 members in his gym at any one time.

‘We will be following the government guidelines relating to how many people can be on the premises at any one time. And we will be enforcing social distancing. Still it’s a big step back to normal life.’ 

Wild Wednesday is also expected to see a blitz of high street stores as people look to snap up gifts weeks out from Christmas.

It will be fuelled by a bargain bonanza from Debenhams which has slashed prices on handbags, shoes, boots, watches and dresses.

The chain has become the latest high street casualty and will be liquidated in the New Year after rescue talks with JD Sport fell through, drawing a line under 242 years of trading and jeopardising 12,000 jobs.   

Late Tuesday night there was a 20-minute wait ‘due to exceptional demand’ with over 300,000 trying to get on to the website at one point, and the total number of shoppers topping one million.

A bruising year for the retail sector amid the pandemic climaxed this week when both Debenhams and Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia group collapsed. 

Arcadia, which owns Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins and Burton, tipped into administration, putting 13,000 jobs at risk. 

Boris Johnson’s post-lockdown tiers come into force despite biggest-ever Tory rebellion against him – as 55 of his backbenchers vote against his plans putting prospect of future lockdowns in jeopardy 

By James Tapsfield, political editor for MailOnline

Boris Johnson got his brutal post-lockdown tiers approved by the Commons last night thanks to Sir Keir Starmer’s tacit support after suffering the biggest Tory revolt of this Parliament as more than 50 Tories defied the whip. 

The new three-tier system was signed off by a margin of 291 to 78 and came into force at midnight after Labour opted to abstain, despite complaining the regime was not tough enough and there was not enough support for hospitality firms which have been crippled by government shutdowns.    

While the headline 213 majority was healthy, the rebellion of 55 Tories – including Julian Lewis, who is suspended – made the uprising the biggest of this Parliament yet, after 44 previously went against the pubs curfew. 

Another 17 appear to have abstained, though it is not clear how many were given permission to stay away. Sir Keir also suffered his own revolt, with 15 defying the whip, alongside Jeremy Corbyn and eight DUP politicians. 

Though the Labour move guaranteed No10 victory, it left Mr Johnson exposed to the anger of his own benches. Had all the opposition parties voted against the Government, the PM would have easily been defeated.

The rebellion may have permanently dashed the possibility of using blanket shutdowns to suppress the virus in the future, and is likely to have set off alarm bells in No10 as the premier’s authority continues to wane. 

But Dominic Raab attempted to brush aside suggestions that the Government was worried about the scale of the revolt despite Mr Johnson personally begging dozens of Tories to fall into line as they went through the Noe lobby.

The Foreign Secretary instead took aim at Labour for abstaining from the crunch vote, saying tonight: ‘We listened to MPs on all sides of the House, we passed this vote with a majority of over 200. 

Mr Johnson faced a series of hostile interventions from his own benches over the draconian restrictions, including from 1922 committee chair Sir Graham Brady (pictured)

Mr Johnson faced a series of hostile interventions from his own benches over the draconian restrictions, including from 1922 committee chair Sir Graham Brady (pictured)

Tory council launches legal challenge against Tier 3 decision 

A Tory-led  local authority is challenging the Government’s decision to put it into Tier 3 after the current lockdown restrictions end.

Stratford-on-Avon District Council  said it had sent a judicial review pre-action letter to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Stratford is the constiruency of Nadhim Zahawi, the newly appointed minister in charge of rolling out the Covid vaccines. 

Tony Jefferson, leader of the council, said: ‘This is not an action we take lightly, however none of the data we see warrants Stratford-on-Avon District being placed in Tier 3. It is very disappointing that the Government did not use much greater granularity in deciding on tiers.

‘I know that they have looked at a number of factors including the rates in all age groups, particularly older people who are more vulnerable to the virus; and we have to take into consideration the pressure on our local hospitals and NHS services.

‘However, none of the metrics for our district warrant it being placed in Tier 3. The decision to put Stratford district in Tier 3 therefore appears arbitrary and irrational.’ 

The most striking thing about these numbers is that the leader of the Labour Party Keir Starmer abstained on the biggest issue facing this country today as we go through this pandemic and he’s got nothing to say about it, no leadership, he doesn’t know what he thinks or what the country should do.’   

The day was spent desperately trying to peel off opponents, with the premier hinting that many low-infection areas could by brought out of the toughest tiers at the next review on December 16.  

He also offered a ‘one-off’ payment of £1,000 to ‘wet’ pubs – that do not serve food – this month as recognition of ‘how hard they’ve been hit by this virus’. In a last-gasp Zoom call with mutinous Tories before the division, Mr Johnson warned they must not be like children in the back of a car saying ‘are we nearly there yet?’

Winding up the debate, Health Secretary Matt Hancock choked back tears as he referred to the death of his step grandfather from Covid in Liverpool last month, and warned the government could not ease off the restrictions too much. ‘We’ve got to beat this, we’ve got to beat it together,’ he pleaded.

Earlier, MPs lined up in the House to slam the Government plans despite the PM urging them to back his ‘compelling’ case for his new post-lockdown tiers.Former health minister Jackie Doyle-Price summed up the feeling for many by storming: ‘These decisions are being taken really on the back of a fag packet but are destroying whole swathes of the hospitality industry.’ 

The strength of feeling among critical backbenchers even led typically backbenchers to defy the PM, with former cabinet minister Jeremy Wright voting against the Government ‘for the first time in 10 years’. There had been talk of up to 100 Conservatives ready to rebel – but this afternoon the numbers were whittled down to an extent.   

A government spokesman said: ‘We welcome tonight’s vote which endorses our Winter Plan, brings an end to the national restrictions and returns England to a tiered system.

‘This will help to safeguard the gains made during the past month and keep the virus under control. We will continue to work with MPs who have expressed concerns in recent days.’

Mark Harper, chair of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptic Tories, urged the government to ‘take on board’ the criticism. ‘We very much regret that in a moment of national crisis so many of us felt forced to vote against the measures that the government was proposing,’ the former chief whip said.  

Who are the Tory MPs who defied Boris Johnson and voted against the tier system? 

Some 53 Conservative MPs defied Boris Johnson and voted against the Prime Minister’s new coronavirus tier system. 

They are:  

Adam Afriyie (Windsor)

Imran Ahmad Khan (Wakefield)

Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale West)

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire)

Paul Bristow (Peterborough)

Christopher Chope (Christchurch)

Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells)

James Daly (Bury North)

Philip Davies (Shipley)

David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) 

Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) 

Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock)

Richard Drax (South Dorset)

Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green)

Mark Francois (Rayleigh and Wickford) 

Marcus Fysh (Yeovil)

Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) 

Chris Green (Bolton West)

Damian Green (Ashford)

Kate Griffiths (Burton)

Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) 

Philip Hollobone (Kettering)

David Jones (Clwyd West) 

Julian Knight (Solihull)

Robert Largan (High Peak) 

Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) 

Chris Loder (West Dorset) 

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham)

Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet)

Anthony Mangnall (Totnes)

Karl McCartney (Lincoln) 

Stephen McPartland (Stevenage) 

Esther McVey (Tatton) 

Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle)

Robbie Moore (Keighley)

Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot)  

Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) 

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) 

John Redwood (Wokingham)

Mary Robinson (Cheadle) 

Andrew Rosindell (Romford) 

Henry Smith (Crawley)

Ben Spencer (Runnymede and Weybridge)  

Desmond Swayne (New Forest West)

Craig Tracey (North Warwickshire)

Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling) 

Matt Vickers (Stockton South)

Christian Wakeford (Bury South)

Charles Walker (Broxbourne)

Jamie Wallis (Bridgend)

David Warburton (Conservative – Somerton and Frome) 

William Wragg (Conservative – Hazel Grove)

Jeremy Wright (Conservative – Kenilworth and Southam)

A further two Tory MPs, Steve Baker and Robert Syms, acted as tellers for those MPs voting against the measures.   

The vote means most areas of England will now go into the new year in one of the toughest two tiers, with a ban on households mixing indoors and strict controls on the hospitality sector. 

Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have been designated for the lightest Tier 1 restrictions. 

As he wooed his restive party earlier, Mr Johnson insisted that the government will be ‘sensitive’ to local situations – hinting that areas with low infection rates will not be lumped together in future with other nearby hotspots. 

He said the next review on December 16 will be conducted based on ‘as much granular detail as we can’. ‘We will try to be a sensitive as possible to local effort and local achievement,’ he said.

MP said whips were working hard during the day assuring Conservatives with constituencies in high tiers that they will be downgraded within weeks, while London Tories were pushing for a private commitment that the city will not be upgraded to Tier 3. 

But Sir Keir warned Conservative MPs their hopes of being downgraded will be dashed, as Tier 2 will ‘struggle’ to hold infections down and Mr Johnson always ‘overpromises and under-delivers’. ‘That is not going to happen,’ he swiped. 

The Prime Minister also tried to allay backbench fears for hospitality businesses by announcing that ‘wet’ pubs – which rely on drinks to make their living – will be entitled to £1,000 payments to help them get through this month.   

Many Tories were left livid when ministers finally released an impact assessment of the measures, only to find it did not feature any new detail. Rebel ringleader Mark Harper said the ‘wheels were coming off’ the policy. 

It is understood the government has another dashboard that includes more ‘granular’ information on 40 areas of the economy. Sources dismissed the idea it is ‘secret’, saying it only contains material already ‘publicly available’ – although they insisted it will not be published. 

One angry MP told MailOnline: ‘The reason it won’t be published is because it supports our case not theirs.’  

Laying out his case that there is a ‘compelling’ need for the new regional tiers, Mr Johnson stressed: ‘This is not another lockdown. Nor is this the renewal of existing measures in England.

‘The tiers that I’m proposing would mean that from tomorrow everyone in England, including those in Tier 3, will be free to leave their homes for any reason.

‘And when they do they will find the shops open for Christmas, the hairdressers open, the nail bars open, gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools open.’  

Challenged by a series of MPs – including ex-Cabinet minister Greg Clark, who represents Tunbridge Wells – over the harsh treatment their areas were receiving, Mr Johnson said: ‘As we go forward… the Government will look at how we can reflect as closely as possible the reality of what is happening on the ground for local people, looking at the incidence of the disease, looking at the human geography and spread of the pandemic, and indeed the progress that areas are making in getting the virus down.

‘We will try to be as sensitive as possible to local effort and to local achievement in bringing the pandemic under control.’

He added: ‘We will look in granular detail at local incidents, look at the human geography of the pandemic and take account of exactly what is happening every two weeks, as I say.’ 

Mr Johnson also took aim at Labour for having ‘no credible plan’ to tackle coronavirus.

He said: ‘We’re trying to look after pubs, restaurants, businesses across this entire country and no-one feels the anguish of those businesses more than this Government.

‘I do think however it is extraordinary that in spite of the barrage of criticism that we have, we have no credible plan from the party opposite, indeed we have no view on the way ahead.

‘It’s a quite extraordinary thing that tonight, to the best of my knowledge, (Sir Keir) who said he’s always going to act in the national interest, has told his party to sit on its hands and to abstain in the vote tonight.’

But despite his pleas, Mr Johnson still faced a series of hostile interventions from his own benches over the draconian restrictions, which will leave 99 per cent of England under the toughest two levels from tomorrow.

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker, one of the rebel leaders, was among those opposing the Government. 

He said he was ‘going to have to vote no tonight to send a message’ to ministers, adding: ‘People like me have not just been looking for economic analysis, we’ve been looking for serious analysis of these harms and benefits from the Government’s policies in the context of coronavirus.’ 

He went on: ‘Here we stand at a profoundly dangerous moment, heading into infringements on our liberties around vaccination and testing which we would never normally tolerate and so therefore I find with huge reluctance, I’m going to have to vote no tonight to send a message to the Government.’ 

Sir Graham Brady, chair of the powerful Tory 1922 commitee, was among those who condemned the tiers plan.

He said the Trafford borough in his Altrincham and Sale constituency had been placed in Tier 3 ‘unfairly’. ‘I believe the government has not made that compelling case,’ he said. ‘The benefit of the doubt that this House has extended in March and since is harder.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk