Newspaper headlines: 'Stricter' tiers loom, and PM faces legal action

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Many front pages focus on the prime minister's plans for which Covid restrictions will come next in England.

"Tiers on Steroids" is the Sun on Sunday's verdict on plans to end the lockdown but introduce stricter regional levels of controls - though as a silver lining it notes that the 10pm pub curfew will be lifted.

The Sunday Express makes the angry reaction of some Tory MPs its lead under the headline: "Lockdown Ultimatum."

Both papers report that Boris Johnson faces a backbench rebellion with 70 Tory MPs and a number of peers signing a letter warning that the lockdown cure "runs the very real risk of being worse than the disease".

"The fright before Christmas" is the Sunday Mirror's take.

The paper says bleakly that "the PM will formally declare on Monday that Christmas, as we know it, is off".

The Observer leads on a claim that the PM acted illegally over the appointment of key figures in the fight against Covid.

It reports that campaigners concerned about an apparent "chumocracy" at the heart of government have lodged a case in the High Court seeking judicial review of how Dido Harding was awarded the role of head of NHS Test and Trace, along with two other senior appointments in the government's anti-Covid task force.

The paper says the Good Law Project and the Runnymede Trust believe the roles were not advertised or subject to normal open competition.

Under the headline "Patel shakes up antiquated work practices at Home Office", the Sunday Telegraph front page suggests that new rules have been agreed between the home secretary and the head civil servant at the Home Office in a bid to draw a line under the recent damaging bullying scandal.

"Let Priti Patel get on with her job of fixing the Home Office" is the paper's view, suggesting that anyone who knows the culture of Whitehall will know she has been up against "a sector that goes out of its way to stonewall change and a department that has a history of undermining ministers".

But according to the Sunday Times, the home secretary may not have much time to fix or get on with things.

It says that, though she was supported by Mr Johnson last week, several sources now indicate she is likely to be axed in a New Year cabinet reshuffle over her competence.

The paper's cartoon suggests the bullying debacle has left Father Christmas in a quandary.

He is pictured tugging his beard and wondering aloud to Rudolph whether he should be adding sub-categories to his traditional lists. "I don't know if Ms Patel's been 'naughty' or 'unintentionally naughty'", he complains.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that the British Library is to add the poet Ted Hughes to a dossier on links to slavery and colonialism as part of its efforts to become actively anti-racist.

The paper says that curators have identified an ancestor born in 1592 whose family were "deeply involved" in establishing colonies in North America.

The poet's biographer Sir Jonathan Bate tells the paper it is "ridiculous" to tar Mr Hughes with a slave trade connection on the basis of such a distant relative.

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