Seldom has a ruling by the Speaker of the House of Commons been so eagerly anticipated by MPs.
During the Brexit wars of a couple of years ago, pro-Remain John Bercow could be relied upon to deliver rulings to cause maximum turmoil and embarrassment for the government.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle is a much less partisan figure, however, and when he has to made a tricky or controversial ruling he relies on the advice of the Commons clerks and legal bods. Mr Bercow used to overrule them.
So when he had to rule on Tory MP Andrew Mitchell’s bid to use a piece of legislation on science research to reverse Boris Johnson’s overseas aid cut, cricket fan Sir Lindsay played a straight bat.
It wasn’t in order, he declared, to almost no-one’s surprise.
What was more surprising was Sir Lindsay’s angry attack on the government at the end of his ruling. From straight bat to bowling the prime minister a hostile bouncer.
First he encouraged Mr Mitchell and his supporters to apply for an emergency debate on the aid cut, which he duly did and now MPs will have three hours to attack the government. A free hit for the PM’s critics.
Then he rounded off his statement with some furious finger pointing at the government frontbench as he bluntly ordered ministers to hold a vote on the aid cut without delay – or he’d connive with MPs to find a way to hold one.
“I wish and hope, very quickly, that this is taken on board,” the normally cheery Sir Lindsay warned, his lip curling with disdain for the government’s attempts to dodge a vote.
“I don’t want this to drag on,” he said. “If not, we will then look to find other ways in which we can move forward.”
Then when Sir Lindsay’s deputy, Nigel Evans, tested support for Mr Mitchell’s application for an emergency debate, no-one rose to their feet quicker than former prime minister Theresa May, who was seated just a few rows further forward.
She was one of around 30 Conservative MPs who had put their names to the Mitchell new clause to the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill, a Dominic Cummings legacy, no less. What an ironic twist.
The Tory rebels included old bruisers like David Davis and Sir Edward Leigh, but cabinet ministers from the May years like Jeremy Hunt and Damian Green and MPs from both the Brexit and Remain wings of the party.
In his response to Sir Lindsay’s ruling and then in his bid for an emergency debate, Mr Mitchell claimed that had the vote gone ahead he would have won by nine or possibly 20 votes. He reminded MPs, of course, that he is a former chief whip.
Really? That assumes all the Conservative MPs who put their names to his new clause would have trooped into the Aye lobby with Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP. Would Mrs May – victim of dozens of bruising rebellions as PM – go that far?
She has form for voicing her objection to a Boris Johnson policy and then absenting herself from a vote, no doubt because of a pressing engagement elsewhere.
Former prime ministers tend not to rebel, with the exception of Ted Heath during the Thatcher years. Not for nothing was he known as “the incredible sulk”.
Talking of ex-prime ministers, the Tories’ 0.7% aid spending pledge is a legacy of David Cameron’s time as Tory leader.
It was even written into law in 2015, as Sir Lindsay reminded MPs. That’s presumably why Mr Cameron’s former bag-carrier Sir Desmond Swayne was among the rebels.
Not that they would accept that they’re rebels. Since 0.7% was a Tory manifesto pledge, they’ve claimed throughout this row that they’re the loyalists.
Not sure that’s how the current chief whip, the burly, ruddy-faced Nottinghamshire farmer Mark Spencer, would see it.
With Mr Mitchell’s new clause ruled out of order, the debate that followed was a dismal anti-climax.
But hostilities will resume in the emergency debate and if and when the government brings forward a proper vote on the aid cut.
Sir Lindsay will no doubt continue to play a straight bat. But his mood suggests he is growing tired of the prime minister dodging the umpire’s rulings.
Rishi Sunak to pitch himself as prime minister to ‘fundamentally change the country’
Rishi Sunak will try to convince the public he is the person to “fundamentally change the country” and fix Westminster’s “broken system” – despite the fact his party has been in government for 13 years.
In his speech to the Tory Party conference, the prime minister will present himself as a reformer who is prepared to take difficult decisions, unlike opponents, who take “the easy decision, not the right one”.
Mr Sunak will tell the conference hall that politics “doesn’t work the way it should” and that his Labour opponent, Sir Keir Starmer, is “betting on voters’ apathy.”
The speech will round off what has been a chaotic four days at the party’s annual conference in Manchester – an event that has been overshadowed by the announcement that the northern leg of HS2 will not go ahead as originally envisioned.
Instead, services will run between Birmingham and Manchester but they will not be high speed and they will use the existing West Coast Mainline track.
The development prompted Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham to accuse the government of treating people in the north as “second-class citizens”.
He warned the government: “To pull that plug here in Manchester would show complete contempt to the city region and to the north of England as a whole.”
The Tory mayor for the West Midlands, Andy Street, also warned it would be “an incredible political gaffe” allowing opponents to accuse Mr Sunak of having decided to “shaft the north”.
In his speech, Mr Sunak will rail against “30 years of a political system which incentivises the easy decision, not the right one – 30 years of vested interests standing in the way of change”.
He will reflect on his first year in Number 10 and acknowledge a “feeling that Westminster is a broken system”.
“It isn’t anger, it is an exhaustion with politics,” he will say.
“In particular, politicians saying things, and then nothing ever changing.
“And you know what? People are right. Politics doesn’t work the way it should.”
Poll shows most voters think Sunak is doing a bad job
A new poll of 1,000 people from Ipsos UK suggests most voters think Rishi Sunak is doing a bad job when it comes to hitting his goals.
On inflation, 57% said Mr Sunak was doing a bad job, up from 55% in May.
Some 54% said he was doing a bad job on growing the economy, up from 50% in May.
And 54% of people said he was doing a bad job on reducing national debt – up from 49%.
On cutting NHS waiting lists, dissatisfaction sits at 71%, compared to 62% in May.
On ‘stopping the boats’, two-thirds of people said he was doing a bad job.
The poll was carried out just before the Conservative party conference.
And he will say: “Politicians spent more time campaigning for change than actually delivering it.
“Our mission is to fundamentally change our country.”
As well as the HS2 announcement, Mr Sunak has also been undermined by his predecessor Liz Truss, who drew big conference crowds as she demanded immediate tax cuts to “make Britain grow again”.
Mr Sunak has instead compared himself to the late Baroness Thatcher, who tackled inflation before cutting taxes during her premiership between 1979 and 1990.
While Mr Sunak has repeatedly sought to dodge questions over HS2, he did say on Tuesday that the costs of the project had gone “far beyond” what had been predicted, and the sums involved were “enormous”.
The HS2 scheme was given a budget of £55.7bn in 2015 but costs have ballooned, with an estimate of up to £98bn – in 2019 prices – in 2020.
SEC asks judge to reject Coinbase’s motion to dismiss lawsuit
The United States Securities and Exchange Commission has asked a federal judge to deny Coinbase’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit by the regulator.
In an Oct. 3 filing in a New York District Court, the SEC hit back at claims in Coinbase’s dismissal motion and reiterated its belief that some of the cryptocurrencies listed on its platform were investment contracts under the Howey Test subject to SEC registration.
“Each crypto asset issuer invited investors — including purchasers on Coinbase’s platform — reasonably to expect the value of their investment to increase based on the issuer’s broadly-disseminated plan to develop and maintain the asset’s value,” the SEC wrote.
The SEC asserted Coinbase has “known all along” that cryptocurrencies it sells are securities if they meet the Howey Test and alleged the exchange recognized this in its filings with the SEC.
The regulator also scrubbed Coinbase’s argument invoking the “major questions doctrine” which claimed the SEC has no authority over the crypto market until Congress says so.
“The SEC has not assumed for itself any new power to do what the federal securities laws do not already expressly authorize it to do,” the SEC said.
In an Oct. 3 X (Twitter) post, Coinbase legal chief Paul Grewal said the SEC’s arguments were “more of the same old same old” and asserted the assets it lists “are not securities and are not within the SEC’s jurisdiction.”
The @SECgov just filed its opposition to our motion to dismiss their case against @Coinbase. It’s more of the same old same old. But don’t just take my word for it – take a look for yourself. 1/7 https://t.co/QMdkRoiq0V
— paulgrewal.eth (@iampaulgrewal) October 3, 2023
Grewal claimed the SEC’s arguments in its response would mean “everything from Pokemon cards to stamps to Swiftie bracelets are also securities.”
Miles Jennings, a16z crypto’ general counsel, claimed in an X post that the SEC’s motion “has a lot of holes.”
The SEC’s opposition to @coinbase‘s motion has a lot of holes. Even if the court were to agree with the SEC’s main contention (that investment contracts don’t require legal contracts), the SEC’s case should still fail.
As we discussed in our brief in August, the SEC’s theory of… https://t.co/RTzlutSM9t
— miles jennings (@milesjennings) October 3, 2023
Jennings added even if the court were to agree with the regulators main argument around investment contracts then the case “should still fail” as he believes the SEC’s definition of an investment contract has “endless breadth.”
FTX execs who pleaded guilty are potential witnesses in Sam Bankman-Fried’s criminal case
Many former executives with cryptocurrency exchange FTX or its sister companies are on the list to testify in the United States Justice Department’s criminal case against Sam “SBF” Bankman-Fried.
During jury selection for SBF’s trial on Oct. 3, Assistant U.S. Attorney Danielle Sassoon said former Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison, FTX co-founder Gary Wang, former FTX engineering director Nishad Singh and former FTX chief operating officer Constance Wang were among the names of witnesses who may testify against Bankman-Fried. Ellison, Gary Wang and Singh have already pleaded guilty to charges related to their roles in the collapse of FTX, while Ryan Salame — the former co-CEO of FTX Digital Markets and the fifth person directly connected to the criminal case — will not testify.
Other names floated by Sassoon included SkyBridge Capital co-founder Anthony Scaramucci, who has previously criticized SBF’s alleged role in the crypto market downturn of 2022. Judge Lewis Kaplan started proceedings in the SBF criminal trial by asking prospective jurors questions related to the case.
According to multiple reports from the courthouse, Bankman-Fried appeared for the first time without his signature messy hair, which appeared to have been cut for the first week of the trial. Kaplan confirmed that prosecutors had not offered the former FTX CEO a plea deal in the case and questioned prospective jurors on scheduling, hardships and conflicts of interest. He also issued a warning about avoiding the consumption of media related to the trial.
“This case has generated publicity,” said Kaplan, according to reports. “You’re to stay away from it — podcasts, anything. Did any of you watch 60 Minutes on Sunday?” [This likely refers to Michael Lewis’ interview on Bankman-Fried.]
i am standing outside of SDNY for SBF’s trial pic.twitter.com/WDGd8kVqdQ
— Tiffany Fong (@TiffanyFong_) October 3, 2023
At the time of publication, Kaplan had dismissed four out of 12 prospective jurors in the court and said selection would continue the morning of Oct. 4. The trial is expected to last through November, though the judge reportedly said that his cases “rarely take as long as the lawyers think.”
Opening arguments in the criminal trial are expected to begin on Oct. 4, during which the defense and prosecutors will each take roughly 25 to 40 minutes to address the jury. Bankman-Fried faces seven criminal counts in his first trial, with another five charges to be addressed in a second trial starting in March 2024.
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