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Speaker hopefuls trash Bercow as Commons disappears into K-hole | John Crace | Politics



There are some things on which no Speaker can adjudicate. So the nine MPs who have nominated themselves to replace John Bercow on 4 November were relieved not to have to declare themselves for either Team Coleen or Team Rebekah. Harriet Harman could barely comprehend the pain she would feel if Chris Bryant leaked details of a fake Ocado account in which she had ordered non-Fairtrade bananas to the Sun, only for him to insist his own M&S account had been hacked. Wars had started over less.

The election of the Speaker will be conducted by a secret ballot of MPs. Meaning it will almost certainly be determined by a series of backroom deals and broken promises. Total votes cast generally equals 1,578 out of a possible 650. But before then the finest traditions of democracy and transparency prevailed and the nine candidates subjected themselves to a hustings for lobby journalists in Westminster Hall.

It wasn’t immediately clear why some of them were there. Conservative Henry Bellingham has spent the past 30 years in near anonymity, his only moment of stardom coming when he was chair of the HS2 committee. Two years of his life he may never get back as the project is likely to be scrapped at Christmas. His strongest selling point is that he is the direct descendant of the only man to have murdered a serving prime minister. Though in these woke times, many of us would settle for a straightforward kidnapping. By the end of the session, Bellingham couldn’t even guarantee he would vote for himself. At least that showed integrity.

Edward Leigh appeared to have put his name forward more for a laugh than anything else. He’d been around parliament a while and was getting a wee bit bored. Call it a late-life crisis. Deciding to raise your profile at the age of 69 is a tall order. Still, he looked quite pleased to be finally getting some attention but his main contribution was to insist the Commons be allowed to continue using robust language. “Surrender”, “Traitor” and “For you Fritz, ze war is ohffer” were just fine, though he drew the line at “Liar”. Because that would be the truth. Lying is one thing at which most cabinet ministers excel.

There was no mistaking why Shailesh Vara had nominated himself. Not because he thought he stood a prayer of becoming Speaker but as anger-management therapy. For months, if not years, Vara has been a knot of pent-up rage. Now he had found his voice. And it sure felt good. He hated John Bercow. More than that, he detested John Bercow. John Bercow had been a complete and utter disgrace in allowing parliament to take back control. The UK hadn’t voted to take back control of its laws only to relinquish them once more to a handful of MPs. Had he mentioned that he hated John Bercow? And breathe.

Vara’s outburst gave permission for the more serious candidates to express – ever so demurely – their own reservations about the Speaker. Meg Hillier, Bryant, Eleanor Laing, Rosie Winterton and Lindsay Hoyle all insisted they intended to do things quite differently than Bercow. Not because he had done anything wrong, just that some of his language and interpretations of parliamentary procedure had, perhaps, been questionable. Bercow had been too partial in his impartiality. Only Harman refused to say a word against Bercow. Then she is the Bercow Continuity candidate. Only without the bullying.

One thing on which all could agree was that they would choose to speak less from the chair. Though as everyone had to have the microphone forcibly removed from them as their answers rambled on, that sounded like a promise that might not be kept. Bryant practically begged lobby reporters to back him just so that he would no longer be forced to have an opinion on Brexit. Finally a solution to the Brexit deadlock. Dispense with the government and MPs and appoint the entire country to be Speaker. That way we could forget the whole thing ever happened.

Things took a more surprising turn when the frontrunner Hoyle declared the Commons didn’t just have a massive drink problem – it was also riddled with drug addicts. There were we thinking it was just the likes of Michael Gove doing the odd cheeky line of coke in the toilets to get him in the mood for a stint at the dispatch box, when the reality was that everyone was either out of their heads on crack and heroin or disappearing into a K-hole.

To make the whole place more orderly and family friendly, Hoyle even proposed that when the restoration work was complete there would be a shooting gallery to go alongside the public and press galleries. The most surprising thing about all this was the lack of surprise. Suddenly everything made sense. Here was the reason parliament couldn’t get anything done and was totally unmanageable. When the fun stops, STOP.



Libra could use currency-pegged stablecoins




A Zuck Buck is displayed on a monitor as David Marcus, head of blockchain with Facebook Inc., right, is questioned by Representative Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California, not pictured, during a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, July 17, 2019.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Facebook has suggested its Libra project could use multiple cryptocurrencies backed by different existing currencies like the dollar, rather than having one single digital token tied to a basket of currencies.

The tech giant had initially proposed one synthetic unit of value that would be tied to a basket of currencies and government debt. But according to Reuters, David Marcus, the executive leading Facebook’s blockchain initiative, told a banking seminar that he was open to looking at alternative approaches.

“We could do it differently,” he said, according to the news agency. “Instead of having a synthetic unit … we could have a series of stablecoins, a dollar stablecoin, a euro stablecoin, a sterling pound stablecoin, etc.”

Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies that are usually pegged to government-backed currencies like the dollar. Tether is the world’s best-known stablecoin, backed by the dollar, though it has garnered some controversy over whether it has a sufficient amount of dollars in reserve, as well as the suggestion that it could have been used for market manipulation.

Such currencies aim to reduce the volatility seen in virtual currencies like bitcoin and ether. In libra’s case, the objective is to create a more efficient cross-border payments system.

But the Switzerland-based Libra Association, which oversees the proposed cryptocurrency, has faced numerous setbacks since the start of the month, with various original member companies including payments giants Mastercard and Visa backing out.

And as payments companies withdraw from Libra, there are no immediate signs that banks could be willing to join. J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon on Friday called the group’s currency “a neat idea that’ll never happen.”

Libra has also been met with fierce regulatory pushback, with authorities around the world worried the currency could heavily disrupt the financial system and potentially be used for money laundering or terrorist financing.

Last week, the Group of Seven (G-7) said in a report that no stablecoin project — Libra included — should be allowed to go ahead until the attached legal risks are addressed.

Meanwhile the Financial Action Task Force, a global watchdog on illicit financing, said that such digital currencies could inhibit efforts to clamp down on money laundering and terrorist financing.

Facebook could find some solace in the fact that the chief of Germany’s financial regulator doesn’t think libra will go away anytime soon. BaFin President Felix Hufeld told CNBC over the weekend that he doesn’t think the social media firm’s digital token is “dead in the water.” Meanwhile, fellow tech giant IBM has said it’s open to working with Libra.

WATCH: Don’t think Facebook’s libra is dead in the water, BaFin president says


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Mitt Romney Says He’s Behind ‘Pierre Delecto’ Twitter Account




Mitt Romney, the senator from Utah, former Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor, is also, apparently, the man behind a Twitter account that uses the moniker “Pierre Delecto.”

Mr. Romney on Sunday admitted to McKay Coppins, a writer at The Atlantic, that he was responsible for the social media account, which he uses to covertly monitor political discourse and occasionally defend himself. It’s unclear what, if anything, Pierre Delecto is a reference to.

Several events preceded the admission.

First, The Atlantic published on Sunday a profile of Mr. Romney, one of the few prominent Republican lawmakers to criticize President Trump over his efforts to press Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rivals. Those efforts form the basis of an impeachment investigation by the House.

Mr. Trump lashed out in response this month, calling the senator on Twitter a “pompous ‘ass’ who has been fighting me from the beginning.” In one tweet, the president used the hashtag “#IMPEACHMITTROMNEY.”

In the Atlantic profile, Mr. Romney admitted to having what he called a “lurker account” — essentially a profile under a different name that he operated in secret to monitor the political conversation. But he declined to divulge the name associated with the account.

The admission spurred curiosity, particularly that of the online newsmagazine Slate.

Slate theorized that Pierre Delecto, or Twitter user @qaws9876, was Mr. Romney after it discovered the account among the Twitter followers of one of his grandchildren.

Slate noted that Pierre Delecto’s first follower was Mr. Romney’s oldest son, Tagg. The account was created in 2011, shortly after Mr. Romney announced his intention to run for president. The account also followed all of Mr. Romney’s children who are on Twitter and several former advisers, according to Slate.

The account also posted several telling replies to Romney-related tweets, which were captured by screenshot before the account was made private on Sunday night.

In one tweet from May, Jennifer Rubin, a conservative blogger at The Washington Post, said Mr. Romney’s strategy on Mr. Trump was “non-confrontation verging on spinelessness.”

“Jennifer, you need to take a breath,” Pierre Delecto replied. “Maybe you can then acknowledge the people who agree with you in large measure even if not in every measure.”

The Slate article prompted many on social media to surmise that if Pierre Delecto was in fact Mr. Romney, he had concocted one of the most extraordinary pseudonymous social media accounts for a public official ever (besting the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey’s onetime moniker of Reinhold Niebuhr).

After Slate published its article, Mr. Coppins circled back with Mr. Romney to ask if he was indeed “Pierre Delecto.”

“Just spoke to @MittRomney on the phone, and asked him about Pierre Delecto,” Mr. Coppins said in a tweet. “His only response: “C’est moi.”’


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