The Telegraph 2024-02-22 10:30:30

Live Politics latest news: 53 MPs sign motion of no confidence in Hoyle

The number of MPs to have signed a motion of no confidence in Sir Lindsay Hoyle has now increased to 53, piling the pressure on the Commons Speaker. 

There were 33 signatories overnight to an Early Day Motion tabled by William Wragg, a Tory MP, consisting of a mix of Conservative and SNP members. 

But that number has now spiked with the new backers including prominent Tory MPs Danny Kruger and Miriam Cates. 

Sir Lindsay apologised last night for his handling of yesterday’s debate on a Gaza ceasefire after his decision to select a Labour amendment prompted a backlash and chaotic scenes in the chamber. 

The rising number of MPs backing the no confidence motion – and the fact that they are from two parties – means Sir Lindsay’s position appears to be increasingly under threat. 

Early Day Motions like the one tabled by Mr Wragg are non-binding and do not trigger any formal process. But the motion shows in stark terms the scale of the revolt Sir Lindsay is facing. 

You can follow the latest updates below and join the conversation in the comments section here

Japanese crime boss accused of trafficking nuclear material from Myanmar

A Japanese yakuza crime boss has been charged with attempting to traffic nuclear materials for a bomb to Iran.

Takeshi Ebisawa, 60, is accused of showing samples of uranium and plutonium – transported from Myanmar to Thailand – to an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent.

In a DEA sting operation, the agent posed as a narcotics and weapons trafficker and claimed to have had access to an Iranian general. Samples of the seized material were later found to contain uranium and weapons-grade plutonium, according to court documents.

Ebisawa and co-defendant Somphop Singhasiri, a 61-year-old Thai, face charges of trafficking drugs, weapons and nuclear material. Ebisawa is alleged by prosecutors to be the leader of a yakuza, a Japan-based network of underworld gangs.

Anne Milgram, a DEA administrator, said the allegations represented “an extraordinary example of the depravity of drug traffickers who operate with total disregard for human life”.

In a statement, she added: “The defendants trafficked in drugs, weapons, and nuclear material – going so far as to offer uranium and weapons-grade plutonium fully expecting that Iran would use it for nuclear weapons.”

The nuclear material came from an unidentified leader of an “ethnic insurgent group” in Myanmar which had been mining uranium in the country, according to prosecutors.

Ebisawa had proposed that the group’s leader sell uranium through him to fund a weapons purchase from the Iranian general, court documents allege.

According to prosecutors, the leader in Myanmar provided samples, that a US federal laboratory found to have contained uranium, thorium and plutonium.

The lab concluded that “the isotope composition of the plutonium” was weapons-grade, meaning enough of it would be suitable for use in a nuclear weapon.

Ebisawa was among four people who were arrested in April 2022 in New York and had been charged with international narcotics trafficking and firearms offences. The new charges were contained in a superseding indictment.

Following a crackdown by Japanese authorities, Yakuza criminal activities have increased globally in recent years.

In 2012, the US Treasury Department said it had frozen the assets of the Yamaguchi-gumi – a powerful yakuza gang – and banned it from conducting business in the US due to alleged involvement in drug and human trafficking and money laundering.

US attorney Damian Williams accused Ebisawa of “believing that the material was going to be used in the development of a nuclear weapons programme, and the weapons-grade plutonium he trafficked if produced in sufficient quantities, could have been used for that purpose”.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G Olsen added: “It is chilling to imagine the consequences had these efforts succeeded.”

The defendants are scheduled to appear in a New York court to respond to the charges on Thursday.

Live Ukraine-Russia war live: Russian forces ‘must reach Kyiv’ to win war, says Medvedev

Russian forces must “reach Kyiv” in order to end the war with a Russian victory, the Kremlin has said.

Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president and now a top Putin advisor, said that capturing the capital in a “special military operation” was the only way for the country to achieve its goals.

He said Russians and Ukrainians are one nation and the “Kyiv regime must fall”.

The comments come after Russia seized the initiative on the battlefield and captured the city of Avdiivka, marking its first major gain since May last year.

Russia claimed to have recaptured a bridgehead on the left bank of the Dnipro, too, just days ahead of the second anniversary of the invasion.

Follow the latest updates below and join the conversation in the comments section

Lindsay Hoyle on brink after Labour Gaza vote walkout

Sir Lindsay Hoyle is fighting to keep his job as House of Commons Speaker after chaotic scenes broke out in Parliament on Wednesday during a debate on Gaza.

Tory and SNP MPs have launched an attempt to oust him, with 33 MPs putting their names to a motion of no confidence so far, and more expected to do so.

Sir Lindsay was accused of favouring Labour, the party he represented as an MP for two decades, by agreeing to put its position on the Israel-Gaza conflict to a vote.

He took the decision despite the House of Commons clerk explicitly warning him that the approach broke with a convention for such opposition day debates.

By Wednesday evening, 33 MPs put their names to a so-called early day motion instigated by Will Wragg, the Tory MP and vice-chairman of the 1922 committee, which effectively urged Sir Lindsay to go.

In the Commons, Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the House, said the Speaker had “hijacked” the debate and “undermined the confidence” of the House.

Stephen Flynn, the SNP leader in the Commons, told Sir Lindsay he would “take significant convincing that your position is not now intolerable”.

The backlash led to heated scenes not witnessed in the Commons for years, with SNP and Tory MPs eventually walking out in protest over how the votes were being handled.

Simon Hart, the Government’s Chief Whip, is understood to have repeatedly warned Sir Lindsay against allowing the Labour amendment.

The Speaker ended up giving an emotional apology, saying he regretted how his decisions had panned out and promising to meet party leaders to provide reassurances.

He said: “I thought I was doing the right thing and the best thing, and I regret it, and I apologise for how it’s ended up.”

The Telegraph can reveal that Sir Keir personally lobbied Sir Lindsay to choose Labour’s amendment for a vote. 

The Labour leader visited him on Wednesday to plead his case, raising fresh questions about the degree to which the Labour sought to lean on the Speaker as the decision on votes was being made.

The political danger for Sir Lindsay has not passed. There is no formal mechanism to oust a Speaker, but the scale of concern among MPs has been a critical factor for past departures.

At the heart of the row is an allegation – vehemently denied by the Speaker’s team – that he agreed to a vote being held on Labour’s Gaza position because of political bias.

Sir Lindsay’s allies said he made the decision because of concerns about MPs’ security and a genuinely held belief that all parties should have their positions put to votes.

The day of drama in the Commons was triggered by an SNP attempt to split Labour MPs with a motion calling for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza.

To head off the rebellion, Labour tabled its own amendment. That wording called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” but made clear that a longer ceasefire was reliant on Hamas giving back hostages taken in their Oct 7 attack.

The Government also tabled its own amendment, calling for steps to be taken towards a “permanent sustainable ceasefire”.

It was up to Sir Lindsay, who has been Speaker since 2019, to decide whether a vote should be held on the Labour amendment.

Doing so was likely to have political benefits for the Labour leadership, since it would be easier to whip Labour MPs to back their amendment and abstain on the SNP position.

But there was fury from SNP and Tory figures when Sir Lindsay announced that the Labour amendment would indeed be voted on, despite that breaking convention for how opposition days work in the Commons.

A letter written by Tom Goldsmith, the Commons Clerk, was then published, revealing that the official felt “compelled to point out that long-established conventions are not being followed in this case”.

Sir Lindsay eventually publicly apologised, expressing regret at the way the situation had played out. He said: “I do take responsibility for my actions, and that’s why I want to meet with the key players who have been involved.”

There were shouts of “resign” as he made the statement.

In the hour before the apology, chaotic scenes had played out in the Commons.

Ms Mordaunt announced that the Government was withdrawing its amendment in protest at how the debate had been handled.

She said: “I fear that this most grave matter that we’re discussing today and this afternoon has become a political row within the Labour Party and that regrettably Mr Speaker has inserted himself into that row with today’s decision and undermined the confidence of this House in being able to rely on its long-established standing orders to govern its debates.”

The Government’s decision to withdraw its own amendment meant that the Labour amendment was likely to pass, thereby changing the wording of the SNP’s own position. That further inflamed SNP tensions.

Mr Flynn had demanded Sir Lindsay come to the Commons to explain his thinking. Then SNP and Tory MPs marched out of the Commons in protest at the situation.

It remains unclear whether Sir Lindsay’s public apology has done enough to placate critics.

The SNP’s Commons leader said after the apology: “Mr Speaker, whilst I acknowledge your apology, the reality is that you were warned by the clerks of the House that your decision could lead to the SNP not having a vote on our very own opposition day. As a result, we have seen the SNP opposition day turn into a Labour Party opposition day.

“I’m afraid that that is treating myself and my colleagues in the Scottish National Party with complete and utter contempt. I will take significant convincing that your position is not now intolerable.”

In the end, the Labour amendment was passed without a vote being triggered. The SNP motion fell.

How the day unfolded
Commons in chaos as Lindsay Hoyle badly misreads the mood of Parliament

Read more

Much now hangs on how many MPs choose to go public calling for Sir Lindsay to go. Mr Wragg’s motion read simply that “this House has no confidence in Mr Speaker”. Sixteen of the MPs who signed it were Tories, and 17 represented the SNP.

It is possible for more MPs to add their names to the no confidence motion in the days ahead. It is not binding, but acts as a reflection of the mood of the Commons, made up of 650 MPs.

Allies of Sir Lindsay have expressed confidence he will remain in the role and see off the rebellion.

Some MPs expressed exasperation that votes on differing party positions on Gaza, which did not have any binding impact on government policy, could descend into such heated scenes. 

Thousands of pro-ceasefire protesters had gathered outside Parliament on Wednesday evening.

John McDonnell, the Left-wing Labour MP and former shadow chancellor who has been calling for a ceasefire for months, said: “It’s absolute chaos, isn’t it? I don’t think it’s done anyone any good, to be frank. We came here today thinking we would have a serious debate about what’s happening in Gaza.

“What’s happened now, it’s just degenerated into, I think, damage to everyone – including Parliament itself.”

‘Confused’ pensioner with Alzheimer’s died after being pushed in bank queue, court hears

A “confused” pensioner with Alzheimer’s disease died after she was pushed over in a bank by a 26-year-old who was angry she had held up the queue, a court has heard.

Myra Coutinho-Lopez, 82, was a regular customer at Lloyds Bank in Howardsgate, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, and was well-known to the staff, but sometimes became confused because of her illness, Luton Crown Court heard.

She died on Dec 16 2021, 10 days after she had been pushed to the floor of the bank by Courtney Richman, after the 26-year-old had a “catastrophic loss of temper”, the court heard.

Mrs Coutinho-Lopez had gone to the bank on Monday Dec 6, but had forgotten she had already withdrawn money on the previous Friday, prosecutor Martin Mulgrew told the jury.

“Mrs Coutinho-Lopez became worried and asked the cashier to show her the balance,” he said.

Another member of staff also came over to try to reassure her, he said, and a queue formed.

‘Move out of the way’

The court heard that one customer, Courtney Richman, said: “There is nothing they can do. Move out of the way.”

It was alleged that Ms Richman became more angry and added: “Hurry up – people don’t have all day.”

Another customer, who had been using a cash machine, offered to help the elderly woman. As she walked the 82-year-old away, Ms Richman is alleged to have said “oh thank God”, and sarcastically applauded.

When Mrs Coutinho-Lopez passed Ms Richman in the queue she told her: “Don’t speak to me like that – you are very rude.” She swung her handbag and struck the defendant, the court heard.

Mr Mulgrew said: “The defendant reacted in a wholly inappropriate and unreasonably violent manner. She angrily pushed Mrs Coutinho-Lopez forcefully to the floor of the bank. She struck the floor with some force.”

He went on: “The red mist descended on this defendant and she reacted in a wholly inappropriate fashion to this vulnerable old lady.”

Mrs Coutinho-Lopez suffered fractures of her left upper arm and thigh bone and bruising to her left upper arm, wrist, the tops of her fingers, and around her rib cage.

As well as Alzheimer’s, she suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“If you push an 82-year-old woman to the floor of a bank there is going to be some risk,” said Mr Mulgrew.

“The prosecution say she unlawfully assaulted her and as a result of the fractures fatty substances were released in her body that caused damage to her lungs and brain,” he said.

In a prepared statement at the police station, Ms Richman said Mrs Coutinho-Lopez was being rude and directed her anger towards her and hit her. She said: “I was shocked and instinctively pushed her away. I feared she was going to assault me. I used open palms.”

Ms Richman denies manslaughter and another charge of inflicting grievous bodily harm.

The trial continues.

Lyle’s Golden Syrup ‘throwing away history’ with rebrand, says founder’s descendant

The rebranding of Lyle’s Golden Syrup has been derided as “feeble and woolly” by a descendant of the company’s founder who insisted “don’t junk a classic”.

Alexander Linklater, whose great-great-great grandfather Abram Lyle designed the original dark green and gold packaging of a dead lion being swarmed by bees in 1883, questioned why its makers had decided to “throw away 141 years of proven branding”.

Tate & Lyle Sugars, which owns Lyle’s Golden Syrup, have replaced the logo to show a rather abstract lion’s face with a single bee flying around its mane to try and appeal to a “21st-century audience”.

Lyle’s original artwork references the Old Testament story of Samson tearing apart an attacking lion with his bare hands.

On his return, Samson finds that a swarm of bees have created a hive with honey inside the carcass, which Samson gathers for himself and his parents.

The packaging features the Biblical quotation from the story “Out of the strong came forth sweetness”.

It is the world’s oldest unchanged brand packaging, and holds a Guinness World Record, having remained almost identical since 1883.

Tate and Lyle rolled out the rebrand across the full product range, excluding the classic tin, which retains its original illustration.

Mr Linklater, a 55-year-old journalist and biographer, urged the company: “Don’t junk a time-proven classic design.”

He told The Telegraph: “They are changing something that is both very distinctive and familiar to something generic and woolly.

“It was Britain’s oldest brand. The rebranding is a move away from what was a real piece of commercial history.”

“I do not think the feeble woolly-shaped lion is very good. Why throw away 140 years of proven branding?”

Mr Linklater disclosed how his ancestor detested his partner Henry Tate with the pair only being able to merge their companies after Lyle’s death.

He said “nothing remains” today of his great-great-grandfather’s original business, following the Second World War where subsequent death duties had wiped out the company’s liquid assets.

Lyle was a deeply religious lifelong teetotaler of “ frightening temper and fierce morality”, Mr Linklater said, and had been brought up in poverty in the industrial town of Greenock before he moved to London.

Lyle, a Presbyterian, died in 1891 from pneumonia with thousands lining the streets in Greenock at his funeral where he had been provost, Mr Linklater added.

On Tuesday, Tate & Lyle Sugars faced criticism from Church of England members who claimed the rebrand “eradicates” the Christian messaging in its logo.

Tate & Lyle Sugars apologised for the upset caused and said religion played “no part” in the decision to change the branding.

James Whiteley, brand director for Lyle’s Golden Syrup, said: “We’re excited to unveil a fresh redesign for the Lyle’s Golden Syrup brand.

“While we’ll continue to honour our original branding with the heritage tin, consumers need to see brands moving with the times and meeting their current needs.

“Our fresh, contemporary design brings Lyle’s into the modern day, appealing to the everyday British household while still feeling nostalgic and authentically Lyle’s.

“We’re confident that the fresh new design will make it easier for consumers to discover Lyle’s as an affordable, everyday treat while re-establishing the brand as the go-to syrup brand for the modern UK family, featuring the same delicious taste that makes you feel Absolutely Golden.”

Caroline Quentin re-invents herself as gardening influencer in her 60s

Caroline Quentin has spoken of her surprise at becoming an Instagram “influencer” in her 60s with an account about the joys of gardening.

The actress and presenter, best known for her appearance in Men Behaving Badly, has brought out a gardening book to capitalise on her social media success.

Asked about her new career as an influencer, Quentin told Good Housekeeping magazine: “And why not? It’s wonderful that, in my 60s, I’m suddenly doing something entirely different.

“I’m amazed that what started as an Instagram account has sort of blossomed into something much bigger.”

Quentin, 63, has amassed more than 150,000 followers on Instagram, posting pictures from her 35-acre garden near Exmoor.

She explained that spending time in nature had been a “security blanket” for her since she was very young.

“My childhood was quite chaotic,” Quentin said. “My mother, who had bipolar disorder, would often spend time in psychiatric hospitals… When I was 10, I was sent to boarding school with these horrible, grumpy matrons and regimented bath and mealtimes.

“I was a painfully shy child – I still am shy beneath my loud persona – and I remember being so homesick and discombobulated by everything in my life. But getting out in nature and watching things grow felt like time out from the ‘real’ world. It was an opportunity to leave all the sadness and crazy things behind.”

She added that wild swimming now affords her the greatest happiness. “When you’re young, you think happiness is shouty parties, but actually it’s peace,” she said.

Quentin’s book, Drawn to the Garden, mixes gardening tips and stories with recipes using homegrown fruit and vegetables.

The former actress shares her Devon home with her second husband, Sam Farmer. She was previously married to the comedian Paul Merton.

Quentin now wishes that she spent more time with her two children, now aged in their 20s, when they were young.

“God, I missed them. I mourned them terribly when I was away. I think that’s probably why I feel so bad about it, because it left a hole in me,” she said.

“People said, ‘Oh, they’re young for such a short period of time,’ and I didn’t listen. I thought I knew better and I didn’t. I should have said no to work and yes to them, but because I was the breadwinner, I thought I had to do it. But you can’t turn back the clock, you have to live with these things.”

Farmer was a runner for a television production company when the couple met, and then became a stay-at-home dad.

Quentin said that the secret of their happy marriage is constant communication.

“You have to speak, speak, speak. I’ve nagged Sam from day one to do that because I can’t bear sulking or silence.

“For him, it’s the other way round. He has to tell me to be quiet and do an Instagram post instead of talking to him all day.”

The full interview is in Good Housekeeping’s April issue, on sale now.