Silliest of seasons?

Owen Walker charts some of the more frivolous offerings out there in the blogosphere

The silly season is well and truly upon us. Here is a collection of some of the more vapid themes across the UK’s political blogs:

Democracy is an odd thing. Dictators throughout history have warned of giving too much power to the masses and it was only a matter of time before the web – the most democratic platform to date – gave strength to that argument.

This week, Tim Ireland started a petition on the 10 Downing Street website calling for Gordon Brown to stand on his head and juggle ice-cream. More than 5,000 people have so far signed up.

Ever wanted to see a band of four MPs rocking out to Teenage Kicks with Feargel Sharkey? No? Well the web is full of wondrous things and you can see that footage courtesy of former whip Ian Cawsey’s Myspace page. Dizzy Thinks discovered this and other gems on the Brigg and Goole MP’s page, including apparently secretly-filmed videos of Blair’s last Parliamentary Labour Party meeting and the last meeting of the former whips.

The West Country often gets stick for not being as sexy as rest of the country, but the region’s residents must be pleased that at last political bloggers are addressing the real issues and giving them some publicity. Kevin Davis, a Conservative parliamentary hopeful in Yeovil, has begun his own campaign aimed at increasing the amount of public toilets. As a rallying call, Davis declares: “Wherever you go in the country it appears that the Lib Dems have something against public toilets. In Kingston they closed them and in Yeovil they are refusing to open them.”

Apparently Ming Campbell has more than 2,000 friends. Who’d have thought?
This figure could swell with the announcement by Lib Dem councillor Jonathan Wallace that he will only join Facebook when there are 100 people in the “Get Jonathan Wallace onto Facebook” group – so far there are 56. When he signs up he will join the largest political group on the social networking site, according to reports this week.

Steve Webb MP is using his recess time wisely and has found the Lib Dems are leading the way on Facebook. He concludes: “It is no surprise that it is Lib Dems who have taken social networking the most seriously. Lib Dem philosophy and our way of doing politics sits well with the Facebook ethos of being accessible, removing barriers to communication and reaching out to young people. As the figures show, it’s clearly not an exclusively Lib Dem thing, but it’s good to see our party leading the way.”

However, a closer inspection of the stats reveals Webb’s skewed form of proportional representation – typically Lib Dem – where he has reached his conclusions based on proportion of MPs signed up (Lib – 40%, Lab – 13%, Cons – 12%) rather than actual totals (Lab – 47, Lib – 25, Cons – 24).

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
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As Donald Trump once asked, how do you impeach a President?

Starting the process is much easier than you might think. 

Yes, on Friday, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. And no, you can’t skip the next four years.

But look on the bright side. Those four years might never happen. On the one hand, he could tweet the nuclear codes before the day is out. On the other, his party might reach for their own nuclear button – impeachment. 

So, how exactly can you impeach a President? Here is our rough guide.

OK, what does impeachment actually mean?

Impeachment is the power to remove an elected official for misconduct. Here’s the relevant clause of the US Constitution:

“The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Impeachment is actually a legacy of British constitutional history, and dates back as far as 1376, but according to our own parliamentary website, in the UK “this procedure is considered obsolete”. 

It’s up to the US Congress to decide whether to impeach and convict a President. Both houses are controlled by the Republicans, so impeaching Trump would mean turning against one who is – technically at least – one of their own. Since he’s already insulted the neighbouring country, supported discrimination against Muslim immigrants and mocked a disabled reporter, their impeachment threshold seems pretty high. But let’s imagine he surpasses himself. What next?

The impeachment process

Members of the House of Representatives – the lower chamber of the Congress – can start the impeachment process. They in turn may be encouraged to do so by voters. For example, there is a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to people who tried to impeach Barack Obama. One Impeach Obama supporter simply gave his reason as stopping the President from “pushing his agenda”. Another wanted to do so on the grounds of gross incompetence...

But for an impeachment attempt to actually work, the impeacher needs to get the support of the house. If a majority agree with the idea of impeaching the elected official, they nominate members to act as prosecutors during the subsequent trial. This takes place in the Senate, the upper house of Congress. In most impeachments, the Senate acts as judge and jury, but when a President is impeached, the chief justice of the United States presides.     

Two-thirds of the Senate must vote for impeachment in order to convict. 

What are the chances of impeaching Donald Trump?

So if Trump does something that even he can’t tweet away, and enough angry voters email their representatives, Congress can begin the process of impeachment. But will that be enough to get him out?

It’s often assumed that Richard Nixon was kicked out because he was impeached for the cover up known as the Watergate Scandal. In fact, we’ll never know, because he resigned before the House could vote on the process.

Two decades later, the House got further with Bill Clinton. When it emerged Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky, an intern, he initially denied it. But after nearly 14 hours of debate, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives decided to impeach him on grounds including perjury and obstruction of justice.

In the Senate trial, Clinton’s defenders argued that his actions did not threaten the liberty of the people. The majority of Senators voted to acquit him. 

The only other Presidential impeachment took place in 1868, when President Andrew Johnson, removed a rabble-rouser from his Cabinet. The guilty vote fell short of the two-thirds majority, and he was acquitted.

So, what’s the chances of impeaching Trump? I’ll leave you with some numbers…

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.