The next Labour leader will be called Miliband

The first proper poll of Labour members confirms that this is a two-horse race.

My column in the magazine this week is on the subject of the Labour leadership election and the "operation", both inside and outside the party, to target the man with the momentum, Ed Miliband, and portray him as a wild-eyed, left-wing extremist -- a "Bennite", a throwback to the 1980s. (Incidentally, the proud Labour "rightist" and Ed M supporter Luke Akehurst has a rather interesting rebuttal to this ludicrous charge on his blog.)

Meanwhile, the Ed Balls camp has been in touch to firmly deny the report in my column that its man has "privately conceded" that he "cannot win". But Balls's campaign has failed to take off, despite his robust and repeated attacks on the coalition and, in particular, on the surprisingly hapless Michael Gove.

Tthere's more bad news for the shadow education secretary today: the first proper poll in this leadership election, of almost 2,500 Labour members and trade unionists, found Balls trailing in last place, behind Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott -- fifth out of five candidates.

The poll adds weight to the idea that this is now a two-horse race and that the next Labour leader will be called Miliband. From the Press Association:

David Miliband is set to be the new Labour leader, edging out his younger brother Ed in what is becoming a two-horse race, according to a new poll.

The YouGov survey for the Sun predicted that the Milibands will leave rivals Ed Balls, Diane Abbott and Andy Burnham trailing to claim the first two places in Labour's electoral college of MPs and MEPs, party members and affiliated organisations including unions.

When the defeated candidates' votes are redistributed, shadow foreign secretary David would beat shadow energy secretary Ed by a margin of 54 per cent to 46 per cent, the poll found.

With the race so close, it's no surprise that both Miliband brothers are said to be desperate to have Ed B's second-preference endorsement -- in particular Ed M, who has narrowed the gap with his elder brother but has yet to overtake him or "break through".

Will Balls offer a second-pref endorsement at all? And if so, will it be for his "Blairite" rival of the past decade, David Miliband, or for his once-junior colleague at the Treasury, Ed Miliband? I'm told that the shadow education secretary has yet to make up his mind -- but if/when it comes, such a move could prove to be the turning point in this increasingly dull and drab Labour leadership election.

UPDATE:

David Miliband will be delighted that he secured the endorsement of Gillian Duffy, Gordon Brown's nemesis and a member of the Unite union (which endorsed brother Ed). In a semi-dig at his elder sibling's publicity stunt, Ed has been joking with friends that perhaps he should go in search of Sharron Storer's endorsement.

UPDATE 2:

It's worth checking out Jim Pickard's post over at the FT Westminster blog, which examines how the polls were hopelessly wrong in predicting the result of Labour's deputy leadership contest in 2007. (Hat-tip: "Will M" in the comment thread below.)

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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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.