In defence of the police

Why I won’t be weeping for Raoul Moat.

For once, I have to disagree with my friend and colleague James Macintyre. Yesterday James wrote that Angus Moat, brother of the dead gunman Raoul Moat, "should be heard" and he condemned the "trigger-happy police force in this country".

Let me address both these claims, which I consider to be a load of rubbish. First, "trigger-happy" police? Don't get me wrong. I condemned and castigated the Met for the death of Jean-Charles de Menezes at the hands of CO19, as well as over the 2006 shooting of the brothers in Forest Gate. I think the number of deaths in police custody is still far too high. But "trigger-happy"?

For a start, the British police remain largely unarmed. And in the case of Moat, Northumbria Police have confirmed that "no shots were fired by police officers" and that "the suspect shot himself". I'm sorry to have to point this out to James, but policemen using Tasers against an armed, wanted man, after a six-hour stand-off, can't be described as "trigger-happy". If you want to know what "trigger-happy" police look like, see here or here.

Then there is the bizarre claim from Angus Moat that his little brother Raoul was the victim of a "public execution". Is he having a laugh? Some might argue that his brother -- on the run for a week, having killed an innocent, unarmed man and shot a police officer in the face -- should have been shot on sight. He hadn't relinquished his weapon, and yet, as I've pointed out, police officers spent six hours trying to negotiate with him and ended up using Tasers, rather than live ammunition, to end the stand-off.

Perhaps Mr Moat Sr should go to China or Saudi Arabia, where they carry out rather gruesome and merciless "public executions", and see how different those look. And perhaps he should be sending his condolences to the family of Chris Brown, who his little brother murdered in cold blood, rather than extolling Raoul as a "friendly, generous soul -- a very loyal individual, warm, with a great sense of humour, just a lovely, lovely guy".

Yes, warm, friendly Raoul Moat, who, prior to his shooting spree, had been serving time for assaulting a nine-year-old child. In the words of the Independent on Sunday, "He killed a man he didn't know, seriously wounded a woman and a police officer, and assaulted a little girl. But well-wishers wanted to grant him the sentimentalising gestures normally reserved for the victims of crime and accidents."

Such "well-wishers" are, in my view, fools. And I, for one, won't be weeping over his death. Yes, there are "serious questions" for the police to answer, such as "why Moat's former partner was not protected after a warning from Durham Prison authorities, and the lack of surveillance at the homes of known Moat associates", etc, etc, but the police are not responsible for Raoul Moat's death. Raoul Moat is responsible for Raoul Moat's death (and, of course, Chris Brown's, too). Good riddance, I say . . .

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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Why Angela Eagle is the likeliest challenger to Jeremy Corbyn

The former shadow first secretary of state is the "unity candidate" of choice. But don't rule out a bid by Yvette Cooper. 

Despite 20 shadow cabinet resignations, there is not the merest hint that Jeremy Corbyn will resign. The Labour leader's team have pledged to fill most of the empty posts (though a full frontbench looks impossible to assemble) and have vowed not to give in to "a corridor coup".

At tonight's PLP meeting, MPs will discuss a motion of no confidence against Corbyn with a secret ballot held tomorrow (the result will be announced around 5pm). After winning the vote by a large margin, senior figures are likely to make a final attempt to persuade the leader to step aside. But having held out this long, there is little prospect of Corbyn doing so.  

It's for this reason that all sides now expect a leadership contest. Assuming that Corbyn automatically makes the ballot (a matter of legal dispute), most rebels believe he should face a single candidate. Lisa Nandy, who had been touted as a soft left challenger, has ruled herself out. Tom Watson is regarded by many as an ideal replacement but is said to be unwilling to launch a challenge. Rather than a divisive contest, Labour's deputy leader, who would automatically become interim leader if Corbyn stood down, wants "the leadership on a plate," a source said (like Michael Howard in 2003). 

This leaves Angela Eagle (who resigned today). The former shadow first secretary of state, who has deputised for Corbyn at PMQs, is known to have leadership ambitions and enjoys increasing support among MPs. As an experienced soft left figure, with strong trade union links, Eagle is regarded as well-placed to bridge Labour's divides. Asked today whether she would run, she replied: "We need somebody who can unite the party". Though Corbyn's team remain confident of winning another leadership election, Eagle may be the one who tests his support.

But don't rule out a bid by Yvette Cooper. "She's the only grown-up candidate and I think she wants it," a source told me yesterday. Cooper's supporters believe that the experienced economist is best-equipped to respond to the Brexit negotiations. "Labour must look beyond the task of simply 'uniting the party,'" a source said. But a bid by the former shadow home secretary would likely result in a multi-candidate election (with Chuka Umunna and Dan Jarvis potentially joining the race). This, Corbyn's opponents fear, would once again guarantee him victory. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.