Will there finally be justice for Daniel Morgan?

A judge-led inquiry may uncover extensive police and media corruption over 25 years.

The Home Secretary’s announcement today of a judge-led panel to consider the murder of Daniel Morgan in 1987 is both an end and a potential beginning.

It signals that a twenty-five year campaign by the family of Daniel Morgan has finally achieved an appropriate independent inquiry. There have been five police investigations into the vicious axe murder but no prosecution put before a jury (see the background post here). Cases have collapsed, and many excuses given; but there has been no real sign before today that any light will be shown on the darkness which surrounds this notorious case. It is a great achievement by Daniel’s quiet but determined brother Alastair Morgan that the panel was announced today. As he told Channel 4 news:

Through almost three decades of public protests, meetings with police officers at the highest ranks, lobbying of politicians and pleas to the media, we have found ourselves lied to, fobbed off, bullied, degraded and let down time and time again. What we have been required to endure has been nothing less than mental torture.

…we trust and hope that the panel, through its examination and publication of all relevant material and information, will assist the authorities to confront and acknowledge this failure for once and for all, so that we may at last be able to get on with our lives.

The announcement also may be the beginning of the truth finally coming out about this sordid matter.

The way successive police investigations and prosecutions failed to get anywhere, and the evident collusion of parts of the media and the private investigation business in this, could well be startlingly revealing about the culture of police and media corruption over the last twenty-five years. Even senior police officers admit that something very wrong – and corrupt – happened in respect of this case. It may be that what comes out in this inquiry about the failures of the police and the media will make the celebrity complaints at the Leveson Inquiry look like events at a tame garden party.

It is especially significant that the panel will address the three key and inter-related areas of concern in the case: the police involvement in the murder; the role played by police corruption in protecting those responsible for the murder from being brought to justice and the failure to confront that corruption; and the incidence of connections between private investigators, police officers and journalists at the News of the World and other parts of the media and alleged corruption involved in the linkages between them.

Whilst this is not quite a full judicial inquiry (and there seems to be little scope for oral evidence), it looks as if the panel will approach its task in the same diligent way the Hillsborough panel did over a similarly historic but contentious event and its alleged cover-up. The panel cannot impose any criminal liability – and unfortunately it appears that no one will now ever be prosecuted for the murder – but it may expose the systemic failures and corruption in this case and by doing so finally allow there to be accountability for the  wrongs done. That would be a kind of justice for Daniel Morgan, and it is perhaps the only one now still available.

From being a case which has been obscure and sometimes conveniently forgotten, the case of Daniel Morgan may soon become a byword for a culture of excess which existed for over two decadesat both Scotland Yard and Fleet Street.

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman

The Justice forDaniel website is here and the campaign can be followed on Twitter at @Justice4Daniel

Daniel Morgan

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman and author of the Jack of Kent blog.

His legal journalism has included popularising the Simon Singh libel case and discrediting the Julian Assange myths about his extradition case.  His uncovering of the Nightjack email hack by the Times was described as "masterly analysis" by Lord Justice Leveson.

David is also a solicitor and was successful in the "Twitterjoketrial" appeal at the High Court.

(Nothing on this blog constitutes legal advice.)

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Is Yvette Cooper surging?

The bookmakers and Westminster are in a flurry. Is Yvette Cooper going to win after all? I'm not convinced. 

Is Yvette Cooper surging? The bookmakers have cut her odds, making her the second favourite after Jeremy Corbyn, and Westminster – and Labour more generally – is abuzz with chatter that it will be her, not Corbyn, who becomes leader on September 12. Are they right? A couple of thoughts:

I wouldn’t trust the bookmakers’ odds as far as I could throw them

When Jeremy Corbyn first entered the race his odds were at 100 to 1. When he secured the endorsement of Unite, Britain’s trade union, his odds were tied with Liz Kendall, who nobody – not even her closest allies – now believes will win the Labour leadership. When I first tipped the Islington North MP for the top job, his odds were still at 3 to 1.

Remember bookmakers aren’t trying to predict the future, they’re trying to turn a profit. (As are experienced betters – when Cooper’s odds were long, it was good sense to chuck some money on there, just to secure a win-win scenario. I wouldn’t be surprised if Burnham’s odds improve a bit as some people hedge for a surprise win for the shadow health secretary, too.)

I still don’t think that there is a plausible path to victory for Yvette Cooper

There is a lively debate playing out – much of it in on The Staggers – about which one of Cooper or Burnham is best-placed to stop Corbyn. Team Cooper say that their data shows that their candidate is the one to stop Corbyn. Team Burnham, unsurprisingly, say the reverse. But Team Kendall, the mayoral campaigns, and the Corbyn team also believe that it is Burnham, not Cooper, who can stop Corbyn.

They think that the shadow health secretary is a “bad bank”: full of second preferences for Corbyn. One senior Blairite, who loathes Burnham with a passion, told me that “only Andy can stop Corbyn, it’s as simple as that”.

I haven’t seen a complete breakdown of every CLP nomination – but I have seen around 40, and they support that argument. Luke Akehurst, a cheerleader for Cooper, published figures that support the “bad bank” theory as well.   Both YouGov polls show a larger pool of Corbyn second preferences among Burnham’s votes than Cooper’s.

But it doesn’t matter, because Andy Burnham can’t make the final round anyway

The “bad bank” row, while souring relations between Burnhamettes and Cooperinos even further, is interesting but academic.  Either Jeremy Corbyn will win outright or he will face Cooper in the final round. If Liz Kendall is eliminated, her second preferences will go to Cooper by an overwhelming margin.

Yes, large numbers of Kendall-supporting MPs are throwing their weight behind Burnham. But Kendall’s supporters are overwhelmingly giving their second preferences to Cooper regardless. My estimate, from both looking at CLP nominations and speaking to party members, is that around 80 to 90 per cent of Kendall’s second preferences will go to Cooper. Burnham’s gaffes – his “when it’s time” remark about Labour having a woman leader, that he appears to have a clapometer instead of a moral compass – have discredited him in him the eyes of many. While Burnham has shrunk, Cooper has grown. And for others, who can’t distinguish between Burnham and Cooper, they’d prefer to have “a crap woman rather than another crap man” in the words of one.

This holds even for Kendall backers who believe that Burnham is a bad bank. A repeated refrain from her supporters is that they simply couldn’t bring themselves to give Burnham their 2nd preference over Cooper. One senior insider, who has been telling his friends that they have to opt for Burnham over Cooper, told me that “faced with my own paper, I can’t vote for that man”.

Interventions from past leaders fall on deaf ears

A lot has happened to change the Labour party in recent years, but one often neglected aspect is this: the Labour right has lost two elections on the bounce. Yes, Ed Miliband may have rejected most of New Labour’s legacy and approach, but he was still a protégé of Gordon Brown and included figures like Rachel Reeves, Ed Balls and Jim Murphy in his shadow cabinet.  Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham were senior figures during both defeats. And the same MPs who are now warning that Corbyn will doom the Labour Party to defeat were, just months ago, saying that Miliband was destined for Downing Street and only five years ago were saying that Gordon Brown was going to stay there.

Labour members don’t trust the press

A sizeable number of Labour party activists believe that the media is against them and will always have it in for them. They are not listening to articles about Jeremy Corbyn’s past associations or reading analyses of why Labour lost. Those big, gamechanging moments in the last month? Didn’t change anything.

100,000 people didn’t join the Labour party on deadline day to vote against Jeremy Corbyn

On the last day of registration, so many people tried to register to vote in the Labour leadership election that they broke the website. They weren’t doing so on the off-chance that the day after, Yvette Cooper would deliver the speech of her life. Yes, some of those sign-ups were duplicates, and 3,000 of them have been “purged”.  That still leaves an overwhelmingly large number of sign-ups who are going to go for Corbyn.

It doesn’t look as if anyone is turning off Corbyn

Yes, Sky News’ self-selecting poll is not representative of anything other than enthusiasm. But, equally, if Yvette Cooper is really going to beat Jeremy Corbyn, surely, surely, she wouldn’t be in third place behind Liz Kendall according to Sky’s post-debate poll. Surely she wouldn’t have been the winner according to just 6.1 per cent of viewers against Corbyn’s 80.7 per cent. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.