The below post was published by Scottish Socialist Youth – the then youth organisation of the Scottish Socialist Party – on the afternoon of 23 December 2010, on their now defunct website. This followed Tommy Sheridan being found guilty of perjury by a jury at Glasgow High Court earlier that day. Reposted 14 February 2016.
Today marked the end of 6 years of hell for members of the SSP. The jury in the perjury trial of Tommy Sheridan was able to see through his web of lies, and has vindicated the actions of our party in telling the truth.
He won’t be sentenced until the New Year, but we have no desire to see him punished by prison. We support restorative justice where offenders are helped to make amends to the people they have wronged. To do that, the first step is admitting what they have done wrong, and it’s time now for Tommy to apologise to the people he has wronged, particularly the women who he slept with and then publicly humiliated in court.
Now, after four years of being forced to keep quiet, and accepting the heaps of abuse piled on us by those who claimed to be socialists, it’s finally time for us to tell our story, the truth about Tommy Sheridan.
This piece has been written with the collaboration of a number of SSY members. It is informed by our experiences over the last 6 years – the things that until now, we’ve been restricted from saying, either legally or by the constraints of living through the hell of an internal war in the movement that we give so much of our lives to help build. We believe wholeheartedly in the principles of socialism and equality. Our ability to put forward our ideas has sadly been impeded for the last 6 years by the needless actions of our former Convenor and his assorted cheerleaders. With this trial finally over we are free to put across our story – the truth – about what happened, in SSY’s inimitable style. SSY is an autonomous organisation and as such we form our own views and express them in a way that feels natural to us as young socialist activists. You can read the Scottish Socialist Party’s statement on the verdicthere.
This is necessarily going to be a mega huge post because there’s been so many issues that the Tommy saga has raised for us and for the future of socialism in Scotland. Feel free to dip in and out as you like, this will stand as a definitive account of SSY’s experiences of this period in the history of the Scottish left. This isn’t the kind of post that we enjoy having on our website, but it’s a necessary one – explanatory for those who wish to know what happened, critical and reflective of how we can learn from our mistakes, and cathartic for us to be allowed to finally express the truth. SSY consistently behaves in a non-sectarian manner – we’re willing to work with all genuine progressive and left wing people. The people who split the SSP are not progressives. Once we’ve put out the truth about this period which has shaped the Scottish left, we’ll be continuing on with our usual business – fighting the corner of young people against injustice and inequality. We do this every day and we have not let the restrictions of having to deal with the people who’ve regularly abused us over this issue stop us. We’re in the thick of student protests, anti-fascist work, climate change activity, the fight for LGBT & women’s rights.. the list goes on. We understand that the left extends far beyond us, but we know we’ve played a positive role in encouraging left unity, and that will continue.
We absolutely welcome genuine questions in the comments and will endeavor to answer them to the best of our ability. We will not accept abusive comments from pro-Tommy trolls. We’ve had 6 years of being abused, lied about and traumatised. There are many people whose behaviour over the last few years is indefensible. We’re done with listening to these people now. They’ve had their say, it’s time for us to have ours.
A tale of two Tommys
The epic saga of Tommy Sheridan begins back in 1964, when his Mum allegedly had a vision of the Blessed Virgin, who prophesied that her unborn son was destined to lead the working class (There are some things in this article that you will see are SARCASM for the purposes of JOKES. This is not one of them. She actually tells folk this story). His birth was accompanied by a double rainbow over the Campsies and the appearance of a new star (OK that last part isn’t in the official Tommy Nativity story).
Tommy went on to join the Militant (at that time a socialist group that was part of the Labour Party) when he was 17. Both during when Militant was part of Labour, and after it left to create Scottish Militant Labour (one of the forerunners of the SSP), Tommy helped build a huge base for socialism in Pollok, the area he came from in Glasgow. Among the people he worked with most closely in doing this were George McNeilage and Keith Baldassara, close friends and people who would go on to both be Tommy’s best man at his wedding. Both would later be condemned as traitors when they refused to walk off a cliff with him years later.
In ‘A Time to Rage,’ the first book that would be put out as having been written by Tommy, it says of when he was in prison: “Keith Baldassara became my eyes and ears in Pollok, and my voice.” About George, it says he “embraced Marxism with an almost evangelical zeal… Everybody knew him… Everyone listened to him.”
What brought Tommy to fame was the leading role he played in fighting back against the poll tax, which was imposed by the Tory government and caused misery for people struggling on a low income. In Glasgow Tommy and other Militant members helped build a mass campaign of defiance, which led to those that refused having their possessions being seized and sold to pay the debt. They famously took direct action to prevent Sheriff’s officers from being able to carry out these orders. Tommy was imprisoned for his role in defying the poll tax, and was elected as a councillor for Pollok while inside in 1992.
During the 1990s, Scottish members of the Militant broke from those in England, and argued the case for setting up a new, broad socialist party, to argue the case for socialist ideas, especially when it became clear a Scottish parliament was going to be set up. The case for making sure there was a more left wing party than either New Labour or the SNP in that parliament was strong.
The SSP was launched in 1998 as a project to unite everyone on the socialist left in Scotland. It originally brought together people from Scottish Militant Labour, anti-poll tax campaigners, as well as independent Socialists and left wingers from Labour and the SNP who now had a broad Socialist organisation to join. At this time Tommy was the National Convener of the SSP, the party’s figurehead and its first elected MSP. Tommy was elected on the back of his reputation for fighting the poll tax in the early 90’s.
Tommy was by far and away the most respected politican elected to Holyrood – he was a fantastic promoter of Socialist ideas inside and outside the parliament. Even the SSP’s most vitriolic opponents could not accuse Tommy of being motivated by self-interest. He was voted the second most popular living Scot at one point. SSP election literature called him a shining beacon against the darkness of corruption (maybe we went a bit too far, lol). It’s this reputation for honesty and integrity that helped set Tommy apart from the rest of the political establishment, and it’s a reason why so many of Tommy’s former friends and comrades were disappointed and dumbfounded by his decision to sue the News of the World on the basis of lies.
It’s hard now to imagine just how important the SSP was in the first few years of the 21st century. We rapidly built branches pretty much everywhere, we were constantly in the media and everyone in Scotland had heard of us. We put forward radical, popular ideas in the Scottish parliament that built huge support behind them, like our successful move toabolish warrant sales, or the campaign to scrap the council tax. It’s a measure of how significant we’d become that the SNP went on to steal many of our ideas, and claim they would implement them in government (they didn’t, of course.)
In 2003, with anti-war sentiment at its height and with the hard work of Tommy and the numerous SSP members working alongside him never out of the papers, we managed to get 6 MSPs elected to the Scottish Parliament. They were Tommy Sheridan and Rosie Kane for Glasgow, Carolyn Leckie for Central Scotland, Colin Fox for the Lothians, Rosemary Byrne for the South of Scotland and Frances Curran for the West of Scotland. We were at the height of our powers and drawing attention from all over the world as a genuine and exciting alternative to the parties of the establishment.
The SSP was building a real attempt at a grassroots, democratic socialist party that managed to both make a real impact on the Scottish parliament and local councils, and at the same time be part of campaigning in local communities against cuts, poverty, war and racism. It’s important to look back and realise just how much of a fuck-up it was by Tommy to destroy what so many people (including himself) had worked so hard for so many years to build. No one imagined this amazing position we were in could unravel so quickly, propelled into craziness by the actions of our famous asset, Tommy Sheridan.
Tommy’s claims about folk trying to do him in and having longstanding disagreements with him before his resignation are fantasy; none of Tommy’s allies have ever been able to put forward a halfway credible explanation as to why Tommy’s closest comrades for decades suddenly decided to concoct a fantastic conspiracy against him. The proposition being put forward is that pretty much the entire leadership of the SSP conspired secretly to… become the leadership of the SSP! Tommy’s only argument has been that folk were jealous of him so bumped him – at what point after years of promoting him did the SSP leadership suddenly all decide to go mad and hate him?
In court some former SSP members said that Tommy was partly a victim of the faction fighting around 50/50 – a proposal to make sure women made up half of the party’s candidates for election. The idea was to try and tackle the obstacles put up to women’s participation in politics by institutionalised sexism, by actively ensuring that women got to be SSP candidates. It was an idea which the majority of the party supported, but drove the old fashioned sexist men bananas, and some began to resent the active role that women were taking in the leadership and public profile of the party. But the reality is that during the crucial votes on 50/50 within the SSP, Tommy was on the SAME side as Rosie, Frances and Carolyn, who were in favour of the progressive move. Trying to claim after the fact that this was where the divisions with Tommy started is re-writing history to create a sexist myth.
There were some genuine political disagreements with Tommy before his resignation – some members did oppose the motion he put to the Scottish Parliament opposing the extradition of the Natwest 3, three bankers wanted in relation to the Enron collapse, and our MSPs did not agree with his call for an elected Whip (oo-er) and Deputy Leader for the SSP’s parliamentary group. These disputes were absolutely tiny however, and Tommy was a massively beneficial ambassador for socialism and was recognised as such by the party. It was Tommy’s conduct since his resignation to the present day that angered and shocked activists in the SSP and our supporters.
On October 31st, 2004, the News of the World printed a story about an unnamed married MSP who was, basically, a mad shagger. It talked of how he had visited a dire “swinger’s club” in an industrial estate in Manchester where sad old men go to have bizarre sex in an emotionally sterile and biologically manky atmosphere. The MSP visited this depressing place with Anvar Khan, a News of the World journalist who was releasing a book about her life. Everyone from here to the moon (which apparently, is made of cheese) would now with hindsight be able to associate this story with Tommy, but at the time many people could never have believed that of someone who they trusted and respected.
His close friends, however, knew the article referred to him. Founding Party members and long-time friends of Tommy, Keith Baldassara and Alan McCombes, already knew about Tommy’s horrendously stupid preference for going to sex clubs to have affairs with FUCKING NEWS OF THE WORLD JOURNALISTS, having warned him that he was being reckless back in 2002. They asked him to meet with his friends, apologise for his indiscretions and deal with the issue privately. He refused. He was then asked to attend a meeting at Alan’s house with the other SSP MSPs and some other immediately impacted party workers to deal with the issue in an informal manner, giving Tommy the opportunity again to deal with the problems he’d created without dragging the Party into it. He again refused to turn up. By this stage it was clear that the only way to have Tommy deal with the allegations was to arrange an emergency meeting of the Party’s Executive Committee. They met at the Party’s then office in Stanley Street, on the 9th of November.
Tommy did actually manage to turn up to this meeting. He spoke to the meeting, admitting that he had visited Cupids on two occasions, in 1996 and 2002, calling it “cheap thrills”. He stated that he didn’t think that the NOTW could “prove anything” and that he intended to sue them for defamation, despite the fact that the bulk of what they had written was actually true. The meeting outlined clearly that the SSP was not prepared to back a false defamation action that would drag the party into disrepute. The point was argued that if Tommy would only be prepared to either put his hands up and admit the truth, or simply say ‘no comment’ and keep his private life out of the tabloids to the best of his ability, the public would probably forgive him for being a mad shagger – but they wouldn’t forgive him for being a sneaky wee lying toad.
Concerns were also raised about where the dividing line between a swingers’ club and a brothel actually falls – at Cupids, women don’t pay to get in while men do, and that is club policy for a reason. The website for Cupids was also only a few clicks away from websites where prostituted women were sold. The SSP was at this time still formulating its position on prostitution, so it was a sensitive subject. We have since adopted the position that prostitution is abuse, and that the perpetrators of that abuse (men who buy consent from vulnerable victims) should be punished.
Tommy left the meeting early, leaving many attendees in a state of shock and upset at what Tommy had revealed about his reckless and inappropriate conduct. A vote was taken, and the meeting unanimously backed the decision that Tommy would have to resign from his position of Convenor if he insisted on bringing his false case to court. This decision was not taken lightly, nor on the basis of moral considerations about Tommy’s questionable treatment of various women, but rather for the pragmatic reason that a credible socialist party could not be seen to be involved with something so stupid as a Jeffery Archer style false defamation action.
National Secretary Allan Green took possession of Minute Secretary Barbara Scott’s contemporaneous notes of the meeting, something which had never before happened in the democratic SSP. This was done, at the time, to protect Tommy’s privacy. They typed the notes up into an official minute, which was presented to a later SSP EC on 24th November which voted to keep the minutes private. A National Council meeting later backed this decision. Tommy stated of the decision then “I wholeheartedly support the SSP Executive Committee statement agreed at today’s meeting”. Here you can begin to see that Tommy’s story changed and mutated over time (from supporting keeping the minutes secret, to presenting a fake minute to the NOTW’s lawyers, to claiming that there never was a minute, to claiming that the minute was a concoction), hitting out with whatever seemed to be the favourable line to back up whatever his story was at the time.
Some have said with hindsight that the Party should never have allowed the minutes to be kept secret, as it only allowed undemocratic methods and lies to gain momentum as false accusations of ‘conspiracy’ began to be thrown around. It’s worth remembering though that at this time, even though the truth about the real Tommy was beginning to spill out, he was still very widely respected, and people simply could not have anticipated to what depths he would sink and how outrageous his lies would become. You live and learn.
After he went public with his resignation, citing the fact that his wife was pregnant with their first child as the reason, Tommy conducted a secret campaign of lies in the media, spreading about rumours that there had been “lovers’ plots” and “jealous backstabbers” lining up to remove him from power. These claims were simply untrue; malicious lies based around misogynistic myths that outspoken female comrades like Carolyn Leckie and Rosie Kane were trying to turn Tommy’s male BFFs like Alan McCombes and Keith Baldassara against him. The reality was Tommy’s actions and refusal to accept responsibility for them were what drove a wedge between him and the comrades he’d once relied so heavily upon.
At this point, Alan went to the Herald in an effort to counter the misinformation Tommy was spreading about the reasons behind his resignation. The Herald refused to print any statement on the truth about Tommy’s resignation unless he signed a sworn affidavit. Contrary to popular Sheridanista myth, this affidavit did not contain the details of the minutes of 9/11/04. It simply stated that the truth was that Tommy had been asked to step down after the EC voted unanimously to ask for his resignation if he continued with a court action, after information which made his position untenable had come to the Party’s attention. It didn’t say anything about Tommy being a mad shagger. It is important to understand the context under which this happened, where Tommy was using his considerable media connections to undermine the democratic decisions of his own party. He was starting to build up his wall of ever-changing lies.
Around this time, George McNeilage, seeing what his friend was becoming, hid a camera in his own house in Pollok. When Tommy came round, he was caught on camera admitting that he had been to Cupids, had conducted affairs with journalist Anvar Khan and party activist Katrine Trolle, and had admitted his indiscretions to the comrades at the emergency EC meeting. Make no mistake, the person you may have seen on that tape swearing and making vile comments about the people who had worked alongside him is absolutely Tommy Sheridan. It is the real Tommy Sheridan, not the sadact Scrabble-obsessed family man he wants you to believe he is. In this tape Tommy is caught calling the SSP EC “19 cunts” (yes, even the ones who later went on to perjure themselves twice on his behalf in court), and reserving special vitriol for fellow MSP Carolyn Leckie and certain other female Party members.
In court, a Tommy supporter said that the voice on the video “sounded more like Cartman from South Park than Tommy”. It’s funny he should say that, because we’ve noticed over the past few years just how more and more like Cartman he has become. While some of Tommy’s supporters were like Butters, easily manipulated by a selfish narcissist determined to use them to get his own way. The SSP, his true friends, are more like Stan and Kyle, the only ones talking sense to an out of control maniac. As a result, just like Cartman, Tommy has reserved his greatest hatred for the people who were actually the only real friends he had. “Screw you guys, I’m going to court.”
Now that you mention it, he is quite like Cartman…
George was clearly deeply unsettled by the side of Tommy that the recording exposed, and sat on the tape for 2 years. He decided to sell it in 2006, Tommy’s disgusting “scabs” article in the Daily Record becoming the straw that broke the camel’s back.
At this time, Tommy was also going around trying to canvas support amongst a number of “Millie men” (i.e. his old comrades from the Militant) who he thought would be sympathetic to his misogyny and ‘the-EC-are-out-to-get-me’ conspiracy theory. He was wrong. He met 6 male SSP comrades separately and admitted to all of them that the allegations of swinging and adultery were true, and that he believed the EC could be won back round to supporting him if he could convince enough people to support a coup on his behalf. They refused to go down that route, and in 2006, after the jury in his civil case found in Tommy’s favour, they released a statement discussing how he had admitted his deception to them.
The axis of ugly
After he resigned, Tommy took the classic supervillain route of retiring into the background for a while so he could rally a weird alliance of forces behind his one man crusade to prove that he was NOT a mad shagger and that anyone who said different was a BASTARD. He slowly put together a coalition of people who hated each other (many of whom had until recently hated him as well). What united them was that they hated the rest of the membership of the SSP even more, and thought Tommy was the route to getting elected, getting jobs or being politically relevant.
First of all, there’s the Socialist Workers Party, a group who we’ve been a little bit pissed off with in the past. The SWP were one of the most parasitic groups to attach themselves to Tommy. They joined the SSP in 2001 when it became clear they’d look silly if they remained the only major socialist group in Scotland not to. They thought it would be a great chance to do the two things that give them a reason to get up in the morning: SELL PAPERS and RECRUIT NEW DRONES TO THE HIVE.
This plan didn’t go so well in the SSP (at least in part because the young and impressionable had the much cooler SSY to get involved with). So – after years of deriding him as a “nationalist” and “reformist” – the SWP were tempted when Tommy came to them and offered them a place in his army of darkness. They thought that hitched to Tommy (who was popular, yeah, like a celebrity) they would be able to get more people to listen to them, gain influence, sell more papers and recruit people.
Their new found support for him was totally cynical. There was no real political principle at play for them. Unlike others, they weren’t motivated by misogynistic hate. All they wanted was to continue their mission (see above), and they utilised the misogynist sentiment amongst those who went on to form Solidarity to try to achieve control of what they thought would be a significant force in left politics. Today they’ve slowly backed away from Tommygeddon, hoping nobody will notice and they can pretend like nothing happened and the SWP will live happily ever after, which is pretty much their completely un-self critical response to all their fuck ups. They continue to think they are the best things since sliced bread and should have a God given right to tell everyone else on the left why they’re wrong and the SWP is right (which is odd because 90% of the time they’re spectacularly wrong. About everything.)
Then there’s the Coffin-dodging Withered Idiots (CWI). The CWI had at one time been a really sucessful socialist group, but most of their membership in Scotland had left in order to set up the SSP. The rump of codgers that were left were forced to get involved in the SSP or become totally irrelevant. So, they decided to make themselves into the official moany bastards that nobody listens to of the SSP, criticising absolutely everything for not being socialist enough. As part of that, they famously even went as far as to call Tommy a “Stalinist”in mainstream newspapers (something they would later claim must never be done). But that was before he promised them a place at his table, after which they miraculously discovered that he was the “greatest socialist in post-war Scotland”, and “a great class fighter.”
In reality, their new found love and uncritical support for Tommy’s madcap actions were motivated by the same thing as the SWP – they thought it was their ticket to influence with normal people, and being able to recruit and build their own organisation. It’s ironic that the CWI have been so vitriolic in attacking the SSP since they left, because they recently changed their name in Scotland to . . . the Socialist Party Scotland! If the SSP is as hated and discredited as they like to claim, you have to ask yourself why they would choose to give themselves a name exactly the same as it!
Both the SWP and the CWI are old school, “democratic centralist” groups. They believe that socialist organisations should be tightly controlled and hierarchical. They were never able to come to terms with what the SSP was trying to do – build a broad, mass socialist party, based on participatory democracy, where people think freely and debate things openly and honestly. Ultimately, they become political machines whose only real purpose is self preservation. People join them, and then either leave because it’s rubbish, or become another paper-selling, newbie recruiting robot. What interests them politically is what will allow them to keep building their own organisation, no matter the wider cost.
The other point about both these groups is that they were never really committed to the SSP’s vision of an independent socialist Scotland. When they were in the SSP they constantly sniped about our policies, claiming they were “nationalist”. The truth is that they remained controlled by a central hierarchy, and the head of the pyramid for both groups was in London. The SSP is a Scottish-only party because we are committed to the idea of Scottish self organisation, and believe there is a different political situation here than down south. The Scottish members of the London-based left, on the other hand, think that what we should do up here can best be decided by a committee of old guys over 300 miles away.
Then there’s the independent supporters of Tommy, or to give them their proper name, the ‘Sheridanistas’. These were mainly people who were members in areas which were controlled by Tommy supporters. Many of the organisers that the SSP employed in the different regions of Scotland were still wedded to to the old way of doing things. They worried that greater democracy would undermine their power bases, and that without Tommy the SSP wouldn’t win votes and be able to keep paying their wages. These men made themselves the only point of information or contact for members in outlying areas like the Highlands and Islands or the South of Scotland, and helped consolidate people into the pro-Tommy camp on the basis of lies and sexist myths. Tommy even had his own small group of personal supporters around him in his local branch in Cardonald, Glasgow. In hindsight, it was a mistake to let these fiefdoms develop, and the SSP failed in some parts of Scotland to live up to its aims of being open and fully democratic, because some individuals were able to monopolise information. What separates the Sheridanistas from the bulk of the SWP & CWI is that they were purely motivated to act the way that they did BECAUSE OF HATE!
The crazy old factions like the SWP & CWI would not be enough to defeat all the normal people in the SSP and so Sheridan took a calculated risk. He knew there were a group who despised the idea that young people and women were taking the lead in the SSP. He knew there were those who couldn’t deal with the notion that there were new ideas and other more radical voices in the party. So in his infamous “Open Letter” (see below) he decided that the best way to win the affection of these people was to attack women, young people and gay people. “Class identity defines us first. Not our gender or sexual orientation” he ranted.
Whether Tommy believes his own bollocks or not we’ll never know but we do know what this was. In the same way as any other politician attacks asylum-seekers to gain a reactionary vote or talks about scroungers to detract from their own dodgy dealings – Tommy attacked people so he could win the affection of old, sexist, small-minded idiots. This was nothing more than the summoning of the dark forces of reaction in the SSP in the hope that they would rally to Tommy… and they did. Tommy counted heads and realised that if he said all the people who built the SSP on a daily basis (who all knew he was a mad shagger anyway and were therefore never going to be on his side) were evil femi-nazi woofters then he could get a few more votes for his cause. And the gaggle of opportunistic allies behind Tommy wanted a few more votes too. As one former Highlands & Islands Organiser with stupid trousers put it himself, “If we are going to win votes then we need Tommy.”
Very quickly after he resigned Tommy had assembled this bizarre alliance behind him, but he didn’t have much for them to do in the time while he was waiting for the court case to start. Instead, on top of building his power base, he spent his time talking to his pals in the press (such as STV windbag Bernard Ponsonby) about how everyone who didn’t agree with his court case were actually just jealous bastards. This included the leaking of details of his comrades’ personal lives to tabloids, whilst loudly and hypocritically proclaiming his own right to privacy.
He also, without the support and guidance of the comrades he’d previously relied on, hit out with increasingly wacky policy ideas that you would struggle to call socialist. A highlight of Tommy’s zany phase was his plan to make anyone who was caught carrying a knife receive a mandatory sentence of three years. At the time, SSY suggested looking at the ways poverty, abuse, alienation and cuts to working class communities contribute towards violence. Tommy’s idea could have been suggested by a Tory, it was the classic law-and-order right wing response to a social problem – LOCK UP WORKING CLASS PEOPLE! That’ll definitely sort it. The fact he was suggesting it revealed that his left wing instincts had begun to drift to the right, and he couldn’t even make a convincing case for his nutty idea. He wrote in the Daily Record:
Just as we need a zero tolerance approach to poverty, racism, domestic violence and nuclear weapons, so we need to adopt a zero tolerance approach to knife carrying.
(So apparently, all the above problems are all the same – perhaps they could all be solved by a mandatory three year sentence. Three years in Bar-L for the crime of living in poverty, off you pop!)
The shit hits the fan
Behind the scenes, Tommy’s daft court case was progressing. On 11th May 2006, four SSP members were cited to appear in court to hand over the minutes of the emergency executive meeting in 2004, where Tommy admitted that he was a mad shagger. As a result of Tommy’s choice to take out a court case, our internal party documents were now being demanded by the courts, and the SSP offices were raided by cops looking for them. We knew that the minutes would completely contradict everything Tommy was to say in court, and thought if they were released they would lead to his self-destruction. Another emergency meeting agreed then to place the minutes in the sole possession of Alan McCombes, who took personal responsibility for refusing to hand them over to the courts. This was called the ‘strategy of defiance’, the aim being to protect the Party’s right to keep the details of its private political meetings out of the hands of the state.
On May 22nd, Tommy and other members of Cardonald branch were summoned to court to answer to the fact that they had been distributing a motion (on the stupid bastard’s own parliamentary email account) openly calling for the minutes of the EC of 9/11/04 to be DESTROYED. That’s a pretty final word, there’s no wriggling out of you calling for something to be DESTROYED, n00bs. In court in 2010, they later said that this “wasn’t meant to be taken literally”, lol.
Around this time, a fake set of minutes emerged. Sent by an unknown person to the papers, the minutes were a badly rewritten version of Barbara Scott’s accurate minute of the 9/11/04 meeting (The fake minute was produced in an incompetent and wrong format, and Barbara HATES Times New Roman – get it right idiots!), missing out the fact that Tommy had admitted he was a mad rabid shagger, and missing out a couple of names from the list of those who had been present. Those names that were included in this fake minute, which was handed to News of the World’s lawyers, helped them come up with a list of who they would call in court. Tommy forced these people to testify by naming them as potential witnesses. Obviously, there was no option for honest principled socialists other than to tell the truth in court under protest, when obliged to attend – the alternative was prison, a choice forced on them by Tommy’s crazy actions.
On May 26th, Alan McCombes was held in contempt of court and jailed for 12 days for refusing to hand over the real minutes. The night he was taken to Saughton prison, there was a methadone riot and he was locked in his cell while other prisoners raged and took hostages. Clearly, the idea that Alan and the rest of the SSP were conspiring to do Tommy in was utter balls – Alan was willing to go through that to protect Tommy from the worst excesses of his bad behavior. There was never a plot to destroy Tommy politically. He did that all by himself, refusing to take the advice of well-meaning friends and stabbing them in the back with cheap misogynistic shots.
With a senior member of the Party in jail protecting the Party’s right to keep minutes of political meetings confidential, tensions were running high. Things all came to head on May 28th 2006, a date which we all remember because it was one of the most bizarre and traumatic things many of us have been through. A National Council meeting brought together the two warring sides of the SSP: the people who thought it was absolute madness to take forward a libel case based on a lie, and those who thought that Rupert Murdoch was a shape shifting lizard who controlled the minds of the evil female MSPs, who were called an “unsavoury cabal”.
Under increasingly abusive and hostile attacks from Sheridan’s forces, many felt the need to group together. One of the founding principles of the SSP was that groups of people who held a shared view on what we should do would be allowed to organise in platforms to get their views across to other comrades. For years, groups like the SWP and the CWI had abused this process to build their own parallel organisation. Most newer and younger members didn’t get involved in a platform, because our only political loyalty was to the SSP rather than some London-based group. But in 2006 we felt like we needed a space where we could be safe, where we knew we wouldn’t be abused and we’d be listened to and given basic respect. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case in the parts of the SSP controlled by the Tommy Alliance.
The group that many of us set up was called the United Left, and it aimed to defend the idea of the SSP as a democratic, participatory socialist party, that was committed to tackling all forms of inequality. But it was immediately attacked by Tommy’s goblins as proof that a conspiracy had existed going back years with the aim of doing in our most popular figure who we all liked. Tommy even went on to claim in court that the UL was evidence of the Rupert Murdoch/British state/police/SSP fantasy enemy he’d created. It was like hitting someone in the face, and justifying it by pointing out that they’d put their arms up to defend themselves.
Whilst those of us who are still in the SSP now decided to come to the May 28th meeting with a strategy of being completely reasonable and not losing our heads, Tommy’s supporters had their own, interesting strategy: go absolutely batshit crazy, shout and scream abuse until they got all their own way. Every pretence of having an orderly democratic meeting was abandoned after countless speakers were shouted down (particularly female ones for whom the most hatred was reserved).
Tommy was given more than double the time anyone else got to speak, in order to deliver a melodramatic rant, the high point of which was basically accusing then Party Chairperson Catriona Grant of trying to kill his unborn child. If you think being at this meeting sounds bad, it’s worse than what you’re imagining. Those that took part were left literally in a state of shock afterwards. It was clear that Tommy’s supporters had abandoned any hope of a united left, and had whipped themselves into a state of raw, unjustified and misogynist hate against people who were supposed to be their comrades. Nothing would be the same again.
Since this meeting, Tommy and his supporters have tried to claim that we ignored its decisions. Quite how they thought we would respect a group of people who turn up and scream abuse in your face, expecting to get all their own way, was never explained. One of the decisions they stampeded through was that the minutes should be handed over to the court, which resulted in Alan’s release. But their reason for doing this had nothing to do with concern for him – the plan, which Tommy followed in court, was to claim the real minutes were bollocks and his ones whipped up on an etch-a-sketch were the real ones.
Tommy took the opportunity of the May 28th National Council to release a stunning piece of writing that for once in his career hadn’t actually been written by Alan McCombes. In his open letter, in between rambling, misspelling Pollok and consistently dismissing gender as unimportant (“We are a class-based socialist party. Not a gender-obsessed discussion group”), he also found time to… make up some lies about SSY!
His open letter claimed:
At a youth event last year, several members spread poison to the effect that I ‘regularly used prostitutes.
What actually happened was that we had a discussion about what we think as socialists and feminists about the sex industry. One Sheridan supporter in the meeting, obviously prickly of any mention of any of the things that Tommy TOTALLY DEFINITELY DIDN’T DO, reported back to him about it, and in his paranoid world the whole thing became part of our plot to destroy him.
On the 4th of July the long awaited libel case finally began. Nobody had been quite prepared for how low Tommy would go. He accused his friends and comrades, who had been forced to appear there by his actions, of being liars. But his most unacceptable behaviour came once he’d taken over his own defence, and was cross examining women. In particular his treatment of Katrine Trolle was up there with the worst sexist excesses of the patriarchal legal system. He accused of her of being out for money, and demanded to know how many sexual partners she had had. The impact of his actions on Katrine has been massive, but Tommy didn’t care as long as he got a shot at making 200 grand while defending his image as a “family man.”
He got several of his supporters to go up in court and perjure themselves alongside him, claiming that he’d never admitted being a mad shagger to them. This bordered on the farcical at times – one of his witnesses, South of Scotland SSP organiser Graeme McIver, actually fainted when he was asked by the judge if he knew what perjury was! (We’ve decided to follow his amazing example and use that as a get out for any kind of awkward question; “Did you eat all my biscuits?” *Down I go*). Many of these people who Tommy convinced to follow him have now been investigated for perjury as well, having chosen to lie in court for no good reason. A revolving door of idiots have lined up to provide him with false alibis. More fool them.
On the 7th August, by a 7-4 majority, the jury gave everyone the biggest surprise of their lives when they voted to give Tommy a victory in his court case. This was completely unexpected by those of us who knew he was at it, and that he blatantly was a mad shagger.
He immediately went on the offensive. He sold his story to the Daily Record (a paper that once described him as a “working class zero”) for reportedly £30,000. They put him up in a swanky hotel and gave him a platform to broadcast how he planned to “destroy the scabs who tried to ruin me.” It printed pictures of all those who he’d forced to appear in court with “SCAB” printed across their faces. It was now crystal clear that Tommy no longer had any interest in working with his former friends and comrades; he wanted to see them destroyed.
For a socialist, being called a scab is about as bad an insult as you can get. It means people who have betrayed the struggle of their fellow workers, and has huge resonance for generations of people who have fought back and gone on strike for their rights. To try and compare their struggles with Tommy’s epic fight to… prove he wasn’t a mad shagger (when we all know he is) was an absolute insult, not just to the people he targeted, but to socialism as a whole. The hypocrisy of claiming to fightback against the capitalist media while taking cash from the Record was breathtaking. Even more insulting, some of those he accused had successfully led and won strikes and trade union struggles, and calling them scabs was simply ridiculous.
It is worth noting that libel laws, in practice, exist to allow the rich and famous to deny the press the right to speak freely about the bad things that they often do. Working class people are slandered in newspapers every day of the week, but only those with money and power can afford to take on a media outlet in court. The idea that a so-called socialist used his position to order a police raid of the Herald offices based on his tower of lies is outrageous. The press have the right to expose corrupt and sleazy politicians. Tommy’s misuse of libel legislation is completely inappropriate behaviour for a socialist who professes to believe in freedom of speech. Real police oppression and miscarriages of justice happen every day. Tommy’s false cries that this is what was happening to him, when actually he was in a mess all of his own creation, demean the real struggles of ordinary people.
There was no conspiracy of the SSP leadership to work with the “Murdoch empire” to destroy Sheridan or socialism. Tommy’s court case was never a battle between left and right. It was a battle between a tabloid newspaper and a celebrity. Because of Tommy’s choices, the SSP were unfairly dragged in to the eye of the storm, and we and our supporters (many of whom have now become disenchanted with politics having been let down by the initial promise that Tommy showed) became the victims of Tommy’s stupidity and arrogance.
And so we come to one of the more hilarious episodes of the crisis. In August 2006, SSY was angered that the Gods had failed to meet our request for a favourable outcome in the civil case, and so we turned to a more dreadful sacrifice…
Confonted with a gigantic stack of newspapers all about a guy that we didn’t really like (which we were using to light a fire anyway), someone at Camp Secret Squirrel 2006 took the fateful decision to make a small cardboard man with Tommy’s face on it. As one eyewitness, Sheik Yaboutie, said at the time:
it was a shitey bit of cardboard approx 30cm in height with a picture taped on. a tiny cock and hairy legs was then drawn on to make it more recognisable and a stick was then added for puppetering purposes
Not one of us gave a second thought to the cruel fate of this cardboard man who we so viciously burned. This astounding drunken behaviour proves once and for all CONCLUSIVELY that a massive conspiracy was hatched by the SSP and the State to bring down the most important socialist of the post-war period (despite this campfire incident happening literally years after the News of the World accused Tommy of being a mad shagger).
This miraculously made it to the front page of the Mirror (We know it was you Sam Beaton, if you want to claim otherwise we’ll see you in court) right before Tommy jumped ship to form Solidarity. This earthshattering story transformed Scotland’s political landscape forever, and won its author the prestigious ‘Tartan Bollocks’ award for the worst (and most spectacularly inaccurate) Scottish newspaper story of the year.
Around this time, the McNeilage tape was released. We’ve since learned that when George McNeilage, upset and angered by Tommy’s defaming of honest socialists as “scabs” for refusing to lie for him, decided to sell the tape he’d made of Tommy confessing to being an odious wee troll and a lying scrote, he forced News of the World editor Bob Bird to strip down to his scants before he’d let him view it. We at SSY think that’s pretty hilarious, gwan yersel George!
The News of the World released bits of the tape on their website, and if people hadn’t been convinced that Tommy was a mad lying shagger by that stage, they certainly knew it now. But then again, who framed Roger Rabbit??????!!111!!!!1!1!???????
Tommy’s supporters had presumed that they would be able to regain control of the SSP. In the weeks following his victory however, Tommy realised the motley band of followers he’d amassed wouldn’t be enough for them to seize control of a democratic party. At this point they mysteriously began to claim that the atmosphere in the SSP had become “intolerable” for them, and that they had no choice but to leave and set up a party where nobody disagreed with them and everyone loved Tommy.
Solidarrrrrrity was launched in a blazing fit of rousing political rhetoric and inspiring revolutionary song, as you can see in this moving footage of clairvoyant crooner Alice Sheridan:
The worst piece of art inspired by the Oedipus Complex EVER
Solidarity launched themselves with a manifesto identical to the SSP’s in every policy except the ones about equality for women (which they’re totally in favour of, it’s just that us femi-nazis go too far!!1!). Apart from not being keen on women, the other thing that was distinctive about Solidarity was being really really really keen on Tommy Sheridan. It was a political party composed of people who were betting their future careers on Tommy being re-elected to Parliament. They went on to reach the stunning electoral success of managing to not re-elect Tommy, but electing Ruth Black as a Glasgow City Councillor (who then defected to Labour when she realised her chances of being a career politician in Solidarity were nothing compared to the corruption that would be possible if she teamed up with Steven Purcell) – someone who SSY have had quite a bit to say about in the past!
Tommy also made a mockery of his claim to be standing up for workers when, during the course of the split, he tore up the collective agreements between the SSP MSPs and their parliamentary staff. All the MSPs had agreed to pay their wages into a collective pool and employ staff together. But Tommy and his ally Rosemary Byrne withdrew their money from the pool, leaving people who had worked hard for them for years without an income. This put them in direct dispute with staff trade unions, the NUJ and the IWW.
Tommy and Rosemary also like to claim the SSP owes them a load of money. What they’re actually talking about is deductions that came off the official massively inflated MSP wage as part of the SSP’s worker’s wage policy. This was then put into the collective funding pool. When the gruesome twosome decided to run away and form Solidarity, they demanded their money back. These are not the actions of principled socialist representatives.
the Campaign To Elect Tommy Sheridan Cos He is Amazing Solidarity failed in its number one mission in 2007, it began to slowly disintegrate, because the only thing that had bound such a disparate group of people together was that Tommy Sheridan was an electoral asset who gave them all reason to live. Their numbers dwindled, their website is pish, and their only elected representative is now a Labour councillor under investigation for corruption.
One of the major groupings still in Solidarity are the so-called Democratic Green Socialists, a group formed by former Highlands SSP organiser Steve ‘Magical Mystery Trousers’ Arnott to be his own personal platform. Their main output is an online magazine – the only problem is it looks like it was made on geocities in 1998. One of their main campaigns so far has been to acquit a convicted rapist, cos they know him and he’s totally a good guy. (We’d like to provide a link to the horrendous article they wrote on the case, but their website is too crappy to find it any more! Here’s a follow up one, minus all the disgusting rape myths and continued abuse of a survivor they perpetuated in the original.)
In the past few elections Solidarity (on paper a pro-independence party, but largely consisting of London based groups that are really against it) has ditched the idea of Scottish self-organisation, and merged itself into UK wide attempts to create a left wing slate with about 2 weeks notice and silly names that no one understood (No2EU and STUSC.) The votes they have received have dwindled (from their greatest height of not getting Tommy elected). Sadly, with the split in the Scottish Socialist Party and the unfortunate trashing of the Party’s reputation in all of the papers (with the charge being led by Tommy), the SSP’s votes have suffered badly too. The fact remains however that we’re still here and still recruiting, with the knowledge that we did the right thing and that the truth is still the truth. That’s the difference between us and the confused bunch of losers who attempted a wrecking job on the SSP. We’re still here and we’re moving the Party in a positive direction, working with others and participating in the struggle against the many injustices of capitalism, patriarchy and inequality.
Worst. Party Political Broadcast. Ever.
After losing his seat, Tommy became increasingly desperate in his search for work. He started a radio show, did some celebrity boxing with people who weren’t celebrities, and even got a job on countdown as the conundrum writer. He also fronted his own Fringe show. According to the dire reviews, this consisted of him sitting on a leather throne surrounded by blown up front pages giving details of his sex life. Whilst still officially claiming he was NOT a mad shagger, he happily came on stage to King of the Swingers, before listening to a string of comedians ripping the piss out of him for being… a mad shagger. In other words, he was quite happy to hear them repeated, as long as people were paying him for the privilege of laughing at his increasingly ridiculous reputation.
That’s not to mention he compered a book launch for Glasgow gangster Paul Ferris. How was that a good idea?!
And then of course there was Celebrity Big Brother. Following in the footsteps of that other entirely credible “socialist” firebrand George Galloway, Tommy took his celebrity aspirations to new heights, appearing on one of TV’s most embarrassing shows. George at least claimed he was doing it to spread his political message, whereas Tommy admitted that he just fancied the cash. In between deodourizing his balls, dressing up in lycra and completely bemusing your one from Liberty X by incomprehensibly suggesting that they might fancy each other, he even found the time to start advertising for his new corporate paymasters Endemol. In one of the most stunningly effective ONLINE ads of all time, he managed to use his incredible oratory skills and his natural ability to connect with the working class to increase Big Brother applications by 8 billion [dead link].
Tommy was finally able to combine his two lifelong ambitions – being a vapid celebrity and presenting a bullshit family man image – when uncle Coolio came round for tea! And so they all lived happily ever after.
Until his lies caught up with him of course, in the form of a lengthy police investigation and high court trial. We’re sure you’ve read loads in the papers about what evidence has formed the basis of the trial over the last couple of months. What might not have been so clear from the news is the absolutely reprehensible, unsocialist arguments that Tommy put forward in his defence case.
One of those arguments is the idea that witnesses are unreliable or indeed are liars if they suffer or have suffered from mental health problems. Seriously, what a fucking prick.
Another was the idea that witnesses who had in the past suffered with drug addictions, and had lived lives of crime to pay for their addiction, were therefore untrustworthy and bad people, despite the fact that they were reformed and had since dedicated their lives to the struggle to end poverty and inequality in Scotland. What Tommy didn’t tell the jury in that courtroom was that he had previously held up the prior convictions of witnesses like George McNeilage as a testament to their working class credentials and an example of how it is possible to lead a fulfilling and positive life through class activism. Everything that came out of Tommy’s mouth while defending his indefensible actions in that court was simply things he was making up on the spot, anything to drag the reputations of others through the mud to continue the pretence that Tommy Sheridan is the great infallible leader of the working class.
Throughout this whole sorry affair Tommy has used his family as human shields. The problem with this is that it’s Tommy’s own fault that his family are in this position. Also, he’s not the only one with a family. Those who Tommy accuses of conspiring against him have loved ones too. Tommy’s actions have caused these people to be dragged into court twice, harassed by reporters and had Sheriff officers acting on behalf of Tommy turn up to their door in the run up to the defamation action. Their relatives are attacked too, but we never hear about them. In court, Tommy’s supporters openly scoffed and laughed at witness Carolyn Leckie when she, in response to a question about her state of mind when questioned by the police, told the court that the interview occurred only a short time after her mother’s death and so she was grieving. Apparently, this was hilarious, and worthy of contempt. Perhaps the thinking there is that of course people other than Tommy don’t have real lives, and could only ever be bringing their families up as a cynical device. Which, you know, gives us yet more delicious ironic lols.
Tommy also took his court case as a chance to shit all over his own legacy. He dragged witness after witness in to shout at them that they were “trained liars” because they had been members of the Militant Tendency. Beyond being incomprehensible for the fact that Tommy was also in the Militant and therefore must have been learning to operate politically in the same environment as those he falsely accused of being perjurers, this pretty much disproves any claims that Tommy lied like he did ‘for the benefit of socialism’. Defaming the history of important socialist organisations in a desperate attempt to drag everyone down with him has to surely be an aspect of Tommy’s arrogance and spitefulness that even the most virulently anti-SSP Tommyfans out there will be shocked by. It beggars belief that the CWI choose to remain loyal to him when he pursued these outrageous claims in a state courtroom.
Tommy’s defence this time round amounted to a man he met in ASDA (who confirmed to a stunned jury that, yes, Tommy had been good at football when he was a wee boy), a ‘part-time poet’ and various members of his family all saying that in their scientifically trained opinions there was no way it was Tommy on the tape, and he definitely wasn’t a mad shagger. Lol. One of his main arguments was also the idea that he doesn’t often swear, which as anyone who has ever met him, read A Time To Rage, or watched him in Big Brother would know, is absolute bollocks.
This verdict vindicates the SSP’s struggle for the truth. We were right to refuse to co-operate with Tommy’s lies, and a jury has now found that Tommy is officially guilty of lying in court. Tommy Sheridan’s credibility has been entirely destroyed. He’s not going to be what he once was ever again. If you try to scour the internet for information about Tommy before he went completely radio rental, it’s really hard to find what you’re looking for – it’s buried under piles of pish about him being a mad lying shagger. His once commanding political presence and large voter base in Glasgow has collapsed. He’s the butt of a joke, and everyone in Scotland knows he’s been at it. Of course it saddens us what has become of this man who once inspired us. But what we need to do now is forget about Tommy and focus on repairing what he and others damaged.
As a group, SSY escaped the damage of the split relatively unscathed because we were not committed to the old ways of doing things – there was no conservative force within the SSY telling us what to think, we hadn’t been trained to behave in a secretive way, there were no strong divisive factions manipulating the membership, and we had relative freedom of information so we were able to discuss openly what was going on in our party. As such, while we’ve suffered the knock on effects of the war within the left generally, we’ve not lost our functionality or had to fundamentally reassess how we operate as an activist group, because our methods are good. Hopefully the end of this protracted legal shitstorm will give the left in Scotland the closure it needs to begin to move forward. Only those who have truly learned the lessons of what went wrong with Tommy Sheridan will be able to do this in an effective and principled manner.
Looking to the future
It’s been an epic job bringing you all the background you need on today’s verdict. If the shit we have endured over the last six years sounds horrendous, that’s because it was. But the good news is that there’s now a whole generation of socialist activists who are too young to remember how this mess all got started (which is why we wanted to lay it all out for anyone with questions.)
While Tommy has been destroying himself, and publicly trashing people who used to idolise him, we’ve been slowly rebuilding. Its obvious to any regular reader that SSY is a vibrant group of people who are at the heart of key struggles affecting Scotland’s youth, from the struggle against the far right to the recent mass movement of students against cuts and fees (a struggle that Solidarity have watched from the sidelines, because they have nothing to compare with SSY). The future of the left doesn’t lie with celebrity politicians and their lying egos, and it doesn’t lie with old guys who think women shouldn’t get too uppity. It lies with the type of people who make up SSY.
There are some serious and important lessons that we have learned from our experiences with Tommy Sheridan:
1) Don’t hero worship anyone, no matter how much of an electoral asset they are to your party. For years we built the SSP on the back of Tommy’s power as a celebrity, an incorruptible man of the people. We couldn’t have known then that we were helping to create a monster. Our charismatic leader meant a shortcut to success, but it was a double edged sword. His fame made him feel like he was untouchable, and unaccountable to the wider movement that put him in that position. Given the history of the socialist movement, we all bear a huge responsibility to hold our leaders to account. We didn’t succeed in doing that with Tommy, but we mustn’t ever let that happen again. Since the split we’ve tried to strengthen the participatory democracy within the SSP, and make sure its a party of equals, not leaders-and-led.
2) Take feminism and women’s rights seriously and never let any fuckwit misogynist attempt to ‘put you in your place’. It’s not enough to say that you’re for equality for women. You have to consider the myriad ways in which patriarchy manifests itself, particularly within left-wing organisations – what myths are we perpetuating within ourselves that patriarchy creates in wider society? The response of some “socialists” to Tommy’s behaviour shows just how powerful stereotypes like the jealous witch, desperate for money and power, are in even among the left. Tommy and his supporters were never afraid to use the most sexist language about the women who disagreed with them, calling them bitches, cunts, witches and whores.
One of the few fundamental political differences underlying the split in the SSP is that we wanted to go beyond a vision of socialism that thought you can take the economy under workers’ control and that’ll be everything sorted. We recognised the importance of discrimination apart from just class, such as patriarchy, homophobia and racism. We saw the need to confront these actively, including inside our own party. The people who are now in Solidarity by and large reacted defensively to this challenge to the social privilege they held as old white guys. They didn’t like the idea of women and youth self organising (part of the reason they were so hostile to SSY). They saw feminism as a distraction from the class struggle rather than a crucial part of it.
Fortunately, this Victorian-era thinking belongs to the left of the past, and SSY is proud to play its part in making self organisation of oppressed groups a central part of the struggle for socialism.
3) Don’t let anyone revise history – keep historical records like minutes, conference motions and videotapes as open as possible. The only way to defend the truth and remain truly democratic is to have true freedom of information within our organisations.
4) Always fight for the truth, because you don’t know how important it is until someone attempts to subvert it.
And finally, grab a DeLorean, go back in time to 1964, and point out to Tommy’s maw that her ‘premonition’ was in fact just the result of eating too much dodgy mooncheese.