The trouble with history is that it has a habit of repeating itself. The trouble with Tommy Sheridan is that people either don’t understand why he is dangerous or have chosen to ignore that fact. We can’t let history repeat itself and we will not ignore the fact that Tommy Sheridan is dangerous.
If you’re wondering what’s brought on this repeat performance of our most notorious party piece, it’s the fact that some in the independence movement still seem keen to carry a torch for a man who’s a political pyromaniac. We could go into the finer points of the latest stooshie, but why bother? It’s mainly just the kind of misogynist morons you’d expect to defend their own, defending their own.
In an attempt to justify the unjustifiable – being in the same room as him – we’ve witnessed a familiar pattern in which history is rewritten, his abusive past is glossed over and people are being misdirected towards misunderstanding.
This piece is not to address any of the unrepentant evil bastards, who willingly inflict Sheridan on others, fully aware that they are promoting an abuser. This is for those people who don’t know the full extent of what he has done, what he’s capable of and why it’s not OK to be associated with him.
“What’s the big deal?”
Over a period of over a decade, Tommy Sheridan was sleeping around while he was SSP leader. When he pumped a journalist from the News of the World, she wrote about it. Tommy fessed up to the party Executive and asked if they would allow him to remain as leader while he constructed a sham libel case, deliberately misled thousands of party members about what had happened and made sure his image as a family man wasn’t tarnished. The SSP declined, saying the public cared more about politicians lying than shagging and didn‘t want to be needlessly dragged through the courts to defend a false image of someone’s personal life, which no-one in the party or the wider public gave a fuck about.
Tommy then set about destroying his circle of friends, his party and anyone who stood in his way, in a fruitless attempt to unshag loads of people, heaping bile on anyone who refused to lie for him or who refused to disregard the women he was becoming increasingly and publicly abusive towards. He won his ill fated court action against the NOTW and split the SSP to form his own personality cult, Solidarity (which existed solely to give solidarity to him). The lies he had told unravelled in a court case his pals and his party had warned him not to bring and in the end, he was convicted of perjury and served just over a year of his 3 year sentence.
“Who cares who you sleep with?”
The women he slept with were forced to appear in court, to be publicly humiliated and called liars. He conducted his own defence, allowing him to use the full powers of the law to compel women to stand in front of him and be shouted at and shamed, for daring to sleep with him. This isn’t therefore about sex, it’s about abuse of power and abuse of women for political ends.
“His conviction was shaky”
Tommy was convicted by a jury because the evidence was clear. He lied, repeatedly, on matters large and small, in court, and lying in court is a criminal offence. He “couldn’t remember” why his phone records showed that he had phoned each person in the group he had attended a sex club with, on the very day he confessed to doing so to the SSP Executive, (a confession he later denied making). He concocted a conspiracy – that the entire grassroots leadership of the SSP were plotting against him, to seize “control“ of the party (which neither he nor they had, since the party‘s policies were decided by the membership). He claimed he called a former sexual partner over 60 times to discuss Denmark’s “liberal attitudes to prostitution” and to discuss the Danish minimum wage, which doesn’t exist. You couldn’t make it up – but Tommy did. His tower of bollocks came crashing down. He was refused an appeal because there was no grounds for it.
“He’s paid his debt to society”
It wasn’t society he fucked over (although it is pretty messed up for the “honest, left-wing alternative” politician who stood for the people, to lie to the people he represented for personal gain). Along with the women he slept with and then demeaned, there were all his real allies – those who told him what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear – who he set the dogs on. He destroyed a political movement which thousands worked tirelessly to build. Him doing time changed none of that.
“OK, well he’s done his time anyway…”
We don’t believe locking Tommy up solved anything because we don’t believe punitive justice works. Tommy has yet to accept the responsibility for or make amends for his behaviour, he has yet to publicly ask his band of bullies to leave those telling the truth alone. Worse still, he still blames the victims. His real crimes remain unpunished, he has not been rehabilitated and is at severe risk of reoffending. He is still a liar. And he is very capable of destroying movements.
Not an argument as such but worth a menshie. If you understand what he has done and say “regardless” or “irrespective” when discussing Tommy, you are saying exactly that – you disregard and have no respect for women, other activists and ordinary punters who just wanted to create a better society, whose lives he destroyed. Have some regard and show some respect.
“But it was all just his personal life”
He shagged activists, people he met at meetings and people he encountered whilst being a politician, and then threw them under the bus. It was his political clout and his abuse of power which allowed him to believe he could fabricate a web of lies to destroy ordinary people‘s lives. It’s nothing personal, we’re against anyone behaving this way.
“He’s a good speaker ”
Being “inspirational”, “an orator” etc. etc. doesn’t mean you deserve to be handed power. By elevating Tommy, we deny the opportunity to other people to have their say and develop, people who may be capable of listening as well as shouting. The idea he is the only individual capable of whipping the servile masses into a frenzy not only underestimates the vast talent which exists in our political movements and in our communities, it completely derides the people we’re allegedly trying to reach, by saying they just need to be shouted at in the right way. For a decade, the SSP used Tommy’s charisma and personality as a shortcut to power, it turned out to be a long road to a dead end.
“We need unity right now”
Unity never has and never will include everyone, quite the opposite; a movement which is open to racists for example, isn’t open to people of colour, a movement which is misogynistic isn’t open to women. We need a movement which actually works to be inclusive, not one which merely manages to hang together by actively choosing to exclude “difficult” marginalised groups or those who challenge anyone who happens to be “in.”
Tommy’s history of building unity is as follows: after his destruction of the SSP (which split into pro and anti Tommy factions after he shafted the grassroots leadership), he ended up in jail. On his release, he set about involving himself in the movement against the Bedroom Tax, which split into pro and anti Tommy factions, after he shafted the grassroots leadership. You can have Sheridan or unity, not both.
“Criticism is a gift to our enemies”
Tommy is a gift to our enemies, his entire history has been exposed. He’s also a master of “with me or against me” rhetoric. If you criticised Tommy in 2004, you were with Rupert Murdoch, if you criticised him in 2013, you loved the Bedroom Tax and if you criticise him now, you must be in Better Together.
Caring about our movements enough to be prepared to be brutalised for the pleasure of speaking up doesn’t mean someone has switched sides, rather it means people want their own side to win so much that they are prepared to take the heat.
“So we just need to win, no time for principles then!”
Good tactics are ones which win and Tommy is a proven loser & a massive liar-ability. We reject damaging, useless tactics, like staging a repeat of Tommygeddon. With a massive gender gap in voting intention, the last thing we need is more men screaming at each other.
We might lose and we will always make mistakes but let‘s never make the same mistakes we‘ve already made before. If you want to screw up the political movement you’re involved in, AT LEAST be fucking original about it.
Whenever you’re reading this, Tommy will be touring the country with his tiny gaggle of loyal fannies, driven in from suburbia to shout at working class folk about how great the world would be with him in charge. Much as we’d love to stop this from happening, it’s beyond our limited powers.
What we can all do is make sure we never, ever allow him even a tiny amount of political power, while he remains an unrepentant abuser – that means no sharing of platforms, organisations, meetings, rallies, social media or oxygen with him, no exceptions.
The single most important thing we can do to deal with Sheridan, is to create a movement where his way of doing things is redundant. As well as just thinking about who should be on the platform, we should always think about whether there needs to be a platform at all. Do we need speaking tours and shouting – or would talking to each other, sharing ideas and organising from the ground up actually work better?
Rejecting top-down organisation, personality cults, unearned power, misogyny and abuse aren’t “nice to have” extras, they are the only way we can really build what we all claim to be fighting for. Sheridan hated women having autonomy in the SSP, he hated that there was a movement against the Bedroom Tax which he couldn’t brand as his own, he hates that there is a campaign for a Yes vote that won’t be used a stepping stone to his re-election in 2016, when he’s legally allowed to run for office again. In other words, Tommy hates independence. So if you’re fighting for independence, you know that Tommy is trouble, trouble we could all do without.