Getting shouted at by Tommy Sheridan is something we’re pretty used to but it’s been a while since we’ve had the misfortune of him doing it in person – he tends to just call us vipers, snipers,
windscreen wipers across his multiple social media platforms these days. News that he planned to continue his “Hope Over Fear” brand (which he created following the refusal of most of the Yes movement to allow a platform to the convicted liar and serial misogynist fantastist) by hosting a big rally in the Square filled us with a mixture of overwhelming dread and even more overwhelming noseybastarditis.
Given the organiser’s history, it’s no surprise the event has been mired in controversy from the start. Sheridan has been accused of stoking “food bank wars” by refusing to support the Glasgow’s Needy crew who have been collecting food in the Square since the referendum and told them they couldn’t address the rally before conveniently inviting another food bank to attend and speak instead.
There was also the small mystery of the fundraising drive, which encouraged people to send cheques to Tommy’s home address, made out to an organisation called “CUPI” which sounds suspiciously similar to “Cupids”, the sex club Tommy attended with a News of the World journalist – a story which unsurprisingly ended up in…the News of the World. Closer inspection reveals C.U.P.I (Communities United Promoting Inclusion) is an organisation based in Greenhills, East Kilbride, who according to their website aim to provide, “activities and opportunities for young people in our area.”
[Trigger Warning: Discussion of rape]
So what opportunities does being flooded with political donations for the Tommy Sheridan show bring young people in Greenhills? The answer is only known to C.U.P.I founder, who also happens to be a founder member of Tommy’s Solidarity party, John Park, who last graced the pages of the Digger (and A Thousand Flowers) back in March for his threatening behaviour towards anti-rape campaigners protesting an SWP speaker who had played a key role in attempting to cover up a rape within the SWP, whose Scottish branch are also in…Solidarity. Quite what the other members of C.U.P.I will make of John Park using their organisation to funnel funds to his pal Tommy, we’re not sure.
Despite all this, the demo ploughed ahead as planned – an utterly gruelling 5 hour lineup, 30 speakers, 15 bands, now dispelled rumours of loyalist bigots and according to their own posters, an appearance from ISIS. We couldn’t wait to see what the £3000, then £5000 (or was that £8000?) those “residents of Greenhills, East Kilbride” would be treating us to.
The square was pretty busy for the duration, with a lot of milling about, coming and going and staring blankly into the distance. It certainly wasn’t tens of thousands of loyal Sheridanistas but his shagtastic majesty was nonetheless hoarsly bollocking for the duration while Solidarity stewards collected yet more money for this and “future events.”
TS opened the show, compered (i.e. gave another speech about Westmonster/nukes/collecting tins/lost weans between every fucking speaker and band), all building to his big speech at the end. There were quite clearly a great many people like ourselves, down to have a nosey and a good moan and I had a few “what are you doing here?”, “no, what are you doing here” exchanges, with people we know share our misgivings about re-annointing the King of the Swingers.
There was a more diverse crowd than at many of these things: families, young folk, slightly more women but it was distinctly more pale, male and stale than the gatherings in the days before the vote. Not that you can really blame anyone for not being in a celebratory mood but it was basically a rerun of last month with everyone back to being their miserable selves again. The platform in particular was certainly not a fair or accurate reflection of the Yes movement despite Tommy’s claim that “all” (yes all) the Yes movement were represented.
The speakers list included at least 4 Solidarity speakers and with a few noble exceptions, the broad message was “we wiz robbed, Nats will save us, Tommy is mah hero.” For all the entirely understandable ranting about Red Tories, we are also witnessing a worrying rise of blue and white from the would-be-reds. The red flag was conspicuous by its absence today, despite “Hope Over Fear” being initially dubbed as being about the socialist case for independence. Tommy has been hailed as a hero by some nationalists for saying people should unite behind the SNP in the 2015 General Election – a selfless gesture by a someone who’d never win a first past the post seat and who we believe is probably still barred from standing for Westminster under the 1981 Representation of the People Act…
One group of well represented people were conspiracy theorists and it was nice to see Tommy endorsing a certain Naomi Wolf by calling for “every allegation to be investigated” regarding electoral fraud following her utterly dangerous and paranoid speech. The vote was rigged, have the people who rigged it investigate, cried Wolf, literary and metaphorically. Tommy introduced Naomi as a “democracy campaigner” despite the fact she mainly goes on about ISIS being made up and accused the US Government of going to Africa to steal the Ebola virus and use it to launch a biological war against Americans. As Wolf talked pish about “the integrity of the vote” “blank ballots” “judicial reviews” etc. etc. to rapturous applause, we couldn’t help notice the more muted response when another woman said it was time to “accept the fact that people bought it.”
People who know ISIS isn’t made up were demonstrating in support of the citizens of Kobane who’re fighting both ISIS and the Assad regime. Thousands of Kurds inside Turkey, desperate to assist their brothers and sisters, are being forcibly prevented from crossing the Turkish/Syrian border. The Kurdish Scot I overheard made clear he had little time for Mr. Sheridan in rather frank exchanges with a Tommy loyalist. It says a lot about the “internationalist” nature of the day that while the Kurds across Iraq, Syria and Turkey were being brutally repressed, they still found time to release lengthy statements about Scottish independence and socialism, yet they’re left standing on the sidelines in George Square at an event that’s supposed to be about independence and socialism.
More bands played, Tommy shouted more, more people said we should all vote SNP and pledged to “go on” (and they certainly did). “Johann Lamont said the independence movement is over” said one speaker, “NEVER!” shouted the man beside me, before turning to his kid and saying, “you want to go for a Burger King son?” It was often the weans who had the most incisive analysis of events. “We came for the teacups” said one, as I realised there might be a whole world of fun I was missing out on.
Since we were sadly too big to ride Tommy’s teacups, we set off to check out what other marvels we could find. Most people weren’t really paying attention to the platform and were watching people climbing around all over the monuments with flegs and masks or just walking round in a constant circle for hours staring at each other in a kind of mournful way. There were various stalls from lefty parties – the Socialist Workers Party, Scottish Socialist Party, Socialist Party Scotland, Solidarity but the people doing the biggest trade were the fleg salesmen, since we were all now definitely agreed that nationalism was the answer to everything. Watching the SWP asking people to sign a petition “for a united left”, when their very existence ensures that could never happen is a bit like watching Gordon Brown asking people to sign a petition for the more powers he’s made sure they’ll never have.
No matter that yer actual fascists Siol Nan Gaidhael are standing around yer demo, we’re all part of the 45% now.
As we wandered back towards the platform, someone in front of us was mouthing off about “this 45% nonsense”, declaring it was actually 70% because postal votes were sent to England to be tampered with. This was at least a handy distraction from some guy crucifying a medley of Wonderwall and Redemption Song in a moment remiscent of all the most cringeworthy student party performers rolled into one. After hours and hours of this or variants of it, we were beginning to feel beyond redemption and a bit overwhelmed by all these disputed percentages.
Redemption did finally come in the form of an SNP councillor, who we believe to be Pat Lee. He made the call for Unilaterally Declared Independence by…you guessed it…all voting SNP in 2015. Since that was pretty much the zenith of dangerous, pointless, backward stupidity, we hit the road before Tommy got to do his final big speech, although decades of experience allow me to predict he would have said the phrase “the only war worth fighting is the war against poverty and inequality” since he’d already rolled out his “hand of friendship/fist of fury” routine earlier on.
Luckily, things actually did get stupider as just as we were exited the square, we found a sign warning us of the dangers of chemtrails which “our government” were responsible for, it didn’t say which Government, so it may have been a rare warning about the SNP. Also, if anyone can find this dog, they’ll get £500.
We obviously felt a bit like lost dogs ourselves at an event run with the sole intention of rehabilitating the image of an unrepentant, convicted perjurer and his gang of stale would-be-lefties who’ve completely forgotten they’re even lefties anymore. It’s bizarre watching speakers who spent decades calling you a nationalist just for supporting independence now nurturing explicit nationalism so brazenly.
Nonetheless, there must have been well in excess of 10,000 people there throughout the day and it’s highly unlikely all of them buy into Tommy’s fantasy land or were conspiracy theorists or SNP loyalists – most of them were just punters who voted Yes, like most people in the city. There still is a massive force who want radical change, it’s about the ends to which they are being directed, or misdirected by people like Sheridan.
In contrast to the broad and leaderless Yes movement, promoting a range of values and visions, today seemed more about promoting the narrow message of a self-appointed leader – keep clutching on to vote rigging or unilaterally declared independence, keep just hating Labour or all just voting SNP, don’t think about why you supported independence, just shout “YES! YES! YES!” and we’ll get there, and give me money, obviously. By 2016, Tommy will legally be able to run for Holyrood and ditch his new-found fondness of the SNP, making another massive mess in the process, like he’s done to every other movement he’s built up and then wrecked.
Obviously we can and should “go on” but that should be about moving forward, holding our political masters in Westminster, Holyrood and Council Chambers up and down the land to account, not cheering on heros from past struggles or promoting a thoroughly unradical notion that we’ll get independence by all doing the same thing – that didn’t work for radicals during the referendum and it will work even less well now.
Tommy and Co. really have nothing to do with the left anymore and today only helped to reinforce that. The confused vision looked a lot more like a fearful capitulation to the strongest (the big guy shouty guys with flegs) than a declaration of the need for radical change right now. Change will not be shouted at us by the ghouls of yesteryear but won by fighting a war on all fronts to empower people. That power comes from peoples’ capacity to organise themselves better than they can be organised by their masters, including those who are masters of the art of hoarsely shouting in George Square. So while we remain hopeful that the better Scotland we fight for is there to be won, the latest episode of the Tommy Sheridan Show seems like an attempt at deliberately constructed despair in the Square.
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