Monday, October 02, 2006

Who better to wear the chains than those who forged them

The News of the World, as expected, has not taken its historic court defeat at the hands of former Scottish Socialist Party MSP Tommy Sheridan lying down. They have now obtained a tape, recorded before the court case by a (presumably former) friend, where he admits the allegations of the paper and states plainly that he is prepared to lie in court to win the case.

The Times says that "A spokesman for Mr Sheridan's new party said that there was nothing in the transcript of the tape that impacted on the evidence given by any member of Solidarity in court. " Is it or isn't if? Party considers it over tea

Of course this is patent nonsense. If the tape is genuine which (despite Sheridan's insistencee that it is fake) it almost certainly is then it directly contradicts what he said in court when berating fellow socialist Alan McCoombes, when denying he confessed to the SSP executive and over his 'robust' treatment of a former lover in the witness box. Read the transcript here (and apologies for linking to the News of the World).

The problem with his denials of the tape's authenticity is, of course, he is heard on tape advocating a strategy of brazening out any accusation with simple denials and hope that the other side lack evidence to prove their case.

He also says "I guarantee you if I am presented with incontrovertible evidence - video tapes, CCTV, something of that character, I'll put my hand up and say IÂ’m sorry, sorry to the party, sorry to my wife, sorry to my family and I'll walk away. I'll walk away. But I'm no prepared to give in to f ***** g bullying because that's what the News of the World, in my opinion, is doing right now - f ***** g bullying. They have been told it's me but they can't prove it."

Alas, it seems Sheridan is not being true to his word here. After all he has gone too far down the road to turn back, even if the warnings of his closest advisors of the time now seem completely vindicated. If he is deemed to have lied under oath and convicted of perjury he would undoubtedly see a jail term imposed (I think Jeffrey Archer got two years for a similar offence) and there is speculation that fellow MSP Rosemary Byrne, among others, may also face a perjury investigation.

The irony is, of course, if he had never gone to court in the first place, to try to disprove allegations that were none of the tabloid's business in the first place, not only would he not be facing a police investigation and not be plastered all over the tabloids he would also still be leader of the SSP and this whole crisis would have been averted rather than embraced.

If the whole episode proves anything it is that if we put people in a position where one single person can provoke a crisis in a left organisation then we don't just need to reassess that individual we also need to reconsider the whole concept of leadership, and what the relationship of "very important people" are to our organisations in the first place.

P.S. This is not the only court action being taken over the feud between former friends in Scotland. Shetland News (a must read if ever there was one) reports that Party fraud probe still ongoing former SSP members in Inverness have pilfered the funds and given it all to Sheridan's Solidarity. Under police investigation they have offered to return the money, which is nice of them. Please, please, please - can we keep the police and the courts out of the left in future?


Anonymous said...

Or, we could just keep massive egos out of the Left.

Jim Jay said...

But would there be anyone left if we did that?

Also, perhaps a little more seriously - that would be impossible to police.

But I think the main point stands - it isn't that Sheridan had a massive ego that was the problem, the problem was that he was in a position to wreck the SSP for personal motivations.

I think it calls into question the whole role of 'leading figures' - if we just swap sheridan for someone else then we haven't learned anything from this whole episode.

Derek Wall said...


Jim Jay said...

I've just seen an email from Murray Smith in which this sentence really stands out

"In the present situation, it is, as it turns out, very fortunate that Sheridan gave up the idea of trying to take over the SSP and left to form Solidarity. So it won’t be two SSP MSPs and several other members who are faced with perjury charges, but leading members of Solidarity. That makes the line between the plotters and perjurers on the one hand and the honest socialists on the other much clearer. And the SSP is quite right to demand now that Sheridan and Byrne resign their seats in Parliament and are replaced by SSP members."

Which I thought was worth passing on

Incidently, apparently the News of the World has only just started and next weekend there will be more revelations... hmmm

AN said...

When david says: "we could just keep massive egos out of the Left."

I fear that actually we need egotists (I would wouldn't I!), because the process of being a hard arsed perosn who will stand up against majority opinion and pressure requires a bit of ego.

The issue is of course keeping people accountable, and I think at least the SSP had a good go at trying to keep Sheridan accountable, and the distance they pput between themsewlves and his court case will stand them in good stead and bind loyalty with the members who stayed.

A bigger problem are the "Leninist" groups where people can develop big egos not in the actual movement, but within the hot house of their own structures.

BTW there is a good discussion of this developing wiith SWP member Snowaball over at :

Anonymous said...

I just don't understand why people like the SWP went with Sheridan.It was clear it was him splitting a united party and slurring comrades.

I hope they march their troops back into the SSP, if they can.

Liz said...

Don't you guys think (supposing the tape was genuine, which I'm not convinced of) that to record a friend of yours speaking for the purposes of later using what he said against him is pretty low? I do. Giving it to Murdoch and all.

You guys seem to be defending that nasty little clique no matter what. And to go to the police over that money - clearly they are not serious socialists. Not only NOTW but the police now. What nastiness. I used to admire the SSP. Now I only despise them (and this isn't the only reason).

Jim Jay said...

It's traditional to use the singular rather than plural when talking to one person. I am not a "you guys".

There is no "no matter what" - the SSP did not hand the tape over. The making of and handing over of the tape was not an SSP decision so it has no bearing on how serious they are as socialists.

Both sides of the debate have serious solcialists. But Solidarity members have forgotten that you never lie to the class.

Liz said...

Sorry Jim - I meant you guys as you and Andy. I'm sure there are serious socialists in the organisation, but I can't deny that I distrust their leadership intensely. Handing over the tape was not their decision, true. But they seem to have been uncritical of the person, only saying that it vindicates them. I was also talking of the money issue - there could have been another way to resolve that without calling the police (and it seems disputable as to who exactly the money belonged to anyway).