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Tommy Sheridan (born 7 March 1964, Glasgowmarker) is a Scottishmarker socialist politician. He has had various prominent roles within the socialist movement in Scotlandmarker and is currently one of two co-convenors of the left-wing Scottish political party Solidarity.

He attended the Roman Catholic schools of St Monica's Primary and Lourdes Secondary before entering the University of Stirling, from which he graduated with an honours degree in Economics. He obtained a MSc in Social Research at the University of Strathclyde in 2008. He is currently studying law at Strathclyde Law School, on the two year fastrack degree.

Sheridan was active as a Militant tendency entryist in the Labour Party, before leaving Labour as a member of Scottish Militant Labour (SML). He was a leading campaigner against the poll tax in Scotland, and was jailed for six months for attending a warrant sale after Glasgowmarker Sheriff Court had served a court order on him banning his presence. He has also been jailed twice as a consequence of his campaigning against the presence of the nuclear fleet at Faslane Naval Basemarker.

In 2006 in the case of Sheridan v News International he won an action for defamation against the News of the World and was awarded £200,000 damages. On Sunday 16 December 2007, Tommy Sheridan was charged with perjury In the following weeks half a dozen of his relations and colleagues were also charged. On 27 January 2009, he was indicted to stand trial for perjury, together with this wife, Gail. Sheridan has previously stated "the streets of Lothian must be crime-free if the police can devote time to harassing a family", following the charging of two with perjury, not to mention five others who "are my friends".

Since leaving Holyroodmarker, he has pursued a media career, with a chat show on Talk 107, a show at the Edinburgh Fringe and appearing on Celebrity Big Brother 2009 for a reported fee of £100,000. He has justified this appearance by saying that he needed the money and that it is "..an honest offer of employment. I'm not crossing a picket line. I'm not hurting anyone."

It was announced in March 2009 that Sheridan would be standing as a candidate in the 2009 European Parliament elections for No to the EU – Yes to Democracy, a left-wing alter-globalisation coalition led by RMT union leader Bob Crow, although there appeared to be some confusion over whether he would take up his seat if elected.

Political career

Militant tendency

Sheridan was a prominent member of the Militant tendency whilst a student at Stirling University. After graduating he went to Cardonald College as a typing student as part of an (unsuccessful) effort on the part of Militant to recruit Scottish Labour Students in further-education colleges. The Labour Party leadership under Neil Kinnock was determined to remove any member of the Militant tendency and Sheridan himself was expelled from the Labour Party in 1989.

From within the Militant, he was the public face of a mass non-payment campaign against the poll tax in Scotland (where it was introduced a year earlier than other parts of the UK). The campaign involving the refusal to pay the tax, together with resistance to warrant sales which local councils held to try to recoup the money, was ultimately successful and Sheridan became a popular political figure. With Joan McAlpine, he published A Time to Rage which chronicled the anti-poll tax movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Joan has since written about the young man she knew during that turbulent youthful period, with reference in particular to the libel case.

As the highest profile Militant member in Scotland, Sheridan was a leading figure in the group's split in the early 1990s. Expelled from the Labour Party in 1989 he was emboldened by the success of the campaign against the poll tax; many Militant members - particularly in Scotland - argued for the abandonment of entryism and for the creation of Scottish Militant Labour and Militant Labour in England and Wales as separate political parties.

The argument was resolved when Sheridan and his supporters won a vote at a special conference held in Bridlington in October 1991, defeating the faction around Militant founder Ted Grant who argued against abandoning the Labour Party. The result was a split in the Militant in what has become known as the "Scottish Turn". Sheridan and Scottish Militant Labour enjoyed a brief success in its first few years. However, political developments in Scotland, with a strong nationalist party (SNP), and a feeling that the left could fill a demand for socialist politics caused in part by the rightward shift of New Labour, Scottish Militant Labour argued in favour of founding a new, left-wing political party. Discussions were held with other left-wing and Scottish republican groups and a new group was formed in 1996 known initially as the Scottish Socialist Alliance. In 1998, the new Scottish Socialist Party was formed from the SSA. Differences over political strategy and priorities within the CWI soon surfaced, especially on the issue of Scottish independence, leading to a split within the CWI and Sheridan along with the majority of Scottish supporters left the organisation.

Sheridan fought two elections while in prison, coming second in the Pollok constituency at the 1992 General Election, beating both the Conservatives and the Scottish National Party. A few weeks later he won the Pollokmarker ward on Glasgow City Councilmarker. He contested the European Parliamentmarker election in 1994 as the SML candidate in Glasgow, and came third with 8% of votes cast.

Scottish Socialist Party

Tommy Sheridan was a leading figure in the negotiations to establish the Scottish Socialist Alliance in 1996, which evolved into the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) in 1998. He was elected to the Scottish Parliamentmarker in 1999 as a Glasgow representative and re-elected in 2003. Together with Alan McCombes he published Imagine, an outline of the principles of socialism for a modern era.

He was the convenor of the SSP from its formation until 11 November 2004, when he resigned, citing as a prime reason his wife Gail expecting their first child. The resignation was steeped in controversy. After his announcement that he was stepping down for family reasons, the News of the World ran a series of articles, among other allegations claiming that he had had an extramarital affair. Sheridan strenuously denied the accusations and quickly announced his intention to sue.

The minutes of the meeting which detailed the deliberations leading to Sheridan's resignation were kept confidential until subpoenaed by News International. Alan McCombes was ordered to appear before judge Lady Smith at the Court of Sessionmarker, Edinburghmarker, when he refused to release the minutes. He was jailed for 12 days, at which point the party agreed to hand over the minutes as part of the subsequent court case and were then made public. The minutes included a discussion about a recent article in the News of the World which alleged that a married MSP had visited a swingers' club in Manchester, and also the alleged admission by Sheridan "that he had in fact visited the club on two occasions, in 1996 and 2002 with close friends. Some of those present at the meeting were later cited as witnesses for News International, including Alan McCombes, the then MSP's Rosie Kane, Carolyn Leckie, and then Glasgow City Councillor and best man at Sheridan's wedding, Keith Baldassara, to give evidence that they had heard Sheridan acknowledge he had been "reckless" in his behaviour which had, with hindsight, been "a mistake" and that "his strategy was to deny the allegations". Others present, notably Rosemary Byrne MSP, gave evidence that Sheridan had made no such statement. The disputed minutes recorded that Sheridan left the meeting early, but before leaving, according to the minute, "he repeated that he did not believe there was any evidence which would prove him to be lying. He did not accept that he should admit the visits to the club and felt that no-one should comment on private lives". Sheridan claimed in court that the minute was not accurate and that he had denied visiting the swingers' club.

At the annual conference of the SSP in early 2005 Sheridan was elected to the SSP executive and at the March 2006 conference he was elected as party co-chair. However Sheridan announced that he was leaving the SSP in August 2006, after his prominent court-case victory, accusing the SSP of being part of "the mother of all stitch ups" involving not only their leadership, but also MI5marker and News International..

Solidarity (Scotland)

In September 2006 Tommy Sheridan announced the formation of a new political party in Scotland named Solidarity, with fellow MSP Rosemary Byrne co-leading. Sheridan narrowly failed to be re-elected in the 2007 Holyrood election as top of his party's list nominees for Glasgow. The party also stood a candidate in the Glasgow East by-election, 2008 (finishing sixth in a nine-person race) and the Glenrothes by-election, 2008 (finishing last amongst eight candidates).

Defamation action

See main article Sheridan v News International.


Hearings in Sheridan's defamation case against the publishers of the News of the World began in the Court of Sessionmarker in Edinburghmarker on 4 July 2006. Unusually in Scottish civil proceedings, the case was heard before a jury.

The jury heard allegations that Sheridan had visited a swingers clubs in Manchestermarker and engaged in adulterous affairs with two women. Sheridan, who claims to be a teetotaller, reportedly drunk champagne and consumed cocaine during an extramarital liaison. Sheridan denies drinking the champagne and the claim of substance abuse. Eleven members of the SSP's executive committee testified that he admitted in an Executive committee meeting to attending a swingers club with women, but another four members of the SSP who were present at that Executive meeting backed Sheridan's claim that he made no such admission at that meeting.

On 14 July 2006, Sheridan sacked his legal team and announced that he would represent himself following controversy over the source of a question over credit card fraud addressed to one of the witnesses.

On 4 August 2006, Sheridan won his case with a majority verdict of 7 - 4 and the jury awarded him maximum damages of £200,000. The News of the World has appealed the verdict. In the Scottish Socialist Voice of 8 August, a letter signed by a further six leading members of the SSP claimed that Sheridan had told them that he had admitted at an SSP Executive meeting to attending the Manchester swingers club.

The News of the World announced its intention to appeal what they described as the "perverse" decision in the immediate aftermath of the trial, and a provisional date for the hearing was set for December 2007, however it was postponed until the procurator fiscal announced the outcome of the perjury probe..

Allegations of witness intimidation

On 10 October 2006, BBC News reported that Grampian Police were investigating a claim by Fiona McGuire, who had been a witness in the trial for the News of the World, that she had received a death threat through the post. In a statement to the BBC, Sheridan said: "I utterly condemn any threats to Fiona McGuire or any other individual".

On 26 August 2007, the Sunday Herald reported that John Lynn had been questioned by detectives about allegations of witness tampering. Lynn is reportedly an associate of Paul Ferris, a reformed criminal who has become friendly with Sheridan. The report said Helen Allison, who claimed in court that she saw Sheridan having sex in a Glasgow hotel, had been approached by Lynn who asked her not to give evidence. Lynn was once jailed for 17 years for shooting an Ulster barman.

Hidden video

On 1 October 2006, the News of the World reignited controversy by publishing what it claimed was new evidence in support of its claim that Sheridan lied to the Court of Session. The newspaper said it was a video recording of Tommy Sheridan admitting he visited a swingers club in Manchester on two occasions and further, that he (Sheridan) had, as other senior SSP members claimed in court, admitted this at an Executive meeting of the SSP. The tape had been made without Sheridan's knowledge using a hidden camera by SSP member George McNeillage in McNeillage's house after he invited Sheridan there. McNeillage had been one of three best men at Sheridan's wedding.

The transcript, and excerpts from the tape, can be found on the News of the World website. The full legal implications of the tape are not yet clear.

Tommy Sheridan does not appear on the video at any time. The newspaper has not been able to produce any images from the video showing Sheridan's face and Sheridan says the video is a fake. He conceded his voice was on the tape but suggested it was "spliced" with clips of someone else's. [44494]The News of the World claimed four independent voice analysts confirmed that the voice on the tape is Tommy Sheridan's. But in an interview with the BBC a forensic speech scientist, Peter French, said: "Experts should never say conclusively they have identified a person and this kind of evidence should never solely be used to bring a criminal trial".

Sheridan then suggested that MI5, the Bush government, the SSP and Rupert Murdoch conspired to concoct the videotape to undermine his campaign for an independent socialist Scotland.

Perjury probe

The conflicting evidence given during the trial resulted in the judge warning several witnesses about the implications of perjuring themselves.

On Monday 7 August 2006, Lothian and Borders Police said they had received two complaints of possible perjury during the hearing, one from the former Conservative MSP Brian Monteith, the other alleged to be from the SSP's minutes secretary and confirmed they were in consultation with the Crown Office on whether to investigate.

On 22 August 2006, the Crown Office announced it had instructed the Edinburgh Procurators Fiscal office to examine all of the evidence given in the defamation case and ascertain if there were grounds for a criminal investigation. On 2 October 2006, the fiscal at Edinburgh concluded there were grounds and ordered Lothian and Borders Police to carry out a criminalinvestigation . On 21 February 2007, The Herald reported that the Crown Office had asked Lothian and Borders Police to undertake a full inquiry after receiving a preliminary report.

In March 2007, Sheridan claimed his car had been bugged. He said he didn't believe MI5 were responsible. He also denied that he had been responsible for planting the device as a diversion to the mounting perjury investigation.

In May 2007, it was reported that staff at Cupids Swingers Club in Manchester had told police they had been offered bribes not to co-operate with the inquiry.

On 16 December 2007, Sheridan was charged with perjury in relation to the News of the World case. In a public statement outside the police station he attributed his arrest to the "powerful reach" of the Murdoch press. On 20 February 2008, The Times reported Sheridan's wife, Gail, had been charged with perjury along with former SSP MSP Rosemary Byrne, and former members of the SSP Executive Committee, Patricia Smith, Graeme McIver, Jock Penman. Sheridan's father-in-law, Angus Healey was also charged.

On 2 January 2009, it was reported that the Crown Office had until March 2009 to decide whether or not to proceed with the prosecution of Sheridan and his co-accused. It was also reported his bail conditions required him to notify the authorities of a temporary change of address to Elstree Studios in London during his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother. On 27 January 2009 it was announced that Sheridan and his wife had been indicted for perjury, and had been summoned to attend a pre-trial hearing at Edinburgh High Court on 26 February. The trial is expected to take place later in 2009. .On 13 February, it was reported that both sides in the perjury case had successfully applied for a postponement of the preliminary hearing. The hearing will now take place on 11 May 2009. .

The costs of the case up to the point where Sheridan was indicted had reached a minimum of £1.5 million

It was reported in the Scottish press on 25 September 2009 that, the perjury trial which is due to start in around four months "will have about 180 witnesses and is expected to last three months, which would make Scotland's longest perjury case". It was also reported that Sheridan's defence team has dropped Donald Findlay one of Scotland’s top QCs who had been working on the case since December 2007. He will be replaced by Maggie Scott QC, who until recently led the appeal by the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi.

Support for Sheridan

On 17 December 2007 Sunday Herald columnist Iain McWhirter questioned the investigation saying "it is hard not to conclude that the police's diligence has been inspired by Rupert Murdoch's News International."

A campaign by Sheridan's supporters, 'Defend Tommy Sheridan' was launched, calling for answers into the nature of this investigation and the reasons behind it. The campaign has received widespread support and funding from individuals, political campaigners and civil rights activists, including high-profile left-wing politician George Galloway MP: John McManus, head of MOJO, the organisation which campaigns against miscarriages of justice: The Royale Family actor and left-wing political campaigner Ricky Tomlinson: Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six: Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four: Singers Paul Heaton (Beautiful South) and Edwyn Collins.Leading trade unionists Bob Crow (RMT), Janice Godrich (PCS), Kenny Ross (FBU) all support the campaign as do many on the political left in Scotland and throughout Britain and beyond.

On 21 February 2008, Daily Telegraph columnist Alan Cochrane questioned the treatment of the Sheridans by the police and claimed that his view was shared by "Senior members of Scotland's legal fraternity, including some with the closest of links to the Scottish Executive".

On 23 February, Iain Hamilton QC, in his personal blog 'a drunk man looks at the thistle' asked "Tommy Sheridan has been vindicated by a jury of his peers. A jury heard the evidence and awarded him damages. It is no part of the duty of our police to prove the jury wrong and a newspaper right. Edinburgh and Lothians Police are conducting a vendetta against justice itself. Who can curb these officers who are clearly out of control?"

In June 2008 a packed rally of the Defend Tommy Sheridan Campaign, heard speeches from Paddy Hill convicted on fabricated police evidence and jailed for 17 years for bombing pubs in Birminghammarker and Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four, another who was framed by police officers and spent 15 years in jail for a crime he did not committ. Fire Brigades Union leader Kenny Ross and other speakers attacked the motives for the investigation, questioned the role of the police and Crown Office and slammed the witnesses who had stood against Tommy Sheridan in the original hearing.

On 11 February 2009, Scottish law magazine "The Firm" claimed that Police had put "incredible pressure' on the Crown Office to proceed with a case against Gail and Tommy Sheridan. Lothian and Borders Police and the Crown Office deny the claims.

Celebrity career

In 2001, Sheridan provided vocals for "Daddy dog", a single and track on the album "Popartglory" by Scottish band Jasmine Minks, released on Alan McGee's label Poptones. Tommy Sheridan had a weekly Sunday morning show on Talk 107 for 18 months, but the station did not renew his contract due to cutbacks and changes to programming that saw Mike Graham and others leave Talk107. He hosted a chat show during the Edinburgh fringe in 2007, which received muted reviews. He appeared in the Celebrity version of Big Brother UK. He was the fourth person to enter the Big Brother House, and the fifth to be evicted (during the double eviction on 21 January 2009). He received mixed reactions from the crowd upon both entry and exit, and admitted during the post-eviction interview that his primary motivation for taking part was that he "needed the money".

References

  1. Scots Law News, Edinburgh Law School
  2. Sheridan charged in perjury probe", BBC News, 16 December 2007
  3. Ian Dow "Gail Sheridan Charged With Perjury", Daily Record, February 20, 2008
  4. Mark Smith "Exclusive: Tommy Sheridan to stand for Euro elections", Daily Record, 10 March 2009
  5. "No To EU - RMT launches election campaign", Socialist Worker, 24 March 2009
  6. http://www.legalprospects.com/cgi-bin/directnews_view_article.cgi?article_id=17442813&channel_page_code=LEGSEC
  7. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/5253328.stm
  8. Paul Hutcheon "Police investigate ‘bribery’ allegation in Sheridan case", Sunday Herald, c.18 March 2007. Retrieved on 3 August 2007.
  9. BBC NEWS | Scotland | Sheridan charged in perjury probe
  10. http://www.theherald.co.uk/news/news/display.var.2484960.0.Tommy_and_Gail_Sheridan_indicted_on_perjury_charge.php
  11. http://www.journal-online.co.uk/article/5438-sheridan-back-in-dock-for-perjury
  12. http://www.defendtommysheridan.org/defend/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=25&Itemid=28
  13. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/alancochrane/3555267/Dark-days-for-Tommy-Sheridan---and-justice.html
  14. http://ianhamiltonqc.com/blog/
  15. http://www.thefirmmagazine.com
  16. jasmine minks Popartglory
  17. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/7323369.stm | title=Sheridan dropped from radio show | date=1 April 2008


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