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More On Tommy Sheridan

Iain Macwhirter takes a good look at the potential fall-out from Tommygate - if I just coined that, sorry - in yesterday’s Sunday Herald, drawing rather bleak conclusions, for the Party, if not for Tommy Sheridan:

The other explanation [for the Party sacking Sheridan] is that the SSP has become afflicted by the divisive germ that seems to destroy all far-left parties eventually. It’s an old story. Small-minded people with big ideas about themselves allow personal jealousy and resentment to cloud their political judgement. No longer prepared to walk in Sheridan’s shadow, and convinced his celebrity was somehow unsocialist, they subjected their leader to a kind of witch-hunt.

…In sacking him, the SSP are in danger of sacking themselves. According to John Curtice of Strathclyde University, the SSP needs only to lose 1% of its vote at the next election to lose all its MSPs. Except Tommy. He will likely go from strength to strength as an independent MSP in a parliament where individualism is seen as a political virtue.

Backing up the suspicion that it’s the old lefty malaise - splitters! - to blame is another Sunday Herald report, featuring some rather peculiar doublethink from SSP policy coordinator (and, if I remember rightly, SSP cofounder) Alan McCombes, who apparently believes that Sheridan is both telling the truth, albeit ‘in his own terms’, and also ‘building a tower of lies’ in his legal dealings with the murky Murdoch press. The piece also confirms earlier suspicions that it was Sheridan’s insitence on that legal action that cost him his job. There was more graceless talk last week, too, this time from long-time Sheridan ally Frances Curran, who tied herself in knots on Newsnight trying to avoid even hinting that she supported her old pal.

I don’t know if Iain Macwhirter’s gloomy assesment is on the money or not. I’d like to think that the SSP’s recent electoral success isn’t just down to them, until recently, having a nice man with a tan to go on the telly. But then Sheridan, as I said before, just plain is the Party for most people outside it. So, assuming Sheridan will remain safely ensconced in Parliament as an independent1, while his former colleagues flounder too long under collective leadership (sorry, convenorship), the outlook for the Party could be pretty bleak. Though, to be fair, Alan McCombes, talking more sensibly to the Guardian this time, is probably right to suggest that it’s wrong to see Sheridan’s departure as an absolute disaster, and to argue that folk do vote ‘for the message not the messenger’ (He doesn’t say that a bit of chaos is the norm in the Party, and their refusal to run a tight ‘on message’ ship endears them to voters more than their sometimes shambolic ways puts them off, another reason why the scandal and its mishandling might not be as bad for them as it currently appears to be).

However this mess ends - and there’s talk of more revalations in the papers in the coming week - the whole situation is very depressing, brothers and sisters, very depressing indeed.

1 - See the comments for clarification of this point. As Alister Black points out, there is no suggestion at present that Sheridan will leave the SSP.

Posted at 5pm on 22/11/04 by Jack Mottram to the politics category.
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  1. Depressing yes, but why does the article say Tommy will be an independent? He is still an SSP member and MSP. I can’t see that changing. Furthermore John Curtice’s calculations don’t add up. We would lose two out of six with a 1% drop. And a lot can happen in two years.

    Posted by alister at 2pm on 24.11.04

  2. Good point, Alister - I’ll add a note to the post to clear that up, sorry for letting it slip past.

    Though now you’ve got me wondering about Tommy’s future in the party. I mean, it’s conceivable that certain groups within the SSP might not be too keen on him remaining a ‘backbencher’ with an abnormally high profile (eg. if Tommy took a stand against some future SSP policy it would naturally lead to voter confusiion, or, worse still, you could end up with an unnofficial Sheridan-supporting platform within the Party, organising against whoever ends up on top/the collective leadership)

    Posted by Jack Mottram at 3pm on 24.11.04

  3. Looks like someone else beat you to the TommyGate title - there’s already a satirical website going by that name.

    Posted by Tommy Gates at 10pm on 24.11.04

  4. Yeah, I saw that after posting yesterday. ‘Satirical’ is pushing it a bit, though. ‘Crap’ is probably closer!

    Posted by Jack Mottram at 10am on 25.11.04

  5. I think that everyone in the SSP wants Tommy to stay as a member and MSP. I certainly do. A Salmond-like return to the leadership would be a strong possibility too at some point in the future.
    Right now we need to unite and focus.

    Posted by alister at 4pm on 26.11.04

  6. I think that everyone in the SSP wants Tommy to stay as a member and MSP.


    Right now we need to unite and focus.

    Can’t argue with that, Alister!

    Speaking as a non-member, but as someone who tends to vote for the SSP, it’s not Tommy’s alleged naughtiness that would put me off if I were a potential first time SSP voter, it’s the growing impression that the party is soured by factions and fighting. (Not, obviously, that I’m going to start voting Labour because they’re all on message!)

    Interesting that you see Tommy doing a Salmond at some point - it’s a shame this wasn’t handles better, as a quiet and quick resignation, followed by a quiet period in Parliament, then a return to the leadership would’ve worked well for everyone (bar the anti-Sheridan types), but now the story is going to run and run, and the press will be digging for splits in the Party, which I imagine will make it more and more tricky for Tommy to return.

    Posted by Jack Mottram at 4pm on 26.11.04

  7. as a party member tommy has dragged us into oblivion based on his arrogance.. all the ordinary activist are confused and hurt by his actions, his morales and lack of character… he has at every turn sought to damage the party by his self seeking arrogant selfishness…return never he is no longer considered a socialist by large sways of this party .. and the unholy alliance of the swp and cwi who are supporting tommy want the ssp destroyed the swp want respect to come north and the cwi to substantuate there old style dogma of flawed politics..

    Posted by alan at 8pm on 15.07.06

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