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Tommy Sheridan

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God Save the King?
Try to understand that Tommy is a divisive and manipulative character. By all means go along, but don't for a minute imagine that this is an open, inclusive and friendly event. This is ego at its most manipulative.
—Rosie Kane, former colleague of Tommy Sheridan in the Scottish Socialist Party, endorses a Sheridan speaking engagement in 2015.[1]
Tommy Sheridan is a liar. He remains the Lance Armstrong of Scottish politics.
—Colin Fox, another former colleague of Tommy Sheridan in the SSP[2]

Tommy Sheridan (Scots language nickname: "Tam the Tan"[3]) is a Scottish socialist politician who for years has enlivened the national mood with his zany antics. Once upon a time, he was a worthy campaigner, perhaps even a noble figure, a Robin Hood standing up for the right of poor people threatened by unjust taxes. However, he soon fell victim to the left's propensity for schisms and self-destruction. He became involved in an unfortunate but hilarious scandal over allegations he had visited a swingers' club (a victimless "crime" so long as he wasn't hiding it from his wife), and was convicted of perjuring himself in the subsequent defamation trial. This collided with the News of the World phone-tapping scandal, and oh my!

He has been a member of or represented the following political parties: Scottish Labour Party, Scottish Militant Labour, Scottish Socialist Alliance, Scottish Socialist Party, Solidarity, No2EU.

Poll Tax protests[edit]

Sheridan was born in Glasgow in 1964 and as a student at Stirling University in the 1980s he joined left-wing entryist group Militant, which sought to infiltrate the Labour Party and move it towards Trotskyist communism. After being expelled from the Labour Party in 1989, he stood for the UK parliament as a Scottish Militant Labour candidate in 1992. He was a leader of Scottish campaigns against the Community Charge (or Poll Tax, as it was generally known). He took direct action to prevent warrant sales (where property of those owing the tax was seized by sheriff officers - the Scottish name for bailiffs - for subsequent public sale). Later, as a member of the Scottish Parliament, he would introduce legislation banning warrant sales entirely.

The Poll Tax was imposed on Scotland before other parts of the UK. Despite its massive unpopularity in Scotland, Margaret Thatcher's government then introduced it elsewhere. This was arguably a major factor in her political demise.

As a result of his disrupting warrant sales and protesting against nuclear weapons, he was jailed a number of times for breach of the peace and violating court orders. While in prison he was elected as a councillor for Pollok ward in Glasgow.[1] The unpopularity of the Poll Tax led to his rise in popularity, and he became a folk hero to some in Scotland.

Scottish Socialist Party[edit]

He was one of the founders of the Scottish Socialist Alliance in 1996, which became the Scottish Socialist Party in 1998. He was elected to the Scottish Parliament via the party list in 1999 and 2003. During this time, he successfully introduced sensible legislation on debt recovery and land ownership.

Groovy times[edit]

In November 2004 the News of the World newspaper published allegations that he had visited a swingers' club in Manchester, despite being married to glamorous air stewardess Gail; Sheridan sued for defamation. As if this wasn't exciting enough, further murk was thrown on the proceedings by allegations about internal strife in the Scottish Socialist Party. When SSP members testified that Sheridan had admitted his swinging to the party's executive, Sheridan claimed the entire party leadership had lied to get rid of him.[4] He said MI5 had also been involved in the conspiracy.

Sheridan won the court case, however improbably, being awarded GBP 200,000.[2] But the News of the World produced a rather vague video recording which showed Sheridan admitting his guilt. Sheridan was put on trial for perjury, over claims he had lied in court during the original libel case. He was convicted and sentenced to 3 years in jail.[4] However, even then the case was not yet over. One of the newspapermen testifying against Sheridan was Andy Coulson, who was meanwhile implicated for illegal phone hacking at the News of the World. Since Coulson had specifically denied hacking phones in court, he too was put on trial for perjury. In 2015, a Scottish court found that even if Coulson had lied, it didn't have any bearing on the trial's outcome, and therefore he hadn't broken the law.[5]

Sheridan did eventually receive the £ 200,000, and costs, but in 2018 lost an attempt to receive another £ 200,000 in interest owing to the many delays. The judge, Lord Turnbull, explained that Sheridan wasn't entitled to the extra money because his own conduct had left much to be desired: "I know of no other civil case in which a litigant, who sought to vindicate his reputation through an action for defamation, emerged as a criminal convicted of perjury and at the same time secured an award of very substantial sum of money."[6]

Many members of the Scottish Socialist Party behaved predictably and the inevitable split happened. A number of rumours flew around, some of them unlikely, or even impossible. The party's militant feminist wing was particularly critical of his sexploits. Members of the party either supported Sheridan and left, or stayed with the party. Either way, Scotland's most successful socialist party in decades was effectively neutralised, and it has never regained the same level of electoral support.

Politicians or individuals who threaten the British establishment have a curious tendency to end up in sex scandals after they become successful - other examples include Charles Parnell (whose adultery scandal set back Irish nationalism for decades), Jeremy Thorpe (the Liberal who threatened Britain's Labour/Tory two-party system), Julian Assange etc. Whether an intelligence operation or not, the exposure of Sheridan's sleazy sex life should not have been enough to split the party down the middle, but it did rid the British state of a problem.


Following his falling-out with most of the SSP, Sheridan formed a new party, Solidarity, but failed to get elected to the Scottish parliament in 2007. He campaigned for independence in the 2014 referendum, but several pro-independence groups refused to have anything to do with him (Women for Independence, Labour for Independence, Generation Yes, and the Radical Independence Campaign). This was either a case of "no platforming" due to his alleged behaviour towards women, or because they thought he'd lose them votes.[7]

At the 2015 general election, he called for his supporters to vote Scottish National Party, despite the SNP being centrists or centre-left rather than socialists; as a result the left wing of Solidarity quit.[8][9] For the 2016 Scottish parliament elections, Solidarity is standing against RISE, the Scottish leftist alliance which includes the remains of the Scottish Socialist Party. Because one socialist party would struggle to get enough votes for a seat, but with 2 rival parties it'll be almost impossible.

He stood for the European Parliament in 2009 on the ticket of No2EU, the left-wing Eurosceptic grouping. He also appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2009[10], following in the footsteps of fellow Scottish maverick George Galloway. Although like Galloway, Sheridan's chief political cause often seems to be self-promotion, Sheridan's politics have never sunk to the depths of Galloway's antisemitism and rape apologetics. And he was quite sensible while leading the Scottish Socialist Party in the Scottish parliament.


  1. 1.0 1.1 See the Wikipedia article on Tommy Sheridan.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Sheridan's fight against perjury conviction suffers setback, The Herald, 3 May 2015
  3. So called because Sheridan is a well known afficinado of tanning salons, and is notoriously well bronzed.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Tommy Sheridan found guilty of perjury, BBC, 23 Dec 2010
  5. Andy Coulson cleared of perjury as Scottish court case collapses, The Guardian, 3 Jun 2015
  6. Ex-MSP Tommy Sheridan fails in legal bid to secure extra £200,000, The Scotsman, 8 March 2018
  7. Sheridan frozen out of Yes campaign, The Herald, 15 June 2014
  8. Solidarity faces breakaway over Tommy Sheridan's support for SNP, The Herald, 17 Mar 2015
  9. Tommy Sheridan’s “Hope over Fear”: Cheerleaders for the Scottish National Party, World Socialist Web Site, 28 April 2015
  10. See the Wikipedia article on Celebrity Big Brother 6.