A packed and inspiring rally of 250 people turned up on Saturday in Glasgow to pledge their support for Tommy Sheridan as well as Gail Sheridan and her father Gus Healey, Graeme McIver, Rosemary Byrne, Jock Penman and Pat Smith who are all facing charges of perjury following Sheridan’s momentous victory in a defamation case against the ’News of the World’ in 2006.
The rally began with messages of support from the actor and previously jailed building worker, Ricky Tomlinson, and Bob Crow, General Secretary of the RMT. The rally was inundated with messages of support from socialists and trade unionists across the world, including many from CWI members which were distributed in a leaflet to all those attending the rally.
Janice Godrich, President of the PCS and a CWI member, opened the rally and talked about the record of her socialist led union in defending jobs and services, making the link that, as socialists, we do have an alternative to the madness of the so-called free market.
Kenny Ross, Scottish Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union gave the unconditional support of the FBU, including financially. The London region, Northern Ireland and the Scottish regions of the FBU have backed the campaign and agreed financial support. He said that supporting Tommy Sheridan and the others was the right thing to do as they had a proven record in fighting for workers’ rights going back decades. He described his shock at former comrades of Tommy Sheridan giving evidence in support of the Murdoch press claiming they had no choice. Kenny angrily proclaimed "They had a choice, and on every occasion they chose to side against the movement. It’s a sordid story of disgrace and dishonour, they can never be trusted again - they are class traitors".
Jim Walls, the TGWU Convenor of opencast coal miners in Ayrshire and Margaret White a former Sunvic striker in Lanarkshire repeated the point that Tommy Sheridan and the others facing charges were to the fore in supporting their struggles and had their full support.
Gerry Conlon, one of the ’Guildford Four’ gave a rousing speech. He said every gain for the working class has been won through struggle and how socialists like Tommy Sheridan are never welcome in the corridors of power. He exposed the link of how he himself and others were set up and framed by the state and how Labour’s proposals for extending the draconian anti-terror laws to include up to 42 days detention without charge will make things worse, in particular for young Muslims.
John McManus from the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation (MOJO) continued the theme that serious miscarriages of justice are still going on to this day. He described in detail the effect this has on those victims and their families.
Paddy Hill from the ’Birmingham Six’ talked about the further erosion of our civil liberties. He talked about the support he had received from Tommy Sheridan going back years and how proud he was to return that support. He went on to describe those who turned their back on Tommy Sheridan as "scumbags"! Paddy showed up the hypocrisy of those at the top in society when he said "How is it that the government, the police and solicitors all investigate themselves when a complaint is made against them?"
Irene Lang described her experience of the Murdoch press and how the police and criminal justice system handled her complaint. Irene was a Solidarity candidate in the local elections. The ’News of the World’ ran a story that falsely claimed she was off sick with back pain while contesting the election and demanded she should be sacked from her job as a nursery nurse. Under the Representation of the People Act, publishing rubbish like that is a criminal offence. This was reported to Strathclyde Police yet no further action was taken.
Socialist Party councillor Rob Windsor brought solidarity from the Socialist Party in England and Wales and the CWI. Rob said that, "Tommy Sheridan was unforgiven by the ruling class for his role in helping bring down Thatcher through the anti-poll tax campaign. Thatcher and Murdoch are on the same side, yet some people who call themselves socialists chose to side with the gutter press". He said that the ideas of socialism, espoused by Tommy and others, will be even more important with the impending economic crisis and finished by urging people to not only get involved in this campaign but to get involved in socialist politics by joining Solidarity.
Tommy Sheridan closed with a fighting speech welcoming the broad support received so far. The fight was not only about himself personally but was a fight for a fairer society, where the creed of greed is replaced with a socialist society that doesn’t waste £1.1 million of public money doing the bidding of the powerful and wealthy. He appealed for people to join Solidarity and help build the socialist movement in Scotland
Well over £500 was collected at the rally for the campaign.
For more information on the campaign see www.defendtommysheridan.org