Scotland: News of the World offensive against Tommy Sheridan

THE NEWS of the World (NoW), who suffered a sensational defeat at the hands of Tommy Sheridan in his defamation case against them in August, has unleashed a massive new offensive against him.

On 1 October, NoW claimed to have bought a video tape from a member of the SSP and the United Left faction, which is the de facto leadership of the SSP. The tape for which the NoW paid a reported £20,000, the NoW claims, shows Tommy Sheridan admitting to an SSP member and former friend, George McNeilage, that he did visit a swingers’ club in Manchester. Something he denied in court.

The NoW have said that this video tape was secretly recorded by McNeilage in his house in November 2004, a few days after the SSP Executive Committee meeting that effectively sacked Tommy Sheridan as SSP convenor.

Tommy Sheridan has condemned the video as a fabrication. The NoW have handed the tape to the police. In a separate development the Scottish Procurator Fiscal has announced a police inquiry into the whole case to see whether perjury was committed by any side during the defamation trial.

This continued campaign by the NoW, with the backing and the resources of the Murdoch media empire, is an attack on Tommy Sheridan for having the temerity to defeat the biggest media organisation internationally.

But it is also, and is primarily so, an attack on a socialist. Someone who, despite the political differences we have with Tommy Sheridan, has been the most prominent advocate of socialist ideas in Scotland over the last decade-and-a-half. Someone who, when he was a member of the Militant and the CWI, played a leading role in the mass anti-poll tax struggle.

There is no group of workers in struggle, no fighting trade union or socialist leader who has not been attacked, targeted and vilified by the Murdoch press. There is no prominent socialist or trade unionist who will not be attacked by organisations like News International in the future. That is why the International Socialists welcomed Tommy Sheridan’s victory over the NoW in August.

We described it as victory for all socialists and the left internationally over one of the most vicious anti-working class, anti-trade union and anti-women gutter rags in the world.

Conversely, if the NoW succeeds in their campaign against Tommy Sheridan it will represent a setback for socialists. The NoW campaign is being waged to intimidate, cow and bully all those prepared to put their heads above the parapet and speak out for workers’ rights and socialist ideas.

If Tommy Sheridan were to be defeated by this campaign, which reportedly has the backing, if not active encouragement of Rupert Murdoch personally, it would be used to deliver a message to all those prepared to challenge the big business and capitalist class interests that News International defends.

It is against this background that the actions of the SSP leadership, who are now acting in concert with the NoW and News International, have to be condemned. Rather than accept Tommy Sheridan’s victory in August they used it as a green light to go on the offensive against him.

The pages of The Sun and the NoW have become more akin to the in-house journals of the SSP leadership since Tommy Sheridan’s victory. With page after page devoted to prominent SSP members who have demanded police enquiries, perjury investigations, and now the resignations of Tommy Sheridan and fellow Solidarity MSP Rosemary Byrne from the Scottish parliament.

But it was the SSP leadership that kept detailed so-called ‘minutes’ of the November 2004 Executive Committee, which claimed that Tommy Sheridan admitted visiting a swingers’ club in Manchester. These minutes, deliberately and consciously kept, were clearly designed to force Sheridan to drop the defamation case or face the consequences in court.

As the NoW case gradually fell to pieces during the defamation case the NoW increasingly had to rely on the SSP members to undermine Tommy Sheridan’s case. Eleven SSP members, who the NoW described on Sunday as "men and women of honour" and "decent and honest", gave evidence for the NoW in court. The SSP’s website and newspaper has been dedicated to their continued campaign against Tommy Sheridan – no wonder the SSP are being dubbed the Stop Sheridan Party.

And now we have the making and then selling of a "video" to the NoW, clearly in an effort to destroy Tommy Sheridan. How ironic it is that the "men and women of honour" in the SSP leadership and their supporters are now prepared to provide the NoW with the bullets and the guns to politically and personally assassinate Tommy Sheridan.

How ironic is it that the "decent and honest" SSP leaders seem to have forgotten the role of News International against the print workers and their unions during the Wapping dispute in 1986-87.

The SSP leadership are dragging the name of socialism through the mud. While discrediting themselves, they seem to have no motivation other than to assist the bitterest enemies of socialism and the working class in their campaign against Tommy Sheridan.

The International Socialists will continue to fight these attacks by Murdoch and others, which are aimed at politically destroying Tommy Sheridan, and through him, the socialist movement in Scotland.

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October 2006