Scotland: Defend Tommy and Gail Sheridan!

Political vendetta against socialist fighter continues.

Tommy and Gail Sheridan’s trial on charges of perjury will begin on 11 January 2010 at the High Court in Glasgow. Repeated Freedom of Information requests from members of Solidarity forced Lothian and Borders police to reveal that their more than two year investigation into this case has cost at least £1.8 million in public money and usurped 52,000 hours of police officers time, not to mention the public resources consumed by officials of the Scottish Crown office. One Lothian and Borders police officer was quoted as admitting that they were devoting the type of resources to this case as are normally assigned to a murder inquiry. All of this is apparently justified in an attempt to secure a prosecution of Scotland’s most recognised socialist. This case is increasingly being viewed as a political vendetta being conducted on a grand scale.

To a long litany of legal precedents will now be added the longest perjury trial in Scottish legal history. The trial of Tommy and Gail Sheridan on a total of three counts of perjury has been scheduled to last for between 8 and 12 weeks in duration. The total legal costs involved are likely to run into millions. The first ever perjury investigation following a civil trial in Scotland became the most expensive perjury investigation in Scottish legal history and will now produce the longest and one of the most expensive legal cases ever.

Not for a murder case, not for rape, drug dealing, serious assault, or terrorism – cases from which a perjury case almost never arises. No, this record breaking misuse of public resources is being directed at someone who had the temerity not only to take on and defeat the News of the World in a civil defamation case in 2006, but also to do so while dismissing his own QC and solicitor and going on to defeat a highly paid News of the World legal team while conducting his own defence. After more than three weeks a jury found that the Rupert Murdoch owned News of the World had told lies about Tommy Sheridan and awarded him £200,000 in damages, not a penny of which he has received as yet.

News of the World

This is the same News of the World which has since been exposed by the Guardian newspaper of employing private investigators to illegally tap into the phone messages of those they hope to ensnare in the gutter journalism of which the News of the World and the Sun are leading proponents off.

How ironic is it that the head of the Metropolitan Police ruled there was no need for further police action into the activities of News of the World and News International after the clearly illegal phone tapping expose. In contrast Tommy Sheridan has faced an unprecedented police investigation after inflicting a humiliating defeat on News International in 2006. It seems the rich and powerful can play to a different set of rules to a working class socialist. A lesson that the workers at Thomas Cook in Dublin, and Vestas on the Isle of Wight can testify to when they see the courts, the police and the legal system being used to break their occupations.

As any class conscious worker or active trade unionist understands the Murdoch tabloids have a long history of acting like vicious attack dogs against the trade union and socialist movement.

It was Rupert Murdoch who organised and planned the breakup of trade union rights and conditions in the print industry during the Wapping dispute in 1987.

The Sun newspaper accused the British miners of being “scum” during the great strike of 1984/5.

The Sun also lied following the Hillsborough tragedy by claiming that Liverpool supporters had urinated on the emergency services and stolen from the dead and dying.

Striking firefighters were, according to the Murdoch press, “Saddam’s Stooges” during their 2004 strike.

A record of struggle

Tommy Sheridan was clearly targeted by these reactionary defenders of big business for his role as an uncompromising fighter for the working class. He was a leader of the mass anti-poll tax campaign that led to the overthrow of the hated Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1990. Tommy Sheridan was jailed in 1992 for defying a court order banning him from attending a mass protest that stopped an attempted warrant sale in Glasgow. He was famously elected from his prison cell to Glasgow council the same year as a Scottish Militant Labour councillor.

Tommy Sheridan earned the undying hatred of the ruling class, including sections of the Scottish legal establishment, for the part he played in these momentous events. He of course fought alongside other leading figures of the anti-poll tax struggle who were organised in the ranks of the Militant (the forerunner of the International Socialists in Scotland and the Socialist Party in England and Wales) at the time.

He went on to be elected as a worker’s MSP on a workers wage to the first Scottish parliament in 1999 serving for eight years as fighter for the interests of the working class. After being jailed in 1992 for opposing Warrant Sales during the poll tax struggle Tommy Sheridan’s bill to end the use of Warrant Sales for debt in Scotland was famously passed by the Scottish parliament. He also championed the interests of workers in struggle including striking nursery nurses and fire fighters.

The trial for perjury against Tommy Sheridan and Gail Sheridan is a continuation of the vendetta by the rich and powerful against a socialist and the interests of the working class generally. Their aim is to inflict a defeat on an individual who has epitomised the socialist opposition to the bosses’ offensive in Scotland for more than 20 years. By doing this they hope to gain revenge for past defeats like the poll tax and to weaken and undermine support for socialist ideas at a time of unprecedented turmoil for capitalism which will see a new generation drawn to socialist ideas.

This trial will take place against the backdrop of a crushing economic catastrophe. Those directly responsible for this catastrophe, the capitalist establishment, have now moved in a concerted effort to make the working class pay in the form of mass unemployment, coupled with savage attacks on wages and conditions.

The important revival of working class struggle as witnessed by recent battles at Lindsey Oil, Visteon, Vestas and Linamar in South Wales, among others, are a warning to the bosses that a backlash is being prepared .

The fact that an individual with a record of struggle like Tommy Sheridan is being targeted in this way by reactionary political forces and sections of the state machine will not be lost on tens of thousands of working class people in Scotland and beyond.

Tommy Sheridan is very likely to be standing as a Solidarity candidate in November for the Glasgow north-east seat. An election called due to the forced resignation of the speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin over the MP’s expenses scandals.

This campaign based around a platform of standing to be a workers MP on a workers wage, giving full support to workers fighting to defend jobs and working conditions, putting forward a clear socialist alternative to the capitalist crisis and campaigning for the building of a new mass working class party can gain a big response in Glasgow. Tommy Sheridan and those socialists in Scotland fighting to build a mass working class opposition to poverty and capitalism also understand that opposing the witchhunt against Tommy Sheridan and his supporters is part of the same struggle.

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August 2009