- Created: Wednesday, 20 May 2009 10:41
- Written by Paul Mallon
The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) has split following a high-profile defamation case taken by its former leader Tommy Sheridan against the News of the World. On 4 August, Sheridan won £200,000 in damages in response to allegations the newspaper made in 2004/05 that he had cheated on his wife, frequented sex clubs, used prostitutes and participated in orgies.
The trial was the first of its kind heard in a Scottish court. In total 11 leading SSP members gave evidence against Sheridan, telling the jury that their former leader had admitted to them that he had attended a swingers club. Their testimony that Sheridan had lied about his private life severely damaged the SSP and laid the basis for Sheridan to launch a breakaway party, ‘Solidarity’, with an identical political programme and himself again in charge. Announcing its formation, Sheridan argued that another left parliamentary group could gain support in Scotland: ‘We’ve got a huge constituency. I’m not interested in just the 7 per cent who voted for the SSP but that 51 per cent who didn’t vote and the 30-odd per cent who voted Labour who are now very disillusioned’. Just as the SSP have courted the second preference votes of Labour Party voters, so will Sheridan’s Solidarity at next year’s May elections to the Scottish Parliament.
Following the trial the Sheridans have featured widely on television and radio and were paid £25,000 for their story by the Daily Record and Sunday Mail where Sheridan posed topless. Sheridan’s increased media exposure since the trial may well be an indication of the shape of things to come for his political career. Sheridan has received support from the Respect MP, and fellow ex-Labour party member and self-publicist George Galloway, along with the Socialist Workers Party.
The SSP now has four representatives in the Scottish Parliament, Solidarity has two. Their role in future will be no different to the past: confined to the bourgeois respectable limits of parliamentary politics.
FRFI 193 October / November 2006