23 December 2010


The conviction of Tommy Sheridan for perjury is hardly a surprise to anyone who has followed the former MSP's case since he sued the News of the World for reporting his visits to a swingers' club in Manchester. It was clear from the outset that he had told his former comrades in the Scottish Socialist Party leadership a completely different tale to the one he related in his libel action, and it really was only a matter of time before the disparities between his accounts brought him down.

There remain two intriguing questions, however. The first is why he decided to take on the Screws when he knew it had him pretty much bang-to-rights even if it got some of the detail wrong, as he admitted to his SSP comrades. If he'd stuck to the line that he'd been a naughty boy but that it was nobody's business but his own (and his sexual partners'), the story would have been a flash in the pan – damaging to his reputation and to his relationships, almost certainly, but temporary. Instead, he lied brazenly, apparently convinced that his world-historical role as proletarian revolutionary leader excused him from being held to account for his actions. I can't help but see this as a Leninist personality trait.

The second question is what would have happened to the SSP if Tommy had not been found out. It was the most succesful electoral party of the far-left of the postwar era – a beneficiary of the proportional representation system introduced by Labour for the Scottish Parliament, lest we forget – and briefly threatened to transform the rules of British politics. But the Sheridan scandal caused it to implode just as it reached its peak of influence. A genuinely democratic left party might have survived and rebuilt: one based on the cult of the leader and the culture of Leninism had no chance.

  • The youth wing of the SSP has a long post here that makes a lot of sense.
  • And there's a very good BBC documentary with lots of talking heads here. I don't really need to know more: what a narcissist.

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