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The End of the Ego

23/12/2010

So, it’s finally happened. Tommy Sheridan has been found guilty of perjury, and it would seem as though the curtain has finally come down on his political life.

Sheridan’s life story, and the trial, are the focus of much of the news output now, and there is little point in re-hashing it all. But I will say one thing: Sheridan did suggest that he’s former ‘comrades’ had it in for him, that they wanted to bring him down. Frankly, I wouldn’t be too surprised by that. For many, Tommy Sheridan was the SSP: it’s beginning and end. He was something of a celebrity and it’s easy to understand why they got hacked off by this: after the 2003, there were six SSP MSPs, not one. They wanted a piece of the publicity pie. His ego was getting in the way of that.

They were right: it was that ego hat made him think he could take on News International and win; that ego that made him sack his legal team and represent himself in his initial court case; that ego that made him leave the SSP that he created for a new venture, thus ensuring that neither faction got back into Holyrood; that ego that, despite being one half of a Co-Convenership, saw his name on seven of the Regional ballot papers, and his colleague Rosemary Byrne only making the ballot paper in her own South of Scotland region. And it was that ego that saw him press on, heading onto the radio, going on Celebrity Big Brother, and again, firing his lawyers and defending himself in the perjury trial. You would have thought that having had enough warning shots fired at him – the tabloid exposure, the initial trial, the split with the SSP, the loss of his seat, his failure to make an impact on CBB, and the actual arrest for perjury – he’d have learned a little humility. Instead, he pressed on, and finally got caught in the cold.

But then, you can excuse some big-headedness: he spearheaded resistance to the Poll Tax; set up the strongest of all the left-wing breakaway parties, got the SWP in the tent, saw the SSP grow into a formal Parliamentary group with a slot on alternate weeks at PMQs; took on News International and won (albeit perjuring himself in the process). So one can see both sides: th SSP probably did want to take him down a peg or two; he probably needed it. His ego had grown out of control; he had a number of sufficiently impressive successes to his name to fuel it.

But what now? Despite the joint Convenership, Solidarity revolved around Tommy Sheridan and it’s notable that Rosemary Byrne, the other half of the Leadership, has gone to ground in the wake of the verdict. I struggle to see what future the party holds, and the demise of one ego gives another – George Galloway – an opportunity. Equally, the result vindicates the SSP… as long as they can stop crowing about it and get back to talking about the issues that are supposed to be at the party’s heart: the protection of the working classes rather than Tommy this, Tommy that. Whether either side benefits enough to get into Holyrood next year remains to be seen, but my guess is probably not. At least, not yet.

Nor do I see a reconciliation between Solidarity and the SSP: rather, we’ll see Solidarity eventually overwhelmed by the Socialist Workers’ Party. Those un-nerved by that will have no choice but to get on the Galloway bandwagon (apart from those in the pro-independence camp, who are now completely lost), and their support won’t be enough to get Galloway elected.

In other words, this wasn’t just Sheridan’s loss. It was his party’s loss, his supporters’ loss. They all have a lot of thinking to do.

One last thing. Remember his victory speech?

Gretna have made it into Europe for the first time in their lives, but what we have done in the last five weeks is the equivalent of Gretna taking on Real Madrid in the Bernabeu and beating them on penalties, that’s what we’ve done.

Within two years of that, Gretna had finally over-reached themselves, fallen into a state of internal chaos with the sacking of Rowan Alexander, lost their main asset with the passing of Brooks Mileson and ceased trading. The club had become Brooks Mileson’s project and it fell apart when he could no longer sustain it. In the end, supporters had to start from scratch, and re-build with Gretna 2008, in the East of Scotland League.

Perhaps Tommy’s Gretna metaphor was far more fitting than he realised at the time.

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