Unlike Doleman, I was here, in Scotland, a member of the SSP during all of the major incidents this book portrays. Unlike Doleman, I sat through SSP Regional Councils in which Keith Baldassarra begged Sheridan not to go through with his reckless course, only to be told, “They have nothing on me.” Unlike Doleman I was here, in Scotland for the original case, and seemingly unlike Doleman, I have spoken to members of his own political faction, the SWP, who admit they knew what Sheridan had done, but had been told by their London Central Committee to hitch their harness to “the mothership,” (their words). Unlike Doleman, I have spoken to ex-members of Solidarity who enthusiastically had gone with him out of the SSP in order to, and again in their words, “be MSP’s.” People who knew he lied – and in fact were told by him this fact. Some have expressed regret – and some have made moves to rejoin the party – or at least acknowledge the fact that the battered SSP is Scotland’s only remotely viable Anti-capitalist, Socialist Unity vehicle at the moment. Unlike Doleman, I was in Scotland and a member of the SSP on the lead up and during the split – I attended meetings of the SSP were one or the other faction was prominent, and some where people were abused for not backing Sheridan and his want for adulation both in the Scottish media and within the party.
I joined the SSP after following the fortunes of the Party – and after attending meetings and then voting for them in 2003. I decided to join after Tommy was joined by five other MSP’s in the Scottish Parliament. I was an ordinary member – unlike James, I was not aligned to any platform or left sect ideology.
I hadn’t always liked Tommy’s style, and in fact always thought his style of rhetoric was not only old fashioned (I had been brought up amongst shouty politicians in Northern Ireland), but very clichéd – his constant – sometimes tenuous - references to John Lennon and the song Imagine always made me cringe, for example. But his success in the first Parliament and the success of the party to go beyond his one man show impressed me enough to join.
On joining, I learned about the structure of the party, and of the various “platforms” within it. Doleman was a member of the SWP – a London based faction mostly made up of students and teachers. Their strangely middle class make up is due to the way they recruit – usually at universities. Other platforms I investigated were the SRSM, a group of socialists who put “independence first,” and the CWI who were the remnants of the group that had been expelled from the Labour Party in the 1980’s, Militant Tendency. The largest platform in the SSP was the ISM, which was the biggest faction remaining from a split in the CWI. The ISM dissolved itself into the party. This group included people I went on to admire politically, people like Richie Venton, the union Organiser of the Party; Alan McCombes, Colin Fox and Tommy Sheridan.
I found the SWP and CWI factions full of their own importance – and in the case of the SWP, I found them patronising and totally devoid of any connections to real working class people. During the G8 preparations I overheard prominent members of the SWP group discussing the fact that most young people in the party supported Scottish independence – they dismissed these people as “misguided” or “barely educated.” I witnessed at various conferences their snide remarks from the floor (during the huge conferences the SSP were having between 2004-06 while Doleman was in New Zealand).
|CWI Scottish Organiser, Philip Stott|
Although the SWP have distanced themselves from Solidarity and Sheridan, the CWI have found this more difficult. I believe this is because of the small size of the Scottish branch of the CWI – they need something bigger to hitch on to – the problem is they hitched to the wrong vehicle. Rather than listening to the majority of working class people who made up the SSP, the CWI decided to tweak its internal analysis to one of “we should lie for a socialist in a capitalist court” (an excuse later used by members of the SWP). This tweaking was done so they could soon have members in the Scottish Parliament on the back of the "socialist icon," Sheridan. The problem is, their history has been so changed and tweaked by Stott’s “analysis,” they find it difficult to admit their knowledge of the fact that Sheridan lied (and tried to force his party to lie), not for any political reasons, but in order to keep the mahogany veneer of the socialist messiah- and in my opinion, to save Stott’s job.
What their analysis fails to do nowadays is face up to the fact that Sheridan is now a complete pariah to the Scottish electorate and to the working class people who have been desperately let down by yet another lying politician. At least the SWP privately acknowledge that – yet cannot seem to take the logical next step and admit their folly. Perhaps this has more to do with rallying around their members who may have perjured themselves in court.
The sad thing is – the left will never make gains if it cannot admit where it made mistakes, or expel wrong doing or wrong doers. The “left” is no better than the right if it is lying to those it purportedly represents – and the fact is, the class know they have been lied to. The unelectable status of the anti-capitalist left in Scotland will continue if vociferous organised components cannot even admit their knowledge of one man’s lies. The message of the left is still being drowned out by the fogging of Sheridan and his fans.
Doleman is just hitching his wagon to the mothership of Tommy – but for what reason? There is no doubt Doleman’s nuanced blogging of the trial – and his careful editing of comments made each day (something he and I clashed over on twitter), enamoured him with the Sheridan’s. During the trial, Tommy's mother, Alice - along with other members of Tommy's family, was seen many times, greeting “James” with a hug and ensuring the blogger had a seat.
Doleman is now sure of access to Tommy in order to write his eagerly awaited fanbook of the inmate of Castle Huntly Open Prison . His constant fogging of facts – a device used by Sheridan himself during both trials, is only a self serving one – one that makes this story run further in order to increase his “fame” as a blogger/writer on Tommymania. Doleman won’t make a fortune out of a book, and won’t make a huge amount writing in the papers. But I guess it is something for him to do (he was unemployed during the trial, hence his ability to attend court most days), and it gives him a wee spot in the glow of the decrepit tanned one.
Philip Stott's view HERE
James Doleman's view HERE