[Marxism] CWI platform of the SSP on Sheridan resignation

Nigel Irritable nigel_irritable at yahoo.com
Wed Dec 1 16:00:57 MST 2004


Below is an article on Tommy Sheridan's resignation,
written by Philip Stott of the Committee for a Workers
International platform in the Scottish Socialist
Party. The CWI is one of the three relatively sizeable
platforms in the SSP.

Something that has been noticeable is just how
restrained the various platforms have been over this
issue so far. They have tended to say nothing at all,
or as in this case to issue a single statement.

www.socialistworld.net

Tommy Sheridan resigns as SSP convener

Scottish socialist Party (SSP) members were stunned to
learn of the resignation of Tommy Sheridan as national
convenor of the party on Wednesday 10 November.

Philip Stott, cwi Scotland
His statement to the press said he wanted to step back
from frontline politics in order to be a “hands-on
father”, as his partner is expecting their first child
next year.

However, the catalyst for Tommy Sheridan’s resignation
was the meeting of the SSP Executive Committee (EC)
the day before. This meeting discussed allegations
about Tommy’s private life that were expected to
appear in Rupert Murdoch’s rag, the News of the World,
the following Sunday.

The EC proposed three options to deal with these
allegations. One involved refusing to speak about his
private life, while the two others involved speaking
to the press. When Tommy Sheridan insisted that he
intended to deny the allegations and seek legal
action, the EC passed a motion threatening to remove
him as national convenor unless, by Saturday, he
abandoned this strategy.

Sheridan resigned the next day and, following the
article in the News of the World alleging a four-year
relationship with an SSP member, he has taken out a
libel action.

The SSP has been thrown into a serious crisis by the
chain of events following the EC meeting that has
spiralled out of control and has done significant
damage to the reputation of the party.

The CWI in Scotland has worked for and welcomed the
impact the SSP has made in the last few years. It has
succeeded it attracting a new generation of workers
and young people to the idea of socialism. The
affiliation of the RMT union to the SSP has underlined
the potential that exists to build socialist ideas
among the organised trade union movement. Anything
that undermines this represents a blow to the
socialist movement in general.

Notwithstanding the serious political differences the
CWI has with Tommy Sheridan and other leaders of the
SSP, we welcome every step forward the SSP makes, and
are working hard to build its membership and support.
However, the events of the last two weeks have put in
jeopardy the future of the SSP.

If the EC had not given Tommy Sheridan an immediate
ultimatum to drop his denial and legal action, and
made it clear publicly that the right–wing tabloid
allegations were an attempt to undermine the SSP and
Tommy Sheridan, this situation could potentially have
been avoided.

By trying to force Tommy Sheridan to drop his
preferred option before even waiting to see the press
claims from the News of the World, the SSP leadership
made a potentially difficult situation much worse.

It is one thing to consider whether or not to take
legal action as a party. That issue, however, should
not have immediately been linked to Tommy’s right to
take such action or his position in the party.

Of course, the personal conduct of a leading member of
a political party can damage, sometimes severely, the
reputation of that party. The tabloid allegations,
completely unproven, made against Tommy Sheridan do
not fall into that category.

These events have been a gift to a brutal anti-working
class scandal sheet with a long track record of
attempting to undermine socialists and trade
unionists, including through the use of 'sex
scandals'.

The crisis has been made worse by repeated statements
from leading SSP members to the press that the party
would not back Tommy Sheridan in his legal action
against the News of the World. There were also claims
by leading EC members that he wanted the party to lie
to protect him.

All of this has acted to fuel the impression that
Tommy Sheridan was sacrificed in order to avoid bad
publicity or the accusation of colluding in a “lie”
about personal matters.

This has played into the hands of the capitalist media
who have produced acres of newsprint over how the SSP
has lost its best asset and is tearing itself apart
over the issue.

The EC carries significant responsibilty for that
situation developing in the way that it has.

The CWI has serious political differences with Tommy
Sheridan. But we recognise that he has retained
significant authority among working class people in
Scotland. It is through Tommy Sheridan that many
workers identify with the SSP.

Much of this authority was built when he was the
figurehead of the anti-poll tax struggle in Scotland.
At that time he and other leaders of the SSP were
still members of the CWI.

The SSP has largely built its support up until now on
its opposition to poverty and inequality; an
implacable stand against the imperialist occupation of
Iraq and through its support for workers in struggle
such as the PCS members and Scotland’s nursery nurses.

It is only by basing itself on these principles, while
advancing a clear socialist and class programme, that
the SSP can recover and move forward. It is that
course that the CWI in Scotland is advocating the SSP
should now take.



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