Downfall: The Tommy Sheridan Story
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From prison cell to the political limelight, and back again, there is no doubt that Tommy Sheridan – tanned, handsome and armed with a soundbite for every occasion – was one of the most colorful figures in the drab, dusty world of party politics. Yet behind the charismatic exterior of the man who first came to public notice during the anti-Poll Tax movement and later led the Scottish Socialist Party to become a strong voice in the new Scottish parliament was a deeply flawed, manipulative individual whose own actions led to one of the most spectacular political downfalls in recent history. Written by his closest political associate for over twenty years, and based on a raft of documentary and eyewitness information, much of it appearing in print for the first time, this is the no-holds barred inside story of the rise and fall of one of the most fascinating figures in recent Scottish politics. Combining elements of tragedy, thriller and farce, it presents the stark, ugly truth behind Sheridan's victorious defamation action against the News of the World in 2006 and subsequent perjury trial in 2010, which contained some of the most dramatic courtroom scenes in Scottish legal history. Yet despite the lurid and sensationalist aspects of Sheridan's life and career, this is also a serious exploration of wider political and psychological themes which offers some salutary lessons at a time when public confidence in politicians has seldom been lower.
interviews, his future political base in Pollok was expanding rapidly. That was mainly through the work of people like George McNeilage, Keith Baldassara and Kirsteen Walker, who lived with Tommy for a time in the late 1980s but, for whatever reason, failed to receive a mention in his memoir, A Time to Rage. When Keith Baldassara arrived in Pollok back in 1988, he had intended to stay for only a few months but he never got round to leaving. Instead, he poured body and soul into building up what
teaching? Would a party like the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) have scaled the heights it did in 2003 without him? I believe others would have emerged to play that role – probably less flamboyantly, more collectively and less recklessly. But who knows? Back then, the main figurehead of Militant in Scotland was Bob Wylie, a powerful and entertaining speaker, who later went on to become a BBC reporter and a kind of cult figure for his eccentric on-screen style. In the mid-80s, he went to South
pension funds to finance his lavish lifestyle; his monumental personal debt. During his lifetime, Maxwell’s blanket use of the libel laws had gagged all criticism of his activities. He bombarded the media with so many writs that they eventually raised the white flag. But the dead can’t sue for defamation and even the most powerful people on the planet cannot rewrite history. Compared to Robert Maxwell, Tommy Sheridan was a small-time operator but his strategy of dealing with potential media
as though she had been desired for her looks or her personality. Now she was telling it straight. In one exchange with Tommy’s advocate, Graeme Henderson, she was asked about photographic or documentary evidence. ‘I don’t know about any photographs. As for documentation, if you’re shagging someone, what documents do you need? Please sign here so you can’t sue me if you pick up an STD?’ She stood by another part of her story, which took place in Newcastle, where she was attending a work-related
for any money. It was almost like a shrug – “OK if you want to pay money for your story, fine.” She certainly wasn’t looking for it.’ Fiona herself told the court that she had given away £19,000 of the cash to friends and charities. The newspaper’s lawyers were now convinced that the story was watertight. However, the journalists intended to spend more time backing it up with photographic and documentary evidence. But then, a week after Fiona McGuire signed her contract, the SSP dropped its