Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Book seeks middle ground on Sheridan

Tommy Sheridan: From Hero to Zero?: A Political Biography by Gregor Gall review by SSP Campsie's Allan Green

(this article originally appeared in the Scottish Socialist  Voice HERE)

Gregor Gall’s Tommy Sheridan from Hero to Zero?: a political biography of Tommy Sheridan aims to present “a study of the person, the personality and his politics and the dialectics between them”. Gregor claims “Putting together the voluminous interviews, the personal observation and the various secondary sources means that this biography comes as close as it (sic) possible in terms of source materials to being a definitive and authoritative biography as possible.”

 Hero to Zero? is certainly well-researched, with exhaustive references and footnotes, and it contains a lot of useful information. It is also an honest attempt to analyse and understand why “Tommy brought himself down not over NoW’s allegations about his personal life but over the way he chose to deal with these. He was, thus, convicted of perjury about telling lies in court about visiting Cupids and having a sexual relationship with Katrine Trolle, and not about visiting Cupids itself or having a sexual relationship with Katrine Trolle.”

 Gregor Gall started his interviews and research for this book prior to ‘Tommygate’; his description for the period after the 9 November 2004 SSP Executive Committee meeting asked Sheridan to step down as party convener when Sheridan chose to use the courts, to coin Alan McCombes’ phrase, and build a ‘tower of lies’. Without Tommygate, the book would have been ready by late 2005 and it would, of course, have been a very different book. The consequent change of direction is perhaps a factor in explaining why the resulting work often appears disjointed and even inconsistent.

 The strengths of this biography are in the coverage of Sheridan’s early life, his formative influences and his political development from the anti-poll tax campaign, through his years in Glasgow Council to the early years of the Scottish Parliament. Hero to Zero? also deals with the dynamics of the rise of the SSP as a collective campaigning party and the positive and crucial role played by Sheridan at this time.

 When considering the opening of Tommygate, Hero to Zero? is mistaken when it implies there was an agreement that Sheridan could take out the libel action from the time he stood down as party convener. Sheridan was certainly asked to stand down for intending to go to the courts and lie. However, the party leadership repeatedly tried to dissuade him from pursuing his action in the courts.

 Gregor’s interpretation of Sheridan, the ‘Person, Persona and Personality’ will appear to many, myself included, as unsubstantiated and even simply wrong. Gregor strongly argues against the position that “..Tommy had brought himself down through his own vanity, arrogance and delusion. While there is evidence of vanity, .., it was not this or his alleged arrogance or delusion which explains Tommy’s actions.”

 Instead, Hero to Zero? argues that Sheridan’s “faulty political calculation” over Tommygate was a consequence of him “.. making his destiny synonymous with that of socialism in Scotland ..”. Gregor does highlight indications of this as a possible motivator for Sheridan in the early passages of the book dealing with the pre-Tommygate period. Yet, even the evidence presented in the book for the Tommygate period just doesn’t back him up. In Gregor’s own words “… between 2004 and 2010 he (Sheridan) spent more time fighting the left than he did the right.”

 Gregor argues, with hindsight, that the SSP should have spiked Sheridan’s guns in November 2004, publishing the Executive Committee minutes detailing why Sheridan was asked to stand down as convener. With hindsight, few will argue with this and there is certainly a lesson to be learned by the party in this regard. At the time, however, most party members, myself included, felt that in 2004 Sheridan was still motivated, at least in part, by promoting the socialist cause. It was felt that it would be best if Sheridan could be dissuaded from continuing with his kamikaze court actions. Indeed, Sheridan even told Alan McCombes that he would drop the legal action if NoTW did not back down. In November 2004, there was probably no one who imagined that Sheridan would, within 18 months, in pursuit of his flawed legal action, devote most of his political energy towards attacking the SSP with such ferocity and venom.

Hero to Zero? catalogues many accounts of Sheridan’s sexist behaviour, asks if he is a misogynist and then leaves the question hanging. The emphasis is on accounts of Sheridan as a ‘sexual predator’ during the Militant era. Here, Gregor does not draw on material documented elsewhere in the book that could be pertinent; such as Sheridan’s declarations of intent to ‘destroy’ women who he had a sexual relationship with but who refused to perjure themselves in court on his behalf. It also ignores the public humiliation that they suffered at the hands of Sheridan over 2 court cases.

When the book considers the question of the ‘cult of the personality’ around Sheridan it again concentrates on the pre-Tommygate period. Gregor says it is doubtful if Sheridan himself consciously nurtured this status at this time. Instead, the emphasis is on the “heavy responsibility” of the SSP and its forerunners in promoting Sheridan in what is described in the book as “a bargain with the devil”. There is unlikely to be much controversy around these points as, for the past 6 years or so, it has been widely acknowledged in the party that it made a mistake in promoting so much of the socialist message through one individual.

Yet, the biography does not seriously examine the ‘cult of the personality’ around Sheridan from the split in the SSP onwards. There is a recognition that most of Tommy’s supporters know he was lying throughout Tommygate. The biography details how, time after time, Sheridan bounced his followers into a course of action that even they did not initially support. Even amongst those who went on to form Solidarity, outside his immediate circle of family and friends, few initially believed that Sheridan should take out his libel action. Almost none of Sheridan’s supporters wanted to split the SSP but they still followed when a split was declared by Sheridan. Gregor explains this by saying “..his supporters thought they were defending the Tommy of old, not the Tommy of new.” Gregor concludes that the biography has “pursued a middle way” as it is neither for nor against Sheridan. He states that he is adopting the dialectical method by recognising Sheridan as being simultaneously both hero and zero. This conclusion does not seem to sufficiently take cognisance of much of the evidence in the book that, with Tommygate, and in particular after Sheridan’s open attacks on the SSP from May 2006 onwards, the balance between Sheridan being motivated by actions for the benefit of the socialist movement and by being motivated by narrow self-interest, decisively and qualitatively changed.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Slactivism, Bono, Tax and Kony

Huffington Post article by SSP Campsie member, Neil Scott

Pictures by Gwen Penner

Until recently I didn't fully understand the danger suggested by the term "slactivism."
What is slactivism?
Slactivism is someone who jumps from cause to cause - each cause being, to the slactivist, as worthy as the next. The term could, at its least dangerous, be given to those who loosely link causes together and change focus regularly. Each cause is, on the surface, one that can be supported by activists, each cause bringing with it a new meme or a new trendy logo and visuals. It brings with it a kind of "altruistic street-cred." A selfish altruism.
But its seeming legitimacy is its inherent danger as imperialist governments and oil companies take advantage of the slactivist's lack of focus and in depth critical thinking.
White teeshirts and tax evasion

Back in 2005, we were told that clicking our fingers would "Make Poverty History." Bob Geldof, aproven tax dodger, made us feel guilty. Of course his altruism does not extend to the poor in his own adopted home - welfare projects and education and health benefit lightly from his taxes as he has found out how to hide money in properties purchased abroad. Bono and his pompous band are the same - Ireland is in huge crises - poverty in his own country is increasing hugely, but to him, his tax millions are better in his own offshore accounts.
Slactivists clicked fingers, pounded the streets of Edinburgh, listened to Annie Lennox and wore white shirts.
Geldof labelled anti-poverty demonstrators "good and bad," to refer to the rubber wrist band wearing MTV slactivist as opposed to the anti-poverty groups that had been lobbying the capitalist governments of the world for years. Good = concert goer, bad = poverty groups demonstrating near the G8 summit.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

SSP Campsie join hundreds in Troon...

...to ask the self interest group "Scottish Tories" to leave us alone and stop robbing us.

The bile that came from the Tory Conference was incredible.  They told us Scots again and again, we are too thick to run our own country and to leave it to the English Tory Party.  They told us that Scotland would be over-run by "immigrants" after independence.  Well, if they WOULD steal from the English working class, of course they will want to move to a fair independent Scotland!

The message from protesters, who outnumbered the delegates 4 to 1 and in the week that the Tories announced the robbery of pensioners and stole our NHS was, no more Tory rule from Westminster.

Photos:  Sandra Webster and Andy Harvey

Photographer, Andy Harvey said of this photo, "Tory delegates protected by the police like animals in a zoo after they decided to come out to "confront" the demonstrators.  

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Faculty of Public Health Publish Own Risk Register..

Faculty of Public Health Publish Own Risk Register #SaveOurNHS 


Please Tweet!

Vested Interests of the Tories...

"This list represents the dire state of our democracy. The financial and vested interests of our MPs and Lords in private healthcare. Why are these people allowed to be in charge of our NHS, to vote on a bill that they clearly have something to gain from. Who cares that they have put it in the register of interests. This doesn’t excuse their interests, it merely highlights clearly why they should have no part in voting for the privatisation of the NHS. It is privatisation, despite the media’s continued use of the word ‘reforms’. The question must be asked. Are they public servants or corporate servants?"

Important reading on the Social Investigations blog.  Click HERE

FAQ's - NHS Health Bill

Arm yourself.  This is a huge fight.  The NHS is in peril this week.  If this bill is passed, expect to be charged for services you currently pay for through tax.  Your tax money will be going directly to profiteers who will be charging you twice.

Read these FAQ's.  http://abetternhs.wordpress.com/faq/

Monday, 12 March 2012

Recent Posts Menu

On our blog this week:  

Pledge not to vote Lib Dem EVER if they help destroy NHS HERE

Take action on Pensions click - HERE

Contact the Lib Dem MPs and ask them to vote this NHS bill down...  HERE

Neil Scott announces candidature for East Dunbartonshire Council elections HERE 

SSP Campsie member Graham Martin in Sport Sport Sport and Royals... HERE

Letter to Jo Swinson HERE

Video - what our New NHS could look like HERE

Take the pledge to never vote Lib dem again...

...help Dr Éoin Clarke decide...  "I will never vote for the Lib Dems at Council, Assembly, Parliament or any other level if they allow this Tory NHS Bill to succeed but only if 1 other people will do the same."   Click HERE to take the pledge and pass it on!   

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Local teacher, Neil Scott to stand in Bearsden North in May's council election


“East Dunbartonshire has, in recent years, had the misfortune of having had a Liberal Democrat Council followed by a coalition of Labour and Tories. The mishandling of the council by these three versions of the same thing has seen an attempt to close schools in the past two years; terrible deals with corporations that have meant millions of pounds of our Council Tax money being given over to massive PPP/PFI “Guaranteed returns on investment” for minimum outlay; a decimation of our local services from Libraries through to schools, and more. If any of these parties gain the council in May, there will be more of the same, and in fact the deferred closure of East Dunbartonshire Schools will go ahead.

 As a father and a teacher I have a different vision for East Dunbartonshire services. Our area is a well off council area, one in which money could be invested in our services rather than further job-losses and cuts. I see a clear need to renegotiate PPP/PFI deals. Some of these venture capitalists are making millions of pounds of our tax money with investments of a few hundred pounds. I see East Dunbartonshire being a place of opportunity for all; a place where our money is invested in real jobs and services which will help stimulate the Scottish economy. The real drivers of any economy are people. The profits creamed off by corporations from our Council tax should be reclaimed and invested in real jobs and in our people.”

Contact Jo Swinson - urge her to help save the NHS!

This is a wonderful gadget created by "Labour Left" and on Dr Éoin Clarke's web page.  Please go to it and use it to email Jo Swinson and all of the other Lib Dem MP's (whose very own party voted against this bill at their conference - hopefully these Liberals will uphold democracy in the way they blether on about.  Hopefully their shouting about democracy is more than hot gas.  to send a tweet, click HERE  

The text of the email is reproduced below if you prefer to copy and paste to the MP's, whose email addresses I have reproduced here, separated by commas and in three sections for Hotmail/yahoo/google/gmail emailers - 

Dear            ,

As you know, the passage of this NHS Bill is nearing its completion. The bill was not in either governing party's manifesto, and it goes against the PM's pledge to have no top down re-organisation of the NHS.

According to YouGov, only 14% of voters want this Bill to succeed and 66% of medical professionals think the bill will make the NHS worse. Despite the Information Commissioner and Information Tribunal ordering Andrew Lansley to publish the NHS Transition Risk Register, he has so far refused. To top it all off, more than 170,000+ voters have signed the 'Drop the Bill' petition. Specifically, the allowance contained within the bill that up to 49% of NHS bed space and theatre time can be utilised by the private sector is nothing short of terrifying. These are some of the very many reasons I am begging one small favour of you.

Please vote in an ethical manner on the 13/03/12; do the right thing, whatever you deem that to be. It is my firm belief that if you are motivated to do what is right, then Lansley's botched bill will be dropped.

Yours faithfully

If you want to email one at a time - 

Sarah Teather MP teathers@parliament.uk
David Ward MP david@davidward.org.uk
Simon Wright MP office@simonwright.org.uk
Stephen Williams MP stephenwilliamsmp@parliament.uk
Steve Webb MP steve@stevewebb.org.uk
Vince Cable MP cablev@parliament.uk
Thomas Brake MP braket@parliament.uk
Malcolm Bruce MP info@malcolmbruce.org.uk
Paul Burstow MP burstowp@parliament.uk
Tim Farron MP tim@timfarron.co.uk
Adrian Sanders MP Sandersa@parliament.uk
Mark Williams MP williamsmf@parliament.uk
Charles Kennedy MP kennedyc@parliament.uk
Stephen Gilbert MP stephen@stephengilbert.org.uk
John Hemming MP hemmingj@parliament.uk
Jenny Willott MP willottj@parliament.uk
Alistair Carmichael MP carmichaela@parliament.uk

Thursday, 8 March 2012

An Olympic Smartie Party!

It’s bread and circuses, except there’s no clowns or sad, unkempt lions, just some people having a wee swim and a shot on some horses
Graham MartinPosted by Rogue Reporter, Graham Martin.  Originally posted HERE
An Olympic Smartie party
Mister Sport - David Beckham fronts up London Olympics 2012
Sport, sport, sport, Clarkson, sport, sport, David Beckham’s dick, sport, more sport, sport, some fucking pandas, sport, sport and sport.
That’s pretty much it these days, isn’t it – that’s the National Conversation.
It’s all we care about. Sport and David Beckham’s dick, and even that’s quite sporty because the person that pees out of it plays some SPORT.
Sport. You can stop reading when the over-use of that word gets annoying. Here it comes.
Ever feel like you’re out the loop? Then the next time you’re standing at a bus stop, grab the person next to you by the lapels and scream into their face: “Sport, sport, sport, sport, Clarkson, sport, sport, David Beckham’s dick, sport, more sport, sport, some fucking pandas, sport, sport and SPORT.”
They won’t be annoyed. No, they’ll shake you by the hand and take you for a pint, because you too like the SPORT, and the pandas, and can talk about it as well.
This might be the time to add that sport is pretty much a closed book to me. I’m not talking about football, which as a male from the west of Scotland I am obliged to admit that I like, because I don’t regard the watching of football as anything to do with sport, it’s more a therapeutic way of giving the part of your brain that last saw action when we were sprouting limbs in the Carboniferous a wee run-around, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Playing football on the other hand, well, that’s sport again and it’s utterly mystifying. Why would you?
It’s the other sports I really don’t get. Golf, rugby, tennis.
Throwing old batteries at stray dogs down the lock-ups. Believe me, that’s a sport in Lanarkshire. All essentially rubbish.
And then we move onto the frankly unpopular sports, the ones that involve running from one spot to another or throwing things.
Because they’re everywhere these days. We’re supposed to be creaming into Union Jack hankies because it’s the London Olympics this year.
Now, we’ll put aside the odious politics and the obscene waste of cash here, though we may stop to reflect upon the arrogance of those who think that a boring vanity festival of people rowing and playing ping-pong based in London can somehow wipe a magic sponge over the cracks in the Union. It that sense, they’re doing us a favour.
What annoys me is having all these essentially minority pursuits foisted on us. Let’s face it, most people think athletics is deathly dull. There’s maybe a few thousand people who are truly into it, and fair enough. Good luck to them.
It’s the same with gymnastics, though there is at least some interest there as I’m told there’s an event called the Men’s Rings, but maybe I’m being wound up, because I’m too scared to Google it.
But I play this game where I use a dice to eat a tube of Smarties.
It’s a great game, and political as well. I call it my Smarties General Election game. You should try it.
It goes like this – there are eight colours in a Smarties tube, you divide them all up into their colours and you eat the two with the least colours, they’re out of the race, leaving you six colours. You then assign tags to the remaining colours all the way through the political spectrum ­the black ones are fascists, blue ones Tories, yellows are liberals etc. all the way through to reds, which are us.
Then you give them a number – one is the fascists, through to six, the socialists. And then you roll the dice, and you eat one from whatever number you roll. Roll too many fives, and whoops, it’s not looking like a good night for the social democrats. The winning party is the one with the last Smartie standing.
It’s a great game, it really is.
You can rig it as well. If it looks like the fascists are about to seize power, you can just eat them. For all the sense Trotsky talked about how to stop the Nazis in Germany, he never thought of that one.
So I’m beating him there.
Anyway, I admit this game is probably somewhat more of a minority pursuit than athletics. Or Men’s Rings. In fact, it might just be me that plays it.
But it’s still a minority pursuit and I’m not demanding that whole communities are bulldozed out of the way, a la Glasgow’s ridiculous Commonwealth Games (a colonial, throbbing Ralgex­sprayed bell-end of an event) so people can go and watch me eating Smarties.
In a velodrome.
But that’s what’s happening with the SPORT and the Olympics and all that. It’s bread and circuses, except there’s no alcoholic, pee-stained clowns or sad, unkempt lions, which are at least worth watching (or even any bread, thinking about it), just some people having a wee swim and a shot on some horses.
Oh, and come the summer, we’ll be able to add exciting words like “Chris” and “Hoy” into the aforementioned National Conversation. I think he’s famous for being quite good on a children’s toy. He can go round and round on it dead fast.
He even gets to advertise things like cereal in some of the most comically stilted ads that have ever been broadcast.
I see he’s now punting razor blades for Gillette or someone.
Well, come the summer there might be a use for those at least.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The New NHS!

If you DON'T agree with the NHS Jo Swinson and her Liberal Democrat  party are helping the Tories create, please sign this petition.  We have one week to save the NHS.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

To Jo Swinson...

Dear Jo Swinson

After the defeat of the EDM 2659, asking for 'the publication of risk register associated with the Health and Social Care Bill reforms in advance of Report Stage in the House of Lords in order to ensure that it informs that debate,' which was signed by 15 Liberal Democrats, could you tell me your view on this with-holding of important information that would help inform the public further on NHS reorganisation? Do you feel the Risk Register should be published?  If so, what are the Liberal Democrats and in particular, you, the MP for East Dunbartonshire doing to allow the public to read it?

Do you support calls for it's release?  

Although a council matter, the PPP/PFI interest payments on projects in East Dunbartonshire are eating a large, and increasing part of the East Dunbartonshire (now frozen) Council Tax income.  Do you agree that the PPP/PFI agreements in East Dunbartonshire should be renegotiated?  Do you agree that the interest payments on these "investments" in order to create huge “Guaranteed returns on investment,” are hugely excessive and an unnecessary drain on local services and jobs?

Neil Scott
Campsie Branch SSP

Friday, 2 March 2012


The teachers union, the EIS has produced templates for letters you can use 'to write to your MP and MSPs calling on them to oppose any proposed increases to pension contributions.

It is also essential that we push for a proper valuation of the pension scheme, and for government to enter into meaningful discussions with trade unions.'

Please write to your MP/MSP now!  Templates HERE