Alas, poor Tommy, I liked him well. Certainly, as a politician. I didn’t know Comrade Sheridan well personally, but I walked down the Royal Mile with him once or twice and admired his common touch with the lieges.
Now it turns out it was common for him to touch the lieges, and he’s soon to be a guest of Her Majesty, a host about whom he never cared much in the first place. Not only that, but his name is now a byword for porkies and a wandering pecker. Oh, how rare it is for power and peccadilloes to remain amicable bedfellows. It always ends in tears. And yet it never ends.
With this case ended, I do not wish to comment further on Tommy’s pecker. It was not the case at issue and, fortunately, was not produced in court. Perjury was the willie waved before the jury, a serious charge hard to take seriously. The idea of a politician telling lies! How absurd.
And the very idea of lies being told in court! Certainly, lawyers never lie, never produce false allegations or insinuations. The way some people speak, you’d think lying was the very basis of our duelling legal system. Absurd!
Of course, Tommy presented his own case, and perhaps was a little biased in his own favour. How I feared for the jury, subjected to a five-hour closing speech, as if they were poor Cubans hectored by Fidel. On this occasion, alas, it was a case of close but no cigar.
Tommy is normally so persuasive too. He was the best orator in the Scottish Parliament, not urbane and statesmanlike as with, say, Michael Russell or Gavin Brown. But no one could get the old corpuscles going like Tommy and, say what you like, he was absolutely passionate about his cause.
So it must have been something to hear him base a passionate defence on wanting to be with his wee girl at Christmas. Why, it even brought a tear to his own eye. What juror could fail to be moved? Well, this lot obviously, and I daresay it’s to their credit.
When I used to report from the courts, I found the experience chastening. Listening to the prosecution, I’d conclude: “Hang the bastard!” And that was just for having no car insurance. Then I’d hear the defence and think: “For God’s sake, let him go!” Indecisive and endlessly gullible, having me on the jury would prolong the agony of a verdict for weeks.
But Tommy’s jury, on which thankfully I was not a member, took just six hours. In the course of the proceedings, I’ve been all over the place just as a gawping spectator, or at least a follower of proceedings in print and online. One minute he seemed bang to rights. The next we were full of doubt. But now the jury has spoken.
It concluded that the People’s Thomas did tell an SSP executive committee meeting that he’d visited Cupid’s in Manchester in 1996 and 2002 with a journalist, Ms Anvar Khan. The 14 jurors found he’d visited said libidinous club with two other fellows who were not his wife, plus the aforementioned Ms Khan and a common or garden Dane called Ms Trolle, with whom he ‘d also engaged in extra-parliamentary activism between 1 January and 31 December 2005.
The somewhat mundane sexuality of it all was encapsulated when Ms Trolle defined the decor at Cupid’s as “minging”. That everyday sordidness deepened when Ms Khan said: “We went into his bedroom, there was a large picture of Che Guevara above the bed, and we had a shag.” How disappointing that there was no accompanying music by Phil Collins.
Tommy’s former comrades in the Scottish Socialist (Non-Sexual) Party said the verdict would now define him, omitting to add as what, probably because the “c” word is politically incorrect.
They said: “By his actions over six years, Tommy Sheridan has disgraced himself and negated his political contribution to the socialist cause over 25 years.”
I always liked Tommy, but that was mainly from the vantage point of the press gallery. And part of that like was I thought he was a regular guy. Alas, he turns out to have been a regular knob-juggler. Nice work, if you can get it, but most of us can’t, or turn it down if we’re thirled to a quine that we don’t want to hurt.
Funnily enough, or otherwise, I recall thinking it odd (and indeed commenting thus in print) that, when he was joined by five elected colleagues in the Scottish Parliament, Tommy sat separately from the rest of them. There seemed little love from the start.
I first encountered him some time in the early to mid 90s, during a protest against the National Front, who were trying to recruit at a Hearts v Rangers game (whatever could they have been thinking of?).
Clad in a leather bomber jacket, he was leading the protesters and, when I interviewed him, he fixed my eye. I’m afraid that’s something I’ve never liked. I don’t mind being looked in the eye, but not excessively. Politicians and salesmen tend to fix your eye. It means they’re lying to you. Still, I liked him. Truth is, I still want to like him, still cling to that myth of the ordinary, five-a-sides guy speaking fron the heart. But, after this, he hasn’t half made it difficult.
Politically, I think he’s a gem. Personally, well, it doesn’t look too good. Add to that the fact that he is going bald, and the poor man’s world seems to be falling apart.
If I might load up some double-entendres here, the bottom line is that Tommy has cocked up big-style. He decided to brass it out, hoping that antipathy to the evil News of the World would see him through, as it did last time. Dangerous strategy. As one of his own sympathisers said, he should just have come clean (Jeezo, don’t even go there with the double-entendres).
But, with soap-boxes piled to the ceiling, Tommy ululated: ” I have fought the power of News International all my political life and I make no apologies for taking on the might of Rupert Murdoch.”
But it wasn’t about politics. It was about sex. The trouble with the News of the Screws is precisely that, if you forget the celebrity pap, it’s actually a good paper in its own way. It carries out more investigations than any other paper and puts loads of seriously bad guys away, Tommy not included (and that was never its intention).
Besides, what do you say now when asked: who’s the most sleazy, Tommy or the News of the Screws? Consider that one Tony Cumberbirch (real name), a convicted burglar and career employee at Cupid’s, recognised Tommy from top current affairs documentary series, Celebrity Big Brother. Consider also that, in the normal course of events, this story involved the editor of the Scottish News of the World stripping down to his underpants to view a video of Tommy swearing liberally and apparently admitting his guilt.
Consider lastly: why does socialism, probably the most well-meaning of ideologies, throw up such rancour, not to mention splits so ludicrous that even Monty Python couldn’t do them justice?
I rest my case. But I doubt if we’ve heard the last of Tommy. No doubt, he’s already drawing up plans to return as the Red Avenger, wreaking havoc among his enemies and other fellow socialists.
Let’s remember some of his good points. He fought the poll tax heroically. As an MSP, he took half his salary, giving the other half to “ordinary, working class people”, most of whom were too dim to appreciate the gesture.
And appreciate this: politics is littered with liars and shaggers. The difference with Tommy is he never lied about politics. He only lied about shagging. It’s tempting to say: who gives a flying one? But law, for all its faults, underpins our society, and politicians telling porkies about their peckers ultimately must quail before its majesty and might. Either that or just say friggin’ sorry, for God’s sake.