04 August 2006

Sheridan victory

As I'm sure most of you will be aware by now, Tommy Sheridan has won his defammation action against the News of the World (though they are going to appeal the decision), but as you might not know, STV have reported that he will be challenging Colin Fox for the Convenership this Autumn.

Of course, he'll win. And his supporters will win elections for all the key positions in the SSP, so don't be surprised if the Party has a new Treasurer, Secretary and Policy Co-ordinator by the end of the year. The problem is, where next for his MSPs?

Carolyn Leckie, his opponents' main cheerleader and founder of the United Left group within the SSP, has said that she's prepared to go to court and defend herself against perjury charges. Given that the jury chose not to believe her, she's in trouble, and that's before you consider her re-election prospects.

Rosie Kane was part of the attack on Sheridan. Unfortunately for her, the Glasgow SSP delayed their List selection until the end of these court proceedings, so she may have a rough ride internally, let alone at the Ballot Box. Her one saving grace that might keep her #2 position is the fact that she does still appear to have allies following this fiasco: the sheer number of key Party figures who testified against Sheridan might save her.

Colin Fox is doomed: he effectively sided against Sheridan during this affair, and has had a poor run as National Convener. He now looks set to lose that post, and deprived of the 'prominence' that should bring him (though let's face it, he was never that prominent), he's pretty likely to lose his MSP status in May.

Rosemary Byrne backed Sheridan, but she may still get caught in the crossfire: she won the last available List seat in 2003, and only a small drop in votes will see her lose that. That leaves Frances Curran, who was the quietest of the three SSP MSPs in United Left. I haven't got much to say about her, other than the fact that, like the others, she's in trouble.

And beyond Holyrood, there's the wider Party to think about. A major fault-line has been exposed in a Party that was always based on a series of disparate groups, few of whom actually got on with each other in the first place. It was only the personality of Tommy Sheridan that kept them together, but he's now in the unhappy position of having very public enemies. So while the trial may have ended, the internecine warfare has, I suspect, only just begun, and it will leave a nasty taste in the mouth of the left-wing electorate, who might decide instead to vote Green, SNP (in places), or even for Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party as an alternative (if it's still going). Nor is there really anything to stop George Galloway's Respect Party sweeping in to fill the vacuum, should the SSP collapse.

Which means that by next May, we could well be back to seeing Tommy Sheridan ploughing a lone furrow.

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