Dead Men Left

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"Wicker Tam"

Bit slow off the mark, but news from distant parts takes its time. Front page of the Scottish Mirror, Friday 25 August:

Tommy Sheridan's SSP rivals burned an effigy of their former leader in a scene straight out of The Wicker Man.

Activists on a woodland retreat cheered as the life-sized model went up in flames, echoing the climax of the 1973 cult movie.

A witness said: "The event was supposed to be about learning more about socialism. But it soon became clear that most people there only wanted to bitch about Tommy Sheridan.

"There was a bonfire made up and then this effigy of Tommy was brought out and thrown on. It was bizarre." The training weekend, called Camp Secret Squirrel, was organised by the Scottish Socialist Youth (SSY) wing of the SSP...

Mr Sheridan yesterday dismissed the incident as an "embarrassment". He added: "I really don't want to comment any further."

But a source close to the Glasgow MSP said it shows why he feels he must leave the SSP and set up a new socialist party.

The source said: "This is not something he'll be losing any sleep over. But it does show the kind of people we're up against in what remains of the Scottish Socialist Party.

"These people would rather burn effigies of Tommy Sheridan than get out there fighting New Labour and the Tories. It's about time that some of them got a life.

"They really have to ask why they got into politics if all they want to do is burn effigies of fellow socialists. This shows why the time has come to seriously consider the creation of a new, inclusive left-wing party in Scotland that people can feel comfortable with."

More interesting than this sectarian lunacy is the Mirror's editorial comment on Sheridan:

No wonder Tommy Sheridan wants to leave the crisis-hit SSP.

His fellow Socialist MSPs have already tried to bring him down by giving evidence against him in court.

Now some of his so-called comrades have burnt his effigy at a secret camp in the wilds of Lanarkshire.

The crazy stunt is just another example of a nasty streak that seems to run through some in the far-left party.

They seem more concerned with attacking Tommy Sheridan - who helped found the party - than getting on with the job they were elected to do.

At the last election thousands voted for the Socialists hoping they would fight for a fairer Scotland.

And the party's six MSPs made a good start - putting forward popular proposals such as free school meals for all and scrapping prescription charges.

But the party has now become a laughing stock.

The task of rebuilding a credible left-wing party in Scotland will no doubt rest on Tommy Sheridan's shoulders.

But he will only succeed if he ditches the losers and loonies who seem bent on taking over the SSP.

Now, bearing in mind the Mirror's slant - vaguely left-of-Labour - and readership - working class - this is a telling line for them to be taking. It will no doubt be an interesting ride over the few months to Holyrood elections next May, and not just for the SSP: the Scottish Tories, it seems, are at each others' throats.