He’s not, but I figured this article would be roundly misinterpreted from the off, so why not go all out? As it happens, Tommy Sheridan was once a hero of mine. That was before he split the socialist vote in Scotland down the middle, in a vain attempt to protect his reputation against allegations that (quite frankly) no one gave a toss about. But this won’t be an article rehashing the untimely death of the SSP, or the rise and fall (then rise again) of Tommy Sheridan. If that’s what you’re after, I highly recommend Alan McCombes’ book ‘Downfall’.
I don’t want to talk about whether or not Tommy’s a bad guy, whether he’s an egotist, whether he’s a “good socialist”, or whether it’s fair that he’s reminded of his crimes forever more (though strangely, people were never so forgiving of Geoffrey Archer). It’s a fairly pointless discussion anyway, given that most attempts to bring nuance to the table are dismissed as either vindictive or bitter, such is his oddly messianic status. So, reading this, you will likely fall into one of three categories:
(1) You agree wholeheartedly, and feel my pain as I fight this losing battle.
(2) You disagree wholeheartedly, assuming I am bitter, right wing or a sexual prude.
(3) You don’t know – or care – enough about it all to have an opinion either way, but have developed an insightful sounding narrative along the lines of “seems to me the ones doing all the moaning are the divisive ones”.
This article is really for those who fall into the third category, because it doesn’t actually make any sense. A thing, or an individual does the dividing, not the folks being divided. For example, Apple computers are divisive, Marmite is divisive, but it would be ridiculous to suggest that the people who don’t like them were. They just don’t like them, and they have their reasons (for the record, I’m a fan of both).
But let’s look at this from a slightly different perspective. Let’s imagine that Tommy Sheridan was indeed whiter than white, in fact for the purpose of the remainder of this article, let’s assume that Sheridan is nothing short of a saint. Because even if that were the case, it wouldn’t change the extent to which he divided opinion in Scotland.
Tommy’s ardent supporters will argue that as a vocal proponent of Scottish independence, he is an asset to the continued Yes movement. Those same people will tell you that all of us need to work together for the common cause of independence, and that picking and choosing who is and isn’t allowed to represent that movement will damage the cause in the long term. One woman I spoke to actually referred to it as “blacklisting”, which of would of course be entirely unacceptable were it not for the fact that it’s a blacklist that’s only ever consisted of one name: Tommy Sheridan.
It’s not some crusade to purge the Yes movement of everyone that looks a bit dodgy, it’s just the suggestion that someone as divisive as Sheridan, complete with perjury conviction, might not be someone you want front and centre of an argument that (as yet) is still to win over 55% of the population (especially given that so many unionists now quietly view Sheridan as an asset to their cause).
I’m no mathematician, but if someone is alienating people on both sides of a debate, surely they serve no useful purpose? Surely they are just a liability? Cynics of course, would say it has less to do with independence and more to do with Holyrood 2016, and a “yah boo” to Sheridan’s former colleagues in the Scottish Socialist Party. Cynics mind you, not me.
The moral of the story is this: if you want to stop division, then you need to find its source, any attempt to blame it on the people who are divided is simply hand-wringing. If you don’t want to deal with the source, that’s fine, but quit whinging about division.