By Mike Small
First Edwin Morgan, then Jimmy Reid, now Tommy Sheridan. Scotland has lost three very different radical leaders in one year alone. And no, the potential arrival of George Galloway won’t help. Replacing the Satsuma Cicero (copyright Lallands Peat Worrier) with another tanned egoist will do nothing to further cause of a socialist Scotland.
But as the News of the World gloats and Andy Coulson winks there is very little cheer to be had from Tommy Sheridan’s downfall. The only positive is that the long-drawn out saga is now over and the left in Scotland can move forward. Sheridan’s troubles were the result of a series of appallingly poor judgements leaving an opportunity for the British state and the Murdoch press to smear and destroy. The Scottish Socialist Party issued a statement saying:
“By his actions over six years, Tommy Sheridan has disgraced himself and negated his political contribution to the socialist cause over 25 years. History will now record that he did more harm to the socialist cause in Scotland than any good he ever did it.”
That assessment is too harsh. As Gregor Gall points out as leader of the SSP Sheridan led them to become “by far the most successful socialist party in the British postwar period”. If the limitations of leadership by charisma and the cult of personality were to be found out – there is no point in arguing that there isn’t need for leadership and inspiration in politics. Sheridan’s leadership of the Poll Tax Movement should not be forgotten, and history should not be allowed to be recorded by Bob Bird. Six in a parliament should be remembered over four in a bed. Telling truth to power should be remembered over telling lies in court.
Solidarity will now surely cease to exist or slowly slide into (further) obscurity. The SSP had and has some fine policies which many in the Scottish Green Party and the SNP and across the country would agree with including:
- Free school meals
- A decent income for pensioners
- Well insulated low carbon homes
- A rejection of Trident and all WMD
- A new policy for refugees where people are welcomed and given the right to work and make a new life here
- Sustainable and nationalised energy
- Fare-free and publicly-owned train, bus and ferry services
The SSP have a clear policy on independendence, and unlike the Scottish Green Party campaign on the issue. They describe themesleves as: “ an anti-capitalist, pro-independence party, with a vision of socialism that is geared to the future rather than rooted in the past.”
What’s needed now though is not just good policies but good leadership from all progressive forces in Scotland.
As Roz Paterson passionately writes: “We are calling time on a Union that drags us into illegal, immoral wars, from Flanders fields to Iraq and Afghanistan. On a Union that ignores the call for nuclear disarmament and instead dumps its world-shattering arsenal within miles of our biggest city.
On a Union that opens up a democrat ic deficit of such proportions that, no matter who we vote for,we always get the choice of Middle England.”
The time for raking over one individuals life is thankfully over and the new task is to work out how the future looks for the left in Scotland – where energy can go and where alliances can be made. 2011 should be the year when the agenda is reclaimed by those more interested in the opening future than the inglorious past.