As debate among the Scottish left rages about how to deal with former MSP Tommy Sheridan – who was at the centre of a deep split in the left after he was convicted of perjury in relation to reports about his sex life – CommonSpace columnist Ian Dunn warns that men like Sheridan are destined to cause disharmony
A WEEK before the tightest election in living memory and the Scottish Left is all tangled up in an argument with itself.
Nothing new there, and to those not prone to wrapping themselves in a red flag, about as much interest as watching slugs race.
But there’s something worth saying about Tommy Sheridan, and given this current stooshie is about whether or not people – and in particular Robin McAlpine, the director of Common Weal, of which this site is an offshoot – should associate with him, I’ll say it.
The trouble with Tommy Sheridan is not just his politics, his perjury or his relentless personal egomania. The trouble with Sheridan is that he is a type. A type that will be familiar to anyone with even the most passing acquaintance with radical left wing politics: a confident, righteous voice for the dispossessed that rails against the evils of the government, the system and the powers that be, and continually treats women like shit.
The trouble with Tommy Sheridan is not just his politics, his perjury or his relentless personal egomania. The trouble with Sheridan is that he is a type.
Sheridan was famously aggressive in his pursuit of willing partners, and was all too willing to lie and traduce them when they admitted to sleeping with him in court. Yet he is just the most high profile example of a pattern of behavior.
The supposedly right-on world of leftist politics is absolutely not immune to disgraceful male behavior, as recent events in the Socialist Workers Party illustrate.
Obviously, men like this are a tiny minority and it’s not just in radical politics where you can see this pattern of a man sexually behaving badly, and then using of his influence and followers to defend himself and condemn those who speak out against him. But there is a particular pattern that you see in such groups, and that also crops up in the churches and charitable sector.
A generous interpretation might be that these men, on some level, are aware they are guilty of doing things that are wrong. In an attempt to balance the scale they are attracted to actions that proclaim their justice, that allow them to do noticeably and active things they think are ‘good’.
A less charitable theory would be that radical political movements, religions and charities also often attract people low on confidence, looking to belong to something bigger than themselves. People who some would see as easy victims.
At its gravest extreme, this tendency allows events like the clergy abuse scandal in the Irish Catholic Church. They resurrected a medieval concept called the mental reservation. To justify concealing child abuse, which they knew to be wrong, a priest could use his ‘mental reservation’ to think about lying and concealment for the ‘good of the Church’.
Sheridan has never shown any contrition. Without that, there is suspicion he will continue to behave in the same way he has in the past.
Tommy Sheridan, and men like him, I suspect practice something similar; as they perceive themselves to be a force for good, whatever it is that they do, it cannot be wrong.
This is not to say that he or anyone is beyond redemption. But Sheridan has never admitted he has done anything wrong. Has never shown any contrition. Without that, there is also the suspicion he will continue to behave in the same way he has in the past.
With that in mind, reluctance to associate with him is very understandable. Left wing infighting will be with us until the end of time. But so will men like Tommy Sheridan who justify taking advantage of others.
Sometimes they use politics as a shield, sometimes religion. Their great trick is to suggest that their beliefs can make them a good person. But there are Ukip supporters who are honest and true, and seemingly cuddly right-on Greens without a drop of compassion in them.
When choosing your associates, how they behave is infinitely more important than what they believe.
Picture courtesy of Subcity Radio