We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Libel is a game of two halves

I can now safely say that Mr Tommy Sheridan, once the lion of the Scottish Socialist party, displayed more than comradely affection while visiting a Manchester sex club called Cupids. In 2006 it was not safe for the News of the World to say this: Mr Sheridan successfully sued the paper for libel. If his life were a play this would be Act III when the hero seems all-conquering. Enter Iago:

The jury’s verdict implies that it also believed that it was Sheridan whose voice was heard on a secretly recorded video confessing that he made these admissions. The video, taped by his former friend George McNeilage and bought by the NoW for £200,000, became a central part of the perjury trial. Sheridan insisted it was a forgery.

Sheridan has been told to expect a prison sentence.

When he gets out he can have a chat with Jeffrey Archer. They will have plenty in common.

I find the sheer, vulgar symmetry of both of their stories fascinating. You could plot their fortunes as a sine curve. It’s like the plot of a Jeffrey Archer novel, only less subtle.

11 comments to Libel is a game of two halves

  • I find the sheer nastiness of the press immiserating. There is nothing positive to come out of this; an unwarranted intrusion into a man’s personal life by a hypocritical scandal rag leads him to lie to try to save his reputation. He is found out. Nobody wins, except the odious News Of The Screws.

    It has much of the flavour of a perjury trap; in a society which is publically puritanical and privately liberal, there is always some “dirt” to be dug up. This stands as one of the myriad indictments of our nasty, pitiful society.

    I don’t know much about Sheridan. I know more about Archer. I’ve even met him. I think he’s an odious creep. Maybe Sheridan is too. But being an odious creep isn’t illegal. Perjury is; but the events that led there in both cases were started by invasions of privacy and a cultural hegemony that requires the maintenance of a “reputation”.

    And over at the Telegraph, we have two airheads called Holly and Heidi (hockey, anyone?!) revealing to a shocked nation that, er, Lib Dems are rather distrustful of Tories. Holly and Heidi will next be reporting on ursine defecation in forested areas. Meanwhile the press does nothing to investigate the EU, the IPCC, the environmentalist movement, the trotskyites running the stoodent protests, etc etc etc.

    I hope the internet kills the worthless british MSM forever. It is shit.

  • Westerlyman

    Ian I agree with you on every point made except “…probably an odious creep..”. I do not know him either but he is definitely

  • Ian B, I do have some sympathy with the “unwarranted intrusion” line but I would have more if he hadn’t actually visited Cupid’s with a News of the World journalist, Anvar Khan. (Though I note that the allegation that he had sex with her was deleted from the charge upon which he was found guilty.) But… going to a swingers’ club with a NotW columnist? Icarus flying high.

    One of the Guardian commenters, scotleag, wrote an almost poetic post that sums up my feelings perfectly:

    “Gretna may have won at the Bernabeu as Tommy Sheridan famously proclaimed at the end of the first trial but they went bust two years later.

    “I’m a but surprised at the verdict. Not because I think he is innocent but I thought Teflon Tam was going to get away with it again, thanks this time to all those family witnesses who weren’t available in 2006 or couldn’t recall but whose memories had sharpened up considerably in the past few weeks.

    “Sad to see and obviously talented guy brought down by his own ego. He had several options open to him when the NOTW story first broke. He could deny it and leave it at that. He could ‘refuse to dignify the claims with an answer’ (standard procedure in such cases). He could say it was a typical Murdoch smear. He could say his private life was no concern to anyone bar him and his family. He could have done a Clinton and say he did not have sexual relations with ‘that woman’ (ironically, the only part of the indictment he was cleared of today).

    “Or even, perish the thought, he could have said, what consenting adults do in their own time is up to them.

    “But no, Tommy, the people’s Tam, the legend in his own mind, had to pick the worst option open to him.

    “So this is how it ends. With the great atheistic revolutionary, the scourge of bourgeois family values, reduced to playing the family man, pleading to be with his wife and wean at the annual Christian festival.

    “And the last scene outside the court shows how far he’s fallen. For the first time ever in front of a camera, Tommy is silent while Gail morphs seamlessly into Tammy Wynette, announcing she will stand by her man

    “No one comes out of this well. Not Sheridan, who has only his dwindling fan club to back up his fantasies of plots involving Murdoch, the police and the SSP. Not his wife who said in 2006 she’d put him in the Clyde if she ever found him to be unfaithful. Not the SSP witnesses for the crown, some of whom who saw this as a chance to take down a guy too big for his boots but without whom they’d have been nowhere anyway. McCombes has just claimed on BBC Scotland that Sheridan has done more damage to the socialist movement than Thatcher. FFS Sheridan has helped destroy a fringe political party he created in the first place. Thatcher condemned generations to misery and the dole. That shows the kind of thinking that goes on in these Trotskyist sects.

    “The NOTW aren’t smelling of roses either. Khan’s – for want of a better term – sexed up story wasn’t believed by the jury.

    “The public purse has taken a battering as well. Police resources have been diverted as Sheridan claimed, whilst forgetting that if he hadn’t embarked on his quixotic court case in 2006 against the advice of friend and foe alike, that would never have been the case.

    “But above all, George McNeilage comes out of it worst of all. Judas was only paid 30 pieces of silver. McNeilage got 200 grand for his betrayal.

    “The Ultra-left in Scotland make the Judaean Peoples Front and the Peoples Front of Judaea look like comrades in arms.”

  • The blockquote in my comment above seems to have turned itself off too soon. The quote from “scotleag” should go on to the end.

  • Harry Powell

    Without having looked too deeply into (I’m not that interested after all) the SSP saga shows the typical pathology of the way most fringe parties die. Namely; protest group gains parliamentary representation, the young revolutionaries get regular salaries and expenses and researchers for the first time in their lives, there is a falling out over who controls the party finances (democratic will be damned, who has the tea kitty dictates policy), the star performer then splits off into a me me me party, the end. So far as I know the few that make the transition from fringe to mainstream have a sugar daddy who doesn’t interfere that much in policy, like say Labour and the unions.

    Tea Party be warned.

  • Tom in Toronto

    And the caught Tory quit immediately while the caught Socialist fought it tooth and nail protesting his innocence.

  • Robbo

    Ian B: a cultural hegemony that requires the maintenance of a “reputation”

    Err, no, there is no such requirement. Of course there are hoops to jump through if you want to get elected to political office, spend other people’s money, tie them up in endless legislation, etc. But it is entirely voluntary whether you do this or not.

  • Sam Duncan

    I don’t know Sheridan either, but, unlike most readers here I suspect, I’ve followed his career for the last 20 years. Natalie has the measure of the man. He thought he could talk, bluster and weasel his way out of anything. He thought, in short, that he was smarter than everyone else. And, given his two decades of making a comfortable living selling Trotskyist snake-oil to the masses of eastern Glasgow, who can blame him? Indeed, I suspect that like so many far-leftists, he thought “the people” were behind him far more than they actually are, and that no jury would convict him.

    One difference between him and Archer though: Archer wrote some popular novels. I can’t recall, off the top of my head, Toamy doing anything unrelated to politics.

  • thefrollickingmole

    We had a case in Oz not so long ago. The ex-police minister (transport minister at the time) in a state government was photographer leaving a gay sauna.

    Normaly Im all for the ‘what they do out of parliment is their own business”, but think about it like a career criminal for a moment.

    How much blackmail could you get away with?
    How many contracts could come your way?

    I think its time for all parties to be as “out” as possible with their members.

    If I was to start a criminal empire my first step would be free drugs/prostitutes to as many law students as possible. Within 5 years Im setting myself up as unprosecutable.
    Id also have a little string of swingers clubs, high establishment and low, and keep a lot of material on who came and went. Possibly even offering things for those whos peccadillos arent…savory…

    If you are in public life you should not be carrying out anything you wouldnt want revealed in a public or semi public place.

    Anyone who wants an idea of the sort of crim who do this could do a lot worse than read about this bloke…

    Theres a number of books detailing his activities, but sex clubs and blackmail (including a high court judge who liked little girls) were a huge part of his business.

  • Paul Marks

    Ian B.

    Mr Sheridan posed as the pure son of the people, the incorruptable Robespierre, who would lead them to the extermination of the evil capitalists (meaning business onwers like errr YOU Ian).

    The News of the World exposed him as not pure at all – but, rather, as a grubby sex pervert.

    Whilst it is unlikely Mr Sheridan would have achieved his dream of wading through the blood of the evil owners of capital and expliters of the masses (again remember that, to “Tommy”, one of those exploiters is you Ian), the News of the World did a public service (as well as getting itself a story) when it exposed him.

    Mr Sheridan replied with a tidel wave of lies – both to try and save his reputation for moral purity, and to gain MONEY (the very thing he is not supposed to be care about). And now his campaign has come to its defeat.

    Still I am sad about one thing – the wife got off.

  • llamas

    You would think, after a century-and-a-half of experience, that anyone in the public eye would know better than to take on the NotW unless they were completely and utterly innocent of whatever misdeeds the newspaper had accused them of – and could prove it.

    The British political and social landscape is littered with the carcases of those who thought they could outwit the NotW and keep secret indiscretions which the paper had found out. Sheridan is merely the latest in a long line. As I said – you’d think they’d know better. It is actually a fairly good indicator of political hubris. Much better to simply ignore their accusations (unless, as said, they are entirely untrue, and you can prove it) than to fight them. But no, there’s always another politician who can be relied upon to take up the cudgels with the NotW in the deluded belief before them – even when you win, you lose.that they are so smart and so powerful and so well-connected that they will be the first to slay the dragon.

    And – as Sheridan found out, and Archer before him, and countless others – even when you win, you lose. They should read Rumpole on the law of libel.