By John Frame
What is going on with Tommy Sheridan and his Solidarity Party?
The perma-tanned firebrand appears to have lost all sense of reason and political rationale since his last incarceration at Her Majesty’s pleasure as a convicted perjurer.
He recently attended a political fundraiser in Edinburgh where he extolled the virtues of James Connolly as a “Scottish Protestant” and seemed to be completely ignorant of Connolly’s Irish and Catholic roots. Not that religion or national identity is of great political significance to progressive activists, but for a self-styled revolutionary ‘working class hero’ like Sheridan it was a display of quite astonishing political and historical ignorance.
A little more than a week later, Sheridan attended an Easter Commemoration organised by the West of Scotland Bands Alliance (WOSBA). On that occasion, Tommy shared a platform with a former republican prisoner who is now a Derry City councillor. At this event Tommy seemed confused as to what exactly it was that inspired the men and women of 1916 to rise against the British occupation of Ireland, referring constantly throughout his speech to the Easter Proclamation as “The Irish Declaration.”
Tommy’s apparent confusion may have been explained a matter of 3 days later when Sheridan appeared with a small group – calling itself ‘Scottish Resistance’ – and stood in the pouring rain on the steps of the Buchanan Galleries Shopping Centre to announce – to a crowd of zero members of the public – “The Declaration of Glasgow” – a supposedly ‘modern’ take on the Declaration of Arbroath, where it was declared:
“For as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom — for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”
Sheridan’s flirtation with nationalism appears to have become a full blown relationship, with the perjuring Pollok pin-up now urging a 1st vote preference for the SNP at this summer’s elections for the Scottish Parliament, with his party’s list nominees hoping to slip into the chamber by persuading nationalist voters to give them their second preference.
The Solidarity List of 40 candidates consists of the usual mix of Tommy’s fanatical groupies and Sheridan family members, but one candidate in particular in the North East Scotland list does raise some serious concerns and questions over Sheridan’s and Solidarity’s political judgement.
Gareth Norman is listed as the 4th candidate on the Solidarity nominees for the North East of Scotland. Gareth Norman is a former organiser of the National Front and the British National Party in Dundee and was active in far-right, loyalist and fascist circles for at least 10 years from the mid-1980’s-mid-1990’s. More than that, Norman was also the Grand Wizard of the Scottish Knights of the Ku Klux Klan throughout the 1990’s. It was the attentions of Anti-Fascist Action and his coming a cropper on an outing to Glasgow that appears to have been the final straw for Gareth Norman and he disappeared from the political scene for a few years. He has now re-emerged as a leading member of Solidarity’s branch in Dundee and as an election candidate for the party.
We accept that people can change and that former far-right activists are indeed capable of making the transformation from darkness to light, but in the case of a former organiser like Gareth Norman, we would want confirmation that he has truly changed his ways and is not simply seeking to subvert the left from within. We demand this based on Norman’s own political past as an extreme right-winger who had his foot in just about every organisation on the far-right in Scotland in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Some of Norman’s former fascist colleagues in Scotland, such as Steve Cartwright, have questioned his past Military Police (TA) service and his love of militarism, uniforms and subterfuge as possible indicators that he may have been a state infiltrator of their organisations and that he may well still be acting on behalf of the British state in his latest political incarnation as a member, organiser and candidate for Solidarity.
It seems strange that this man has been allowed to slip quietly into organisations of the left without so much as a whisper or a full disclosure regarding his past political activities. 107 Cowgate asked a former AFA organiser his views of this apparent Damascean conversion:
“AFA did recruit from the political opposition but usually at a lower level where young working class people flirting with the NF or BNP would be persuaded to come over to the side of progressive politics. However, when it comes to a former fascist organiser like Gareth Norman, we would require a full debriefing and a public declaration of his change of heart. The value of his information would be judged on the anti-fascist successes gained from it. He would not be allowed to walk quietly into organisations and assume positions, someone like that would be shadowed all the way by a senior and experienced member of AFA. That’s if he even managed to get through the first stage of political vetting. As far as I can tell, none of this has been followed by those political organisations in Dundee with which Gareth Norman is now working.”