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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 August 2006, 17:37 GMT 18:37 UK
Fight on for future of Socialists
Tommy Sheridan
Mr Sheridan is now considering his next political move

Divisions are emerging within the Scottish Socialist Party as a power struggle looks set to unfold.

It comes after former leader Tommy Sheridan won a 200,000 defamation action against the News of the World over sex allegations.

It is understood Mr Sheridan now intends to stand again as party leader.

Activists have stressed grassroots sympathy for Mr Sheridan but some MSPs have said they would find it difficult to ever work with him again.

Several Socialist MSPs gave evidence which backed the paper's claims, but Mr Sheridan triumphed in the case at the Court of Session.

We now have to turn our attentions to the difficult task of taking the SSP forward
Colin Fox
SSP convener

Mr Sheridan brought the civil action against the tabloid after it printed articles in 2004-05 which alleged he had cheated on his wife, visited a sex club and participated in orgies.

The jury of six men and five women found in the MSP's favour by a majority verdict.

It is nearly two years since Mr Sheridan stepped down as leader of the party he co-founded, amid lurid allegations in the Sunday tabloid about his sex life.

Now that he has won his case it is understood he plans to confront his critics at the SSP's conference in October and launch a bid to take over the party's reins once again.

Current leader Colin Fox was one of several senior SSP members who gave evidence against him in court. In total, 11 party figures stood in the witness box and told the jury that their former leader admitted to attending a swingers club.

Gail and Tommy Sheridan
Gail and Tommy Sheridan show relief after the verdict

They are standing by their accounts, but some SSP factions are calling on them to quit, leading to speculation that the party is on the verge of splintering.

After the verdict, Mr Fox said: "We now have to turn our attentions to the difficult task of taking the SSP forward and healing the wounds opened up by the case."

A statement from MSPs Carolyn Leckie and Rosie Kane, along with fellow MSP Frances Curran, said: "We have told the truth and we stand by the minutes of our party which record the truth about Tommy Sheridan's standing down as national convenor in November 2004 and we will resist any attempt to revise the SSP's history."

Ms Kane has now said she would find it difficult to work with Mr Sheridan.

'Fully divorced'

She said: "I personally could not and would not vote for Tommy Sheridan as leader given what we've just been through and the route that he chose.

"I personally am finished in terms of working with Tommy, we share an office, but that will not be the same any more, it hasn't been for 18 months.

"And as far as I am concerned personally and politically we are fully divorced."

However, SSP regional organiser Steve Arnott said that the 11 party figures who testified against Mr Sheridan did not reflect the bulk of opinion in the party.

The majority within the SSP have been solidly behind Tommy Sheridan
Steve Arnott
SSP organiser

"I think today people will wake up in the SSP and feel that there is a way forward," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I have always maintained that the majority within the SSP have been solidly behind Tommy Sheridan and today they will wake up feeling marvellous.

"A number of leading SSP members testified against Tommy Sheridan - 11 of them - but there are 2,700 members in the SSP.

"It is 11 more than any of us would have liked, but what we have to establish quite clearly is that they represent a faction within the party that are a minority and that have positions of influence beyond what their numbers probably deserve."

Rosie Kane and Carolyn Leckie
Rosie Kane and Carolyn Leckie have stuck by their evidence

Iain Ferguson, spokesman for the Socialist Workers Platform wing of the party, said they were dismayed to see SSP members giving evidence.

He said: "This has caused huge rifts in the SSP and has damaged the party's reputation amongst all those people who voted SSP in the 2001 Scottish parliamentary elections.

"We call on these News of the World witnesses to do the honourable thing and resign from the Scottish Socialist Party."

Judge Lord Turnbull said the conflicting evidence given to the court may have meant some people had been perjuring themselves - an offence which could lead to a prison sentence.

A Crown Office spokesman said it would be considering the judge's statements, but that it was too early to speculate on whether a criminal investigation would follow.

The News of the World said it intended to appeal the verdict within seven days.

See the party reaction to the outcome

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