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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 July 2006, 20:44 GMT 21:44 UK
'Campaign to discredit' Sheridan
Tommy Sheridan
Tommy Sheridan asked if anyone was trying to undermine him
Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan has been the victim of a "fairly relentless campaign to discredit" him from within his own party, a jury has heard.

The claim was made by Scottish Socialist Party member Professor Mike Gonzalez when asked if he was aware of anyone trying to undermine Mr Sheridan.

Prof Gonzalez said: "I have certainly become aware, since all these events occurred, of a hostility towards you."

Mr Sheridan has launched a defamation action against the News of the World.

Prof Gonzalez, 63, of the University of Glasgow, said the hostility had come from "a group of people on the executive committee".

He also said he had never seen a four-page minute of an emergency meeting of the party's executive committee convened to discuss lurid claims about an unnamed MSP's sex life in the News of the World.

'Negative effect'

Prof Gonzalez did not attend the meeting on 9 November, 2004.

The academic, who teaches Latin American studies, was handed a copy of the minutes from the meeting in court.

He said the minutes, which he described as more like a transcript, were like nothing he had ever seen before in terms of their detail and the intimate nature of the content.

The Glasgow MSP told him he may be accused of coming to court and committing perjury.

Prof Gonzalez said: "I would hardly risk my hard-won professional reputation by telling a lie in court."

I got the impression this was like a family fall-out because the people who were the most vociferous were people who had known you the longest
Jock Penman

Under cross-examination by Michael Jones QC, for the News of the World, Prof Gonzalez was asked about the evidence given by Allan Green, the party's national secretary, that the minute was true and accurate.

Prof Gonzalez said: "Allan Green was telling the truth as he saw it.

"Either he is mistaken or we have a different recollection."

Prof Gonzalez said a document which he described as a record was put before the 24 November meeting.

It simply stated that Mr Sheridan had resigned.

Party worker Jock Penman, 56, then insisted there had been no admissions during the discussion of the News of the World story.

He told Mr Sheridan: "You said you weren't that MSP.

"You said the MSP concerned was drunk and I think there was a reference to drugs as well.

"You said: 'You know that I don't drink and I don't take drugs so you know that is not me'."

'Gossip too far'

Mr Penman of Kelty, Fife, regional SSP organiser for the area, described the meeting in their HQ in Stanley Street, Glasgow.

He said: "I got the impression this was like a family fall-out because the people who were the most vociferous were people who had known you the longest and people who had been closest to you in your private life as well."

Mr Sheridan asked Mr Penman if he was sure the sex allegations had been denied.

He said: "Yes, you emphatically denied you were the person in the article, emphatically denied you had been at a swingers club and said if there was anything printed in any newspaper you would take action in court."

He added: "I thought there are quite a few people who have taken gossip far too far.

"They believe themselves that what they are saying is true. I am quite certain of that."

The first thing he said to me was: 'Tommy Sheridan is finished'
Steve Arnott

Later, another senior SSP official told the court a faction in the party was "out to get" Mr Sheridan.

Steve Arnott, the SSP's regional organiser in the Highlands and Islands, said he was unable to attend the executive committee meeting on 9 November 2004.

He told the court he had requested an update from a fellow committee member and took a call from Alan McCombes, the party's policy officer, at about 2330 BST that night.

Mr Arnott said: "The first thing he said to me was: 'Tommy Sheridan is finished'.

"That was his first words, which took me aback."

Questioned by Mr Sheridan, who is representing himself, the witness said Mr McCombes made allegations about the MSP visiting a swingers' club.

He added: "I recall he painted a picture of impending catastrophe.

"That somehow, within a week or two weeks, there would be pictures of you naked on the front pages of the Daily Record."

Mr Arnott, who has known Mr Sheridan for 20 years, said the Glasgow MSP described the claims as "utter rubbish" when he spoke to him about them.

Watch a report on the day's court proceedings

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