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Last Updated: Friday, 4 August 2006, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
Sheridan faced biggest challenge
Tommy Sheridan MSP
Tommy Sheridan, pictured with wife Gail, fought to clear his name
Tommy Sheridan MSP, the self-styled man-of-the-people, has built his political career on championing the cause of the poor and the disenfranchised.

However, his biggest battle so far has not been that waged on the debating chamber at Holyrood, during poll tax demos or Faslane anti-nuclear protests.

The former Scottish Socialist Party leader became involved in a legal row with one of Rupert Murdoch's papers.

Amid intense media interest, one of Scotland's most high-profile politicians and the Scottish News of the World went head-to-head.

Addressing the paper's allegations about his sex life, the MSP said his defence would "establish that the liars and the hypocrites are within the News of the World beast".

The left has never forgotten the bitter battles News International (now News Group Newspapers) owner Rupert Murdoch and the print unions fought at Wapping in the 1980s and here, a quarter of a century later, was Mr Sheridan attempting to face down one of his flagship papers.

Tommy Sheridan was an articulate and passionate voice opposed to the introduction of the poll tax in Scotland between 1986-92.

His firebrand rhetoric placed him at the heart of the anti-poll tax movement and he became president of the Anti-Poll Tax Federation.

He joined the Labour Party "to make a difference" in 1981 when Ronald Reagan was US president and two years after Margaret Thatcher came to power at Westminster.

Mr Sheridan soon proved to be the leading light of the Pollok Labour Party, emerging by 1986 as a young leader of the Marxist wing of Militant Tendency.

Clenched fist

At the time he was described as "Derek Hatton without the suits", but by 1989 he had been expelled for his high-profile stance against the poll tax and his militant links.

He was jailed for ripping up an interim interdict (an injunction in English law) to protest against a warrant sale, receiving a six-month sentence but was released after serving half of that.

Not afraid to serve a jail term in pursuit of his principles on a range of issues including nuclear weapons, the MSP has never been far from the political headlines.

He graduated from Stirling University in 1985 with a BA (Hons) in economics and politics. He studied there at the same time as First Minister Jack McConnell.

Tommy Sheridan and George Galloway protesting outside Faslane
Tommy Sheridan and George Galloway protesting outside Faslane

Mr Sheridan was elected to Glasgow City Council from his prison cell in 1992, to represent the Pollok ward.

He became national convener of the Scottish Socialist Party when it was set up in 1999.

He was elected as the first Scottish Socialist Party MSP to the new Scottish Parliament in 1999 and has been serving Glasgow region in that capacity ever since.

The new parliament had brought with it new political personalities and despite being the only SSP MSP, Mr Sheridan gained massive exposure for his party.

Famously, when required to swear allegiance to the Queen to become an MSP he did so with a raised clenched fist - a move which caused no little controversy with his peers.

"Supreme sovereignty lies with the people of Scotland rather than an unelected monarchy," he said at the time.

Mr Sheridan enjoyed success in 2000 with his campaign to abolish warrant sales when his members' bill made its way through parliament.

The Scottish Socialists' foothold in the parliament was strengthened greatly at the 2003 Holyrood elections when five other SSP members won seats to the parliament.

Those other MSPs shared Mr Sheridan's campaigning spirit and have not been afraid to incur the wrath of the authorities inside and outside the parliament.

Mr Sheridan has been jailed on a number of occasions for his anti-nuclear weapons stance after protesting outside the Faslane naval base.

'Political visionary'

His political blood boiled when a parliamentary committee rejected his plans for free school meals for every pupil in Scotland.

He clashed time and again with his political opponents during First Minister's Questions as he sought to make the Socialists a credible force in Scottish politics.

Tommy Sheridan
Sheridan's clenched fist sparked controversy at Holyrood

Despite predicting "spectacular" election gains at Holyrood for a party which was "honest, principled and visionary", he would not see Socialists in power under his leadership.

Mr Sheridan resigned in November 2004, saying he wanted to be "a proper father" to his first child with wife Gail.

He also described gossip about his private life as "crap".

However, the rumours and speculation persisted and in July this year he launched a 200,000 defamation action against the News of the World over allegations about his private life.

'Stitch-up'

It was claimed that the Glasgow MSP had committed adultery, was a "swinger" and had participated in orgies.

The married father-of-one rejected the claims and during the case at the Court of Session he claimed to be the victim of "the mother of all stitch-ups".

Alongside the sex allegations came stories of deep rifts between Mr Sheridan and his party colleagues, not least party leader Colin Fox.

In May of this year the two men met to patch things up after Mr Sheridan criticised the SSP leadership in a letter and accused "an unsavoury cabal" of pursuing personal vendettas against him.

Never shy of tackling matters head on, Mr Sheridan's no-nonsense style had been evident in the court room.

He raised more than a few political and legal eyebrows when he sacked his legal team in favour of representing himself in the defamation case.

The politician, who once waged war on poverty, had opened up a new front to defeat his detractors and clear his name - a campaign that ultimately proved successful.






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