Mid-summer is usually the silly season
for the media, and nowhere more than in the UK, where even a 25 degree
day is enough to make everyone gaga (a recent report on global warning
emphasised the crisis that would enfold Britain once we enter an era of
35-40 degrees+ days per year. The horror!).

This year, the
pressure of one or two minor real events – the collapse of the Middle
East and the drift to war which can fairly be said to be about 60% Tony
Blair’s fault – has pushed silly season to one side, but there’s been
at least one doozy.

To the open-mouthed amazement of most of the
country, one of the great trials of the century has been playing out
day by day up north. Tommy Sheridan, Scottish Socialist Party MSP – one
of six SSP MSPs in the Edinburgh chamber – brought a libel suit against
The News of the World, for a story that had the charismatic leader visiting swingers clubs and engaging in what NotW journos have as shift-F1 on the keyboard: three-in-a-bed romps.

law has worked as well for him as it did for Oscar Wilde, with a number
of women – including the journo who wrote the article – rolling up to
give evidence that they had, erm, discussed the Westlothian question
with Sheridan in a hot-tub, usually as part of a collective. Sheridan’s
legal team did their job and went on the attack, so Sheridan of course,
erm, sacked them – for impugning people’s reputations.

then, began to conduct his own defence – which ended with a shouting
match between himself and a former SSP Treasurer, the latter accused of
faking meeting minutes which allegedly document Sheridan’s confession
that a) the accusations were true and b) he’d lie about them to spare
the party.

The squalid – by which I mean hilarious – farce is
actually more of a tragedy, for if the Scottish Nationalist Party can
get within cooee of forming Scottish government, then the march towards
full independence would be underway. To do this however, they would
need the SSP in coalition – who could then demand a raft of genuinely
socialist measures as the price of their support. The Sheridan circus
arises from and exacerbates a threatened split in the SSP which may see
it snatch revolutionary defeat from the trachea of victory
(unprecedented!). Thus does the future of the United Kingdom as a
political entity hang by a g-string.

By far the best bit of the
trial was when one former lover/hooker/journo/party activist – I forget
which – said that she and Sheridan had had an ongoing passionate
affair, having s-x “eight times between 1994 and 2002”, and another
saying that, during FIBR (five-in-a-bed romps, alt-ctrl-F1) “Tommy was
great, jollying us all along to have a good time”.

Who but the Scots would need a team leader to make sure people remembered to have fun during group s-x? Once a year?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey