Tommy Sheridan scaled the political heights, achieving something quite remarkable. He became the best known and most widely respected socialist leader in the post-war period in Scotland. As a radical socialist, he became the second most famous living Scot. He became an icon, a voice for the voiceless. And, he led the Scottish Socialist Party to its historic breakthrough in the 2003 Scottish Parliament election, gate crashing its way into the political mainstream. But in a very short space of time, the achievements of a lifetime were thrown away and all the progress put into reverse. From being jailed for fighting Thatcher's hated poll tax, he ended up back in jail for committing perjury. The supreme irony is that Tommy landed himself back in jail as a disgraced socialist at the very time when he was most needed to help lead resistance to the Westminster government's public service spending cuts following the crisis of neo-liberalism. He was not there to help turn it into another poll tax revolt. Why did he throw this all away? Was it, as the media alleged, because he was an egotist, delusional and arrogant?
Was it because, as he alleged, he was stitched up by an unholy alliance of the state, News International and his former comrades? This biography tells the story of the socialist who had it all but who was attracted to risk like a moth to a light. Tommy always played for political high stakes but only on the basis of strategic calculation. Taking the News of the World to court over allegations that were substantially true seemed like madness. But Tommy knew that if he did not do so and win, the floodgates would be open to further lurid stories about his sex life. This would then damage his carefully cultivated persona of the clean living man. And that would do untold damage to him as a socialist politician. He played and won in 2006. He played and lost in 2010. The biography explains why he became this risk taker, why he succeeded for so long but why, ultimately, he over-reached himself.
Gregor Gall is Research Professor of Industrial Relations at the University of Hertfordshire. He lives in Edinburgh and was previously Professor of Industrial Relations at the University of Stirling. He researches and writes primarily about unions and industrial relations, with a particular interest in the labour movement and the politics of Scotland. He is author of The Political Economy of Scotland: Red Scotland? Radical Scotland? (University of Wales Press, 2005) and a frequent contributor to the Morning Star, the Guardian's 'Comment is free' and a member of the editorial board of the Scottish Left Review.