I wrote recently about Robin McAlpine of CommonWeal trying to rehabilitate the liar and misogynist Tommy Sheridan. Rather bizarrely, as you’ll see from reading my earlier blog posting, Bella Caledonia appeared to be supporting this attempt, though they claimed simply to be opening up debate (I understand a woman submitted an article arguing against rehabilitating Sheridan to Bella but for some reason it was rejected, which on the face of it hardly sounds like opening up debate).
I gather the CommonWeal board met and discussed this issue and came to a decision, which, rather strangely, is available if you ask for it by email, but does not appear on their website, and has not, as far as I am aware, been widely publicised. I was sent the statement yesterday:
At a Board meeting on Monday 11 May it was agreed that Common Weal practice would be to decline invitations to speak on behalf of the organisation at any event which includes Tommy Sheridan on the platform. No public statement will be issued.
What is very strange about this is that apart from deciding to make no public statement, it’s unclear if CommonWeal’s branches know about this policy. The statement above came to me after tweets I sent to them that picked up on an event by Lochaber CommonWeal planned for tomorrow, with Sheridan one of the speakers:
What’s the point in having a decision not to share a platform with someone like Sheridan if branches of the organisation either don’t know about it, or don’t feel bound by it? There is – with good reason, it seems to me – considerable scepticism about CommonWeal’s commitment to avoiding work with Sheridan, as the tweet at the bottom of this conversation shows:
Of course, there is another issue that concerns my own party, the Scottish Greens, in that John Finnie MSP, who joined the Greens in autumn 2014, seems to have been happy to be on a platform with Sheridan, as the tweets above show, as well as others, eg:
I am not aware of any response to this from the Scottish Green Party, but it is something I want to follow up. I also don’t know if tomorrow’s event is still going ahead as originally planned.
It is worth noting that CommonSpace (the news service part of CommonWeal) have recently published some proper discussion pieces on Sheridan’s place in Scottish politics. For example:
- Mark Scott: How can the Scottish left fight inequality when it’s still battling within itself?
and then in response, a couple of interesting responses:
- Liam Mclaughlan: Why a romantic reunification of the SSP and Tommy Sheridan can’t work
- Tommy Ball: Sheridan and the Left
(I know that these are all men, but it’s hard to find whether there’s anything written by women because CommonSpace doesn’t appear to have a search function – at least not on my browsers; I’ve scrolled through a few pages of links and I don’t think they’ve had any women comment recently – but I may have missed that.)
I really welcome this kind of clear discussion, and Tommy Ball’s piece is particularly worth reading. Despite all the misgivings about CommonWeal that exist (and there are quite a few, from staff pay to wider programmatic and cultural issues in society, some of which are expertly discussed by Mairi McFadyen in this rather brilliant piece), in general terms I support the work of CommonWeal: the aims are mostly ones I can agree with, and I know some of the rather wonderful people involved, which gives me hope that they really can sort out their position on working with people like Tommy Sheridan. Not least because I don’t want to write about the unrepentant hypocrite again if I can help it.
Now, I’m off to tweet John Finnie…
Yesterday Ross Greer of the Scottish Greens wrote to me and confirmed that John Finnie was not, in fact, sharing a platform with Sheridan:
I’m very glad to hear that! Thank you, Ross for getting in touch.