Champagne, socialism and sado-masochism: Tommy Sheridan faces his accusers in court

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The Independent Online

Tommy Sheridan became a hero of the proletariat when he took to the barricades against Mrs Thatcher's hated Poll Tax. In recent days however, the perma-tanned poster boy of Scottish socialism has been embroiled in an altogether more vicious spat.

Yesterday the former leader of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) fought back tears as he took the witness stand at a cramped courtroom in Edinburgh after 13 days of libel evidence in which a string of witnesses claimed he took part in drug and Champagne-fuelled orgies, attended swingers' clubs and indulged in sado-masochistic sex.

For his part, Mr Sheridan, 42, denies the claims of three, four, even five-in-a-bed romps, adultery, rubber glove spanking sessions and cruising for sex with nipple-clamped strangers.

Claiming he is the victim of the "mother of all stitch ups" amid a bitter internal feud in his party the MSP struggled to keep his emotions in check as he described his determination to fight his cause.

"I feel I am the mild-mannered Clark Kent of Scottish politics - turning into Superman by night," he said. "The only difference with the fictional Superman is that he is made of steel, while I am made of flesh and blood. These people will never get me to bow my head. They will never destroy my political career."

Mr Sheridan is seeking £200,000 in damages from the News of the World after it published allegations from a former prostitute detailing a four-year affair.

But in the attempt to restore his reputation, the libel action has unleashed a torrent of sordid allegations that has shone an unwelcome light on the snake pit of Scottish politics.

And in yet another dramatic twist last week, the married father sacked his legal team. Not only did it prompt more newspaper sniggers about " dropped briefs" but it has seen Mr Sheridan, who has attended court with his air hostess wife Gail, confront his accusers.

Chief among these is Fiona McGuire, a former prostitute who was paid £20,000 by the News of the World for the original story. The 32-year-old mother-of-three, who now works as a school liaison officer, has been dismissed by Mr Sheridan as an unstable fantasist.

In evidence, she described how she and Mr Sheridan took part in a five-in-a-bed sex session after taking cocaine. "Tommy was very much an instigator, jollying us all into having a good time," she said. She later described how, under the pressure of the allegations, she attempted suicide by swallowing pills but was saved by a News of the World journalist.

Also among the witnesses was Katrine Trolle, a 31-year-old Danish occupational therapist, who claims to have had sex with the politician " between five and seven times". She told the court that she took part in a threesome with Mr Sheridan and his brother-in-law as well as accompanying the two men and a Scottish female journalist Anvar Khan, 38, to Cupid's nightclub in Manchester. She claimed Mr Sheridan offered her "some kind of wonder drug that would give you lots of energy and make you amorous... probably Viagra".

Ms Khan, who said she had sex with the MSP six times between 1994 and 2000, also described Mr Sheridan disappearing "upstairs with the woman who worked behind the bar, with her husband's blessing" when the group went on to a party afterwards. She and another witness, Helen Allison, 52, who claimed to have seen Mr Sheridan having sex with a prostitute at Glasgow's Moat House Hotel, later told the court they had been threatened after going public with their allegations. Mrs Allison claimed she had been told she would be "dealt with" if she revealed what she had seen.

Michael Jones QC, representing the News of the World said he had 11 witnesses who claimed to have seen Mr Sheridan taking part in group sex. He produced mobile phone bills dating back to 2001 allegedly showing the left winger "rounding up his team" for another swinging session. The case was adjourned until Monday when Mr Sheridan will call witnesses.