Tommy Sheridan: Poll tax rebel who rose to become an MSP

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Indy Politics

Tommy Sheridan's role in modern politics began, in his words, in "draughty village halls" across the country in the run-up to the historic first Scottish Parliament election just over 10 years ago.

But he had already made a mark on the public, rising to prominence by being jailed in 1992 for defying a court order to stop a poll tax warrant sale.

His determination took him from being locked up at Saughton Prison in Edinburgh to becoming an elected MSP and prompting a change in the law.

He described his success in his book, Imagine, published in 2000 with his then friend Alan McCombes - one of the many colleagues who testified against him in his perjury trial.

Sheridan wrote: "Just as I had been singled out for special punishment years before, I was now being singled out for special praise."

He described his struggle from jail to parliament "without compromising or diluting a single principle".

Move forward another decade and Sheridan was back in court fighting to salvage his reputation and freedom.

Before entering frontline politics, Sheridan was educated at Lourdes Secondary in Glasgow and went on to study at Stirling University, where he joined the Labour Party, but he was expelled because of his allegiance to the Militant Tendency group,

Elected a Glasgow councillor for the Pollok ward in 1992, he failed in several bids to oust Labour from that constituency.

After helping to form the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), he was elected to the first new Parliament in 1999, representing Glasgow on the regional list.

He was re-elected in 2003 with five other successful candidates - promising that the six MSPs would launch a revolution that would "engulf" Scotland and put socialism back on the agenda across Europe.

Sheridan gave half his parliamentary salary to the party and was even described as "Christ-like" by a bishop.

But the party, which was often portrayed as a one-man band, hit trouble a year later with Sheridan's shock departure.

He first publicly said the decision was to devote more time to being a father, with his wife Gail then three months pregnant.

At the time he insisted there was no hidden reason for stepping down as party convener, describing publicity over the party's finances and other "personal swipes" as "annoying but irrelevant to my decision".

A breakaway party, Solidarity, was launched in 2006 - after the successful defamation case against the News of the World - with an aim to be "bigger, better and bolder" than other left-wing parties in Scotland.

In a twist of fate, the launch was held at the same hotel as an SSP rally one day earlier, where that party's new leader, Colin Fox, said that being associated with Sheridan was causing damage. Both meetings were the first public gatherings of the parties since the court case.

Sheridan's promised revolution stumbled further in the polarised election of 2007 - won by the SNP - which saw the smaller parties squeezed and no socialist candidate returned.

Sheridan was effectively standing against former colleague Rosie Kane on the Glasgow list, both losing their seats and wiping out any far-left representation for the city at Holyrood.

Since then, the former MSP has continued to campaign. He stood for Solidarity in the Glasgow North East by-election for a seat at Westminster last year.

Prior to the unsuccessful challenge, he entered the Big Brother house as part of the celebrity version of the now-defunct TV show. He lasted more than three weeks before his eviction.

He maintains a blog, hosted on the Solidarity website, which was updated at points throughout the trial.

After day one at the High Court in Glasgow, he wrote: "We are confident we can emerge victorious and drive the Wapping tax-dodging scumbags back into the rat-infested sewer they inhabit."