Fiona McCade: A wee word of advice, Tommy: make a fuss of your wife, man

'An honest, fiery, feisty and very formidable woman'
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The Independent Online

Every day for 24 days, as Tommy and Gail Sheridan drove to Edinburgh's Court of Session to face whatever lurid allegations his sensational defamation case against the News of the World might bring, they sang "Everything's Coming Up Roses" together, to raise their spirits.

It was a sweet, rather old-fashioned choice. I'm surprised Tommy didn't buoy himself up with repeated renditions of "Working Class Hero", or a few choruses of "The Internationale", but there was really only one song that summed up Gail's attitude to the proceedings: "Stand By Your Man".

Since winning the case, and £200,000 damages, Sheridan has attributed his victory to the woman who was always there to hold his hand, gaze adoringly at him and smile, smile, smile. "My wife sticking by me was probably the most significant factor," he said. "The jury saw in Gail an honest, fiery, feisty and very formidable woman."

Tommy was sure Gail would have trusted him anyway, but that didn't stop her from checking and cross-checking his diaries and her work rosters to make absolutely sure he was always where he said he was. Probably the most important moment of the trial came when Mr Sheridan, acting as his own counsel, asked Mrs Sheridan if, as had been suggested, she was only there to stand by him. "There is no way I would be here and neither would you," she replied. "You would be in the Clyde with a piece of concrete tied around you, and I would be standing in court for your murder. You believe that right now." And the jury did.

The testimony of the various women involved in the case was probably the most important. In his closing speech, the News of the World's lawyer told the jury they needed to believe only one woman, the Scottish Socialist Party worker Katrine Trolle, who claimed she had been to swingers' clubs with Sheridan and indulged in group sex with him. This hardly tallied with Gail's portrait of a faithful, Scrabble-playing husband and father, but at this point, something more compelling than mere evidence overwhelmed the courtroom - the irresistible power of cultural stereotypes. The Edinburgh jurors observed Trolle, the self-confessed "liberated, free-thinking Scandinavian", saying she'd had kinky sex with Sheridan and thought, perhaps, she might. Then along came Gail, the gutsy Glaswegian wife and mother, saying she'd murder him if he'd done the dirty on her. And the jurors thought, yeah, absolutely - she would.

The Sheridans believe it was their Clydeside upbringing, that backbone of working-class steel, that saw them through. "They didn't just build ships in Govan, they built people," rhapsodised Tommy, but he was the one that broke down in court and wiped his eyes with a pink hanky. Gail made everyone laugh, as well as scaring the living daylights out of them. "Being the demanding person that I am, I make sure you spend time with me," she announced. "And I have done it for years." This declaration simultaneously made every petrified male juror sympathise with Mr Sheridan, and every admiring female juror yearn for some life coaching from Mrs. Scots women seemed won over by Gail's insistence that she wasn't the kind of wife who would wait meekly for her husband to come home from the orgy.

Ultimately, the man was judged by the quality of his woman and she didn't let him down. She accompanied him in a collection of sophisticated, monochrome outfits, but she was careful not to overdo it. There were no labels, no jewellery, nothing flashy. Let's hope he spoils her a bit after this.