Author Archives: Tommy Sheridan

About Tommy Sheridan

Tommy Sheridan is a former Scottish MP & Glasgow City Councillor. His record as a representative and tribune of socialist ideas is second to none having served as both a councillor and two periods as an MSP. He was elected to Glasgow City Council in 1992 to represent Pollok from his prison cell having been jailed in his opposition to the hated Poll Tax. Tommy served as a Glasgow City Councilor between 1992 and 2003 and was elected to Holyrood in 1999 where he served the first of his two terms as an MSP. During his time in Holyrood he successfully moved a bill to abolish warrant sales and introduced other bills to Renationlise the Railways, for Free School Meals and to abolish the Council Tax and replace it with a fairer Service Tax. In 2001 he was awarded the title “Debater of the Year” at the Scottish Politician of the Year Awards. He has been jailed for taking part in demonstrations against nuclear weapons on the Clyde at the Faslane Naval Base, has campaigned alongside parents in Glasgow for the abolition of air guns and against school closures. During all his time in elected office, Tommy Sheridan took home only the pay of an average skilled worker and donated the rest of his MSP’s salary back to the cause of socialism. In January 2011 he was sentenced to three years prison time for perjury. He maintains his innocence.

March Against Austerity Nightmare

This is the Solidarity leaflet distributed at Saturday’s ant-austerity demo.

March Against Austerity Nightmare

It was very well received and the fringe meeting was a great success. If you have the time and are interested why not come along to our post conference independence rally on November 10th at St Mungos?

After a period out of blogsphere I have now received the necessary technical assistance to allow me to return to regular opinion comments and posts.

Take care.

Tommy.

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Filed under Fight the Cuts, Solidarity

Oppose The Racist SDL This Weekend In Glasgow

Comrades,

This coming Saturday sees the Scottish arm of the English Defence League rear its ugly head in Glasgow.

The SDL had originally planned to march through Glasgow city centre, but have instead decided on a static demonstration. This does nothing to quell the concerns that the trouble that follows these organisations throughout the country will still be prevalent in our city this weekend.

Mosques, street stalls and trade unionists have all felt the brunt of organisations like the SDL. Their intention is to intimidate, provoke and attempt to drive a wedge between the many different cultures, religions & races that live in our city.

The UK as a whole is facing harsh and unjust cuts to public services and jobs from the current Government of millionaires. The people of the UK need to be working together to fight back against these unacceptable actions. The racist & Islamophobic message that the SDL spouts does nothing but attempt to cause friction and division.

Glasgow is a city that is proud of its diverse and multicultural population, where we are free to live side by side without prejudice. The message that the SDL brings to our city should not, and cannot be accepted. Scotland as a whole is a Nation of mixed races and cultures. A ‘mongrel nation,’ to borrow the phrase of the great writer William McIllvaney. We are a ‘mongrel nation’ but we are also a friendly and tolerant nation that cannot allow hate and intolerance to pollute our lives and communities.

Sadly my Home Detention Curfew regulations contain a very strict warning that any alleged breaches of the law, regardless of how trumped up the accusation may be, will lead to a return to jail. Breach of the peace is an elastic and all-encompassing charge which I have faced more times than I can remember throughout my political activity. Of the 20 to 30 breach charges I think only one or two have ever been proven but I can’t risk such a charge on Saturday.

I would, however, personally encourage everyone reading this message to go along to the rally which will be celebrating multicultural Glasgow this weekend in direct opposition to the SDL. Be careful but resolute in standing up for tolerance, human solidarity and unity and against SDL promoted hate, racial division and lies.

More information on the rally and on Unite Against Fascism can be found here – http://www.facebook.com/events/232093423552257/

In solidarity,

Tommy

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Filed under Campaigns

May 6th, 2011…

It’s 8am on Friday morning, May 6th.

I’ve had about 2 hours sleep. I didn’t turn off my wee black portable until after 5:30am, so my big co-pilot on the bunk below me probably didn’t get a good sleep, although I did try to keep the sound down.

What an absolutely historic election.

A stunning, completely stunning victory for the SNP. Every other party bar none has been trounced. Labour in particular has been spectacularly humiliated, but the Lib Dem’s have been reduced to a fringe group and the Tories are left reliant on a life supporting electoral system that they oppose in principle and wish to deny to the voters of England.

I don’t have access to all of the regional list results but have heard that George Galloway failed to secure a seat, which is extremely disappointing. I don’t know how many votes George and the Solidarity anti-cuts coalition polled but I had hoped he would have secured enough to win one of the seven list seats.

I see from the BBC 1 news ticker that Patrick Harvie has been elected in Glasgow. He’s had a decent profile and received some good coverage during the campaign.

Solidarity’s results have been disappointing, that is clear. However, the parties who shared the electoral coverage limelight – the Lib Dems, New Labour & the Tories, are the ones who should hold their heads in shame this morning. They had huge coverage of their policies in both the electronic & print media. Their leaders were given the critical platform on live TV debates on several occasions.

Failure to shine in these circumstances was truly disastrous.

I probably shouldn’t offer any comment without access to all the electoral details, but if I don’t finish this by 9am and send it today I won’t be able to comment until Monday, as there is no post from here on a Saturday or Sunday.

I remember commenting on an SNP victory four years ago, and in the midst of the deep disappointment of losing my seat in Glasgow by 1% point I called it a shift to the left, and predicted the SNP would be in power for perhaps a generation. That’s because their social policies and attitudes in relation to a public health service, opposition to illegal wars and nuclear weapons, positive relationships and dialogue with many Trade Unions chimes with the heart of Scotland and the overwhelming mood that used to be reflected in a left of centre Labour party, but which now now finds that space abandoned by that party’s pursuit of a Thatcherite and big business agenda.

The reality is that on all the major issues thrown up in the course of the last election and this one the SNP is the left of centre party.

They are sadly not a socialist party though, as they embrace the same big business, free market agenda of the other ‘mainstream’ parties.

But, they are still the most left of those mainstream parties, and thus the point I made about Scotland voting left in 2007 is just as applicable today. The party that opposes nuclear weapons, supports a public health service, purports to believe in a fairer income-based alternative to the council tax, embraces a positive human approach to asylum policy and scrapped the tax on ill-health in the shape of prescription charges has won.

And they’ve won by a landslide, a political tsunami as Alex Neil called it.

The talk now, as we approach 9am and my prison-imposed deadline, is of an SNP overall majority.

The people have rejected the Labour campaign of fear promotion. They have opted for the positivism and hope conveyed by the SNP.

But the SNP must also now be on their toes. If they do indeed get an overall majority, and I hope that they do, then there is no hiding place. The council tax abolition bill and its replacement with a fairer income-based alternative has to be brought in.

The Westminster agenda of brutal cuts has to be opposed.

The independence referendum has to be delivered.

And the steps to de-commission the barbaric, illegal and immoral nuclear weapons base at Faslane has to proceed immediately.

Instead of billions being wasted on useless weapons of mass destruction that would destroy our planet if ever used, we have to divert these resources into socially useful jobs and protection and expansion of public services.

With an overall majority the SNP has to now stand up & deliver.

They must announce that Faslane and the horrible carbuncle on the Scottish environment that these monstrous nuclear weapons represent must be removed within the next five years.

Scotland appears now to be a Scottish National Party supporting country. That means Scotland must become nuclear weapons free, council tax free, privatisation of public services free, and as a small nation, free.

It’s an exciting time.

I hope to get out soon to engage in the battles that loom ahead.

The Westminster cuts agenda must be opposed.

In solidarity,

Tommy

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Filed under Message from Prison

May 5th, 2011…

With the plethora of bank holidays recently it has been difficult to post contributions to my blog regularly as mail in & out of the prison has been restricted. For the same reason I apologise to those who have written but not yet received replies. They are on their way, I promise.

Some write regularly to me but don’t attach their address. In particular I want to thank Nan, Gordon, Liz, Sean, Fiona, Peter & big Bobby for welcome and warm correspondence that I can’t reply to as I don’t have their addresses. Your letters and cards are really appreciated.

Life in Barlinnie has been surprisingly varied and interesting. A week ago the gym staff organised a couple of question & answer sessions with former footballers Dixie Deans, Kevin Drinkell and John ‘cowboy’ McCormack. The evening has hilariously compered by the multi-talented comedian Pat Rolink. Pat is a solid supporter of good causes and regularly performs for free to promote charities and campaigns for justice. He is a larger than life character, literally and metaphorically. As he delights in informing his audience, he used to have his dinner money stolen from him at school. The thief’s bought a Mercedes sports car with their takings, such was Pat’s lust for food!

He is a funny guy with a huge heart, and if you ever get the chance to see him live, take it. You will laugh a lot and feel uplifted.

What can I say about Dixie Deans? My footballing hero as a young Celtic supporter. Sure, I was privileged to see Jinky Johnstone, Bobby Lennox, Kenny Dalglish, and George Connolly play live, but I was very young at the time. I couldn’t really appreciate them as much as I could Dixie.

The 1972 Scottish cup final was the last time a six figure crowd attended a game at Hampden. Over 105,000 fans, including me on my dad’s shoulders for much of the game, witnessed Celtic come from behind to crush a good Hibernian side 6-1, with Dixie scoring a super hat-trick and treating us to his unique forward roll celebration.

He was my idol and is a complete gem of a guy and a gentleman. It was an honor to listen to him. A real football legend.

To be fair to Kevin Drinkell he was also interesting and eloquent with a career I didn’t realise was so rich. Sadly, he scored some goals against Celtic in his time with Rangers, but he also notched winners against Liverpool at Anfield and Man Utd at Old Trafford during his time with Norwich. He also informed us that he knocked back a move to Fergie’s Man Utd, a decision which he sort of regrets now.

He also lifted the lid on the angry reaction within the Rangers team as Mo Johnston famously became Rangers first high-profile Catholic signing under the tenure of Graeme Souness. To get to a remote Italian training camp Kevin and his colleagues had to endure a long and arduous journey by coach, train and minibus that left them exhausted. When the bold Mo arrived on board a snazzy helicopter alongside Souness there was some resentment.

None of the resentment was of a sectarian nature, however, as the players recognised Mo as a good player and a useful addition to the team.

The only note of discord was sounded by the ever sharp Scott Nisbett, who asked after Johnston had been introduced: “does this mean we’re not a sectarian team anymore”?

Cowboy McCormack was also worth listening to as he talked of his dream come true for a wee guy fae Blackhill to become a professional footballer and play with St Mirren against the likes of St Etienne and players of the quality of Michel Platini.

He was a hard, but fair player which I can vouch for during my games with the legendary Dukla Pumpherston, which plays charity matches across Scotland. Most of us decline to play if we have a knock or strain, but not the iron cowboy.

In the last match we played together we were adjusting our shin pads whilst John was adjusting his metal leg-brace which was required to keep his knee in place. He’s now had to have that knee replaced and been ordered by his surgeon to play no more.

Many of the questions on the night concerned the previous Sunday’s old firm game and the much over-hyped ‘cupped ears’ incident involving Neil Lennon. What a load of cobblers! I couldn’t believe the reaction from the press.

The guy was subjected to a torrent of vile abuse during the 90 minutes of the match. That happens. It’s sad, but a reality of old firm games. Opposing managers get it in the neck from the fans. They pay their money and think they’re entitled to shout & sing what they want.

I love some of the enterprising banter. The ‘cheer up Walter Smith’ chants to the tune of Daydream Believer under Martin O’Neill’s reign were superb. The ‘bouncy, bouncy’ and ‘the bluebells are blue’ chants from the Gers fans are also annoyingly effective.

Wouldn’t it be great if both sets of fans could sign & chant in support of their team without recourse to sectarian, racist or hate-filled bile?

After what Lennon endured at Ibrox I thought his cupped-ear response was entirely reasonable and appropriate. Where is the offence in cupping your ears? I couldn’t stop laughing at the Strathclyde police response. They are to take no further action.

Really? Why not caution and charge Neil with cupping his ears? What a court case that would make!

Was it accidental, Mr Lennon? Or did you deliberately frighten the hordes of Rangers fans by cupping your ears and facing a section of them in the main stand, thus causing offence, fear and alarm?

How bloody ridiculous! Well done Lenny. You have faced up to the intolerable stresses and strains of threats on your life with real courage and dignity. I hope the double is your reward.

On the issue of on field gestures, when will the football chiefs lighten up and allow some fun back into the game? Who can forget Gazza’s flute-playing mime and his mock booking of the referee who had dropped his yellow card? They were antics in jest, yet he was punished. Rubbish.

The game needs characters. Entertainers. Jokers with skill. And the booking of players for goal celebrations is just plain crazy.

Coisty used to hold his belly after scoring in response to the ‘who ate all the pies’ jibes directed towards him. It was a fitting response, and entirely appropriate and fun. Nowadays it would likely lead to a yellow card caution.

Football should be fun as well as competitive.

By the time you read this contribution the Holyrood election will likely be over. Hopefully George Galloway will have won a seat in Glasgow. He is a politician of considerable talent who will be an excellent shop steward for ordinary folk across the city and a leader of the anti-cuts campaigns which will be necessary in the face of savage cuts ordered by the ConDem millionaires in cabinet. George can light up the dull Parliament in Edinburgh and be a conductor for socialist, anti-war and public ownership policies.

I also hope that Solidarity does well in the other seven electoral regions we are standing in and maintain our position as the leading socialist party in Scotland.

It will probably be too difficult this time around with such a polarised election and without any significant media exposure to actually win a seat, but it was important to make a stand across Scotland under our spotless socialist banner whilst showing the maturity and left unity credentials to unite with George in Glasgow.

Whilst the other left groups continue to spiral into self-destruction and sectarian inspired oblivion Solidarity continues to recognise the need for left unity and displays the honesty and courage to turn words into action as in Glasgow.

I also hope the rat-infested SSP get the electoral humiliation their coalition with the reactionary Murdoch press befits them. The leadership of that decaying carcass are a disgraceful bunch of liars, clypes and hypocrites whose support for the scum of the world and daily scum campaign against socialists like me and many others will condemn them to be forever cast as political scabs, grasses and Murdoch allies.

An SNP outright majority would be the best outcome from a difficult situation. Such a majority would remove the fig-leaf excuses deployed cleverly to justify the SNP failing to even publish their council tax abolition bill let alone get rid of it as they promised to do four years ago. It will also remove any obstacle to an independence referendum and force them to positively campaign for such a change in the UK constitution which could prove progressive is handled properly.

If an outright majority is secured it would also be a mandate to oppose Westminster-imposed cuts in public services instead of meekly implementing them. Such a determined stand led by an SNP Government could force the ConDems onto the back foot and unite Scotland and the trade union movement behind them.

Let’s hope they have the bottle for such a fight.

Back in the Bar-L I will be taking part in a series of comedy workshops over the next 5 weeks. They are designed to improve prisoner communication skills, confidence, discipline and writing capabilities. At the end of the course we will all be expected to perform in a comedy show in front of the other prisoners.

It will be a daunting challenge, but surely worthwhile.

Working alongside excellent comedians like Stu Who? and Stuart Little and being involved in workshops with Frankie Boyle and Kevin Bridges can only be a fun experience. These guys are oozing talent and hopefully the skills learned by fellow prisoners will help in preventing any further offending behaviour.

The course is effectively a life-skills course that will hopefully equip those who take part with the capacity to avoid future law-breaking. The prison deserves credit for rolling our courses like this alongside the fork-lift driving, joinery, plumbing,anger management, drug and alcohol awareness, anti-sectarian and family bonding courses.

Prison should not just be about detention. It should also be about rehabilitation. And courses like this can help in that aim.

If such efforts are not made then prisons will continue to be no more than expensive revolving door institutions with diminishing societal benefits.

Until next time, take care.

Tommy

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Filed under Message from Prison

April 22nd, 2011…

Can I take this opportunity to once again thank everyone for their steady stream of cards, letters and press cuttings. One of the officers in my new hall joked the other day that I need a separate mail box such is the quantity of mail I receive on a daily basis.

It is really appreciated and although it takes me a while, I will reply to everyone, as long as you attach your address. Many lovely cards have been recieved from strangers whom I can’t thank because no address is attached, so please remember to add that.

Among the many improvements to prison life since being moved to the semi-open conditions of Letham Hall is the opportunity to play my beloved Scrabble. Fortunately, a good number of the lads already played the game before I came over from D Hall, so now we have regular games & competitions.

Gail sent me in my delux board which swivels to prevent having to displace the pieces every time you change turns. It has led to some great games and certainly takes up several hours of time. I’ve certainly liberated more chocolate bars than I’ve had to surrender, but it hasn’t been easy street!

Many of my fellow cons are clever and good with words. Of course, inevitably, some “appropriate” words appear regularly – Cell, prison, jail, appeal, judge, jury & court!

One guy who was being liberated the next day insisted on playing for his final stash of chocolate bars before he left. Fortunately, I managed to beat him on the final turn of the tiles with a magnificent ‘radiant’ which attracted the 50 bonus points and saw me triumph despite his one time heavy lead.

That one game saw me win six chocolate bars in total!

Talking of chocolate, I took part in the hall’s ‘Man Of Steel’ competition yesterday. You run 1,000 meters, take a minutes rest, cycle 3,000 metres, take a minutes rest, then finish with a 1,000 metre row. You aggregate your times over each excercise to arrive at your competition time.

Well, it is now clear that I am closer to chocolate man than steel man!

My times were very poor, and left me an embarrassing last out of 15 or so competitors. Methinks I’ve been consuming too many of the chocolate bars I’ve been winning at scrabble.

In my defence, weak as it is, none of the other competitors were over thirty years of age. In fact, all but one was in the 20-25 range. So, when you factor in my handicap for number of wrinkles, chins and spare midriff tyres I think my position would have improved.

From last to second last.

Then again, at least I completed the circuit. Incredibly, three lads, who shall remain nameless to save their considerable blushes, stopped during the rowing complaining that their legs had given up on them! A disgraceful lack of spirit and character for which they were duly criticised by yours truly!

On more serious matters, the mess that is Libya and the west’s imperialist interference grows more murky by the day. NATO bleats about their intention and 1973 resolution restricting them to protection of civilians only.

Regime change, they say, is explicitly not part of the UN resolution. Then UK, French & US Government officials say the bombing and no-fly zone is not about removing Gaddafi but Libya has no future with Gaddafi still in charge.

Do these people think we are daft?

Who gave them the right to decide Libya’s future? Their gross stupidity and crass & arrogant interventions so far have actually strengthened the Gaddafi regime, not weakened it. Whoever ‘the rebels’ are, they have undermined their cause by relying on UN interference and bully bombing.

Is there a nation state in the world who if faced with an armed uprising wouldn’t organise to try and crush it?

That’s a fact of life.

Just as I can’t legitimately condemn Iraqi citizens, or Vietnamese citizens who organise and arm themselves to fight occupying armies by whatever means at their disposal, nor can you condemn a Government for using force to repel an armed uprising.

We have the right as individuals to take sides in such conflicts, but the French, US & UK Governments don’t have the right to speak for us by taking the side of a group of armed rebels who want to overthrow a Government.

I don’t know who the rebels are, what they stand for and how they would govern differently. If the will exists in the country to overthrow the Gaddafi regime then good luck to them, but so far the evidence on the ground is the rebel’s support base is weak, diluted and increasingly compromised by western Government military support.

So, the Scottish elections are less than two weeks away.

The difference between the main parties is as thin as a cigarette paper. Watching the coverage in nightly news bulletins is akin to watching baldy men scrap over a comb. In the land of the blind even a one eyed king can reign supreme. Hence Salmond, with his more assured approach and decades of debating experience is head & shoulders above the others in leadership qualities.

They all support the agenda of making ordinary folk pay for an economic crisis made in the boardrooms and banks of the greedy bosses, but given the policy convergence the issue of personality is allowed to assume extra importance. I expect the SNP to win the election, and maybe even to be able to govern outright.

That’s no bad thing.

Although their cuts package has to be fought tooth & nail, and the alternative of fighting for more resources to avoid cuts and the need for public control of Scotland’s economic assets like the oil, gas, electricity, water, rail and financial sector has to be put on the table, an SNP victory would underline yet again how distant Labour has become from it’s roots.

In days gone by the Labour vote in Scotland was weighed, not counted given their dominance. These were the days policies like public ownership of key industries, significant wealth redistribution through fair taxation and trade union rights were in their manifesto pledges.

Nowadays New Labour are just a pale imitation of the ‘Tories.

Blair & Brown dragged them into a right-wing abyss of free market worship and warmongering immorality. The spur of electoral defeat could lead them to change their direction, but I won’t hold my breath.

Sure, on a UK scale when the choice is Tories first or New Labour then the latter is more palatable, but in a Scottish context the SNP offers, however superficially, an alternative that is more radical than both the ‘Tories and New Labour and an activist base that is increasingly left of Labour.

I would vote for Chris Stephens of the SNP with my first vote if I was able to, and George Galloway and the coalition against cuts with my second vote.

Until New Labour abandon their ‘Tory adopted philosophies and policies they deserve to be electorally kicked in the private parts.

I hope the second vote for Solidarity elsewhere and for George in Glasgow will be significant.

In solidarity,

Tommy

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Filed under Message from Prison

April 14th, 2011…

I have to apologise for not posting anything for a week or so. Things have been hectic.

I have been moved to a different hall with a semi-open regime. This hall is the first step towards either fully open conditions or the home detention curfew, commonly known as the tag, an ankle bracelet that monitors your movements to ensure you are within your nominated home between the hours of 7pm at night and 7am in the morning.

With Scottish prisons being so overcrowded and therefore unable to properly implement rehabilitation schemes there is a desire to release low risk offenders into the community and restrict their freedom at home rather than in jail.

It makes sense.

Those convicted of crimes of violence or assessed as being likely to pose a danger of violence to the community are not allowed the tag. Those non-violent offenders who are assessed as possessing no risk to the community can be released early under strict condition of home curfew that allows them to continue to work and maintain their family lives.

The rate of failure whilst on the tag is low, and dropping. The vast majority would rather accept house imprisonment than the prison. They can still work and help raise their children. It is also a much cheaper option to society than keeping such low risk individuals in prison.

In this hall, called Letham hall, I have been appointed my sections passman.

There are 13 rooms in each section and thus 26 prisoners in each of the 6 sections. Normally the passmen in prison get the perk of a single cell, but the place is so packed right now I have only had a cell to myself for one day during the week I’ve been here.

My new co-pilot is a decent lad from Greenock, although he is a Rangers fan which means he’s not the brightest coin in the till, or the best looking con you’ll meet! Unlike my last co-pilot whom I miss, and other ‘Tic fans who are blessed with good looks and brains!

A number of prison officers have informed me that they read this blog, so I better admit to sending my posts to a good friend and comrade who then posts them for me. Of course I was unable to post blogs from the prison library or any other outlet in here!

Apparently my blog is also read regularly by Sun & News Of The World journalists. OOPS! That’s an oxymoron, isn’t it? I just mentioned the Sun and News Of The World alongside the description ‘journalists’! I mean desperate morons who are prepared to act like lick-spittles to write stories and columns for those lying, sexist and reactionary rags.

Now that I know such people are reading the blog I have decided to write this contribution s..l..o..w..l..y so they can keep up.

I’m told these papers often refer to me as a “disgraced” former MSP. How ironic.

Being referred to as disgraced by these rags is akin to being told to straighten up by the hunchback of Notre Dame. These powerful media outlets don’t just print lies on a daily and weekly basis oblivious to the ruinous effect they can have on individual’s lives, they are also now exposed from their own froth-laden mouths, after years of consistent and callous lies, as an organisation who targeted individuals and illegally tapped and hacked into their telephones.

For years I have called News International and its shoddy papers crooked. For years they denied it. Now they are dragged kicking & screaming into an admission of guilt.

In here those who admit their crimes are given reduced sentences, but they are still sentenced to imprisonment.

Now exposed as criminals practicing illegal communication interceptions on an “industrial” scale, as the House Of Commons culture select committee labelled it, who will be sentenced to prison?

Surely all of those at the top must be prosecuted? Think about how they always wax lyrically about the need to pursue the ‘Mr Big’s’ of the illegal drug trade, not just the dealers at the bottom of the criminal chain.

Quite right.

So the same logic must apply with the phone hacking scandal.

Sure, those who are directly responsible for hacking should be prosecuted but so should every one of the chiefs, the executives, the Coulson’s, the Bob Bird’s, the Douglas Wight’s. All of whom swore their News Of The World did not illegally hack phones other than the rogue reporter Goodman.

They lied. They lied consciously and they should be pursued for perjury.

Will they? Aye, right.

Let’s see 22 officers, 52,000 police hours and over £1 million of public money deployed to investigate and bring charges against these people. They have criminally invaded the privacy of many individuals and their collective lies have helped convince a jury, by the narrowest of margins, that I and not they were guilty of lying under oath.

They are the liars and criminals and serious questions now have to be answered about the incestuous relationship they had with the MET police who were supposed to be investigating them.

I continue writing this blog entry this morning at 7:34am, having finished writing the first part late last night. I’ve just had my Rice Crispies and will make a wee cup of tea with a roll and butter with jam in 10 minutes, then I will embark on my daily routine of passman duties.

Cleaning the eight sinks, scrubbing the three toilet bowls and single urinal, washing down the three showers then brushing and mopping the wash and toilet area and hall corridor with different brushes and mops.

Gail was hoping she would be getting a newly qualified joiner home soon after my stint in the joiners workshop, but alas that didn’t last long so she will have to put up with an even better janitorial husband who is becoming a dab hand with the mop.

On the political front my source of news is still the BBC news channel, so it’s a narrow, condensed and value-laden filter. Anyone who doubts the capacity of the BBC to distort their coverage to suit the interests of the ruling elite should read ‘the guardians of power – the myth of the liberal media’ by David Edwards and David Cromwell of media lens. It is a superb account of how the news we receive daily is manipulated and distorted to suit the political priorities of the ruling elite and as such smashes the powerful myth of a “free” or “independent” media in this country. Of course, as the book exposes, the BBC is not the only or worst offender, but they are in many ways the most damaging because of their unjustified reputation for independence.

This book should be essential reading for every citizen who cherishes independent thought, but especially those who consider themselves socialists or are studying journalism. It engages as it informs.

You thought you knew how much news is distorted? Read this and you will realise you didn’t appreciate the extent of the problem.

Being in the semi-open conditions within Letham hall and acting as the unit passman presents new and different challenges.

Of course, it is positive not to be locked up for between 22-23 hours a day any longer and confined to a tiny cell alongside a co-pilot. Here the level of restriction is much reduced.

However, that does play different games with your mind.

You are more free, but still can’t hold and hug your child each night before they sleep, hold your wife’s hand while watching a good film or drama together.

In other words, the more freedom you get the more you want.

But hey, I’m on the progress track and will hopefully move forward quickly over the coming weeks and months.

The little things in life will never ever be neglected by me.

Tucking your child into bed and kissing their tiny forehead as they drift off to sleep.

Holding your wife’s hand as you sit watching TV together or walk to the local shops.

The expression of joy on the faces of your parents when you visit their homes and share some quality time with them.

These are all the golden nuggets of life who’s value you never understand until you are deprived of them.

The Scottish election campaign is well underway and I’m so pleased Solidarity has reached accommodation with George Galloway in Glasgow to run a broad anti-cuts and socialist campaign.

It shows we don’t just talk left unity, we practice it.

Electing George to represent Glasgow at Holyrood would be a great boost for all progressive forces in Scotland and further afield.

He is a courageous and consistent campaigner against injustice both domestically and internationally. He doesn’t share Solidarity’s committment to independence for Scotland, but does support the democratic demand for an independence referendum.

If all on the left agreed 100% with one another it would be a grey and artificial existence.

Unity around the major values of public ownership, wealth redistribution, peace, equality and a committment to wage war on poverty are what is required.

I congratulate my Solidarity comrade’s and George for reaching an electoral compromise that offers the people of Glasgow an anti-cuts and Socialist candidate with a chance of winning. I appeal to all readers of this blog to spread the word in Glasgow via the internet, the phone and by word of mouth to commit their 2nd vote to George.

I’m also very pleased to learn that my sister Lynn will head the Solidarity list challenge in Central Scotland.

She is a first class candidate who has been elected to represent fellow workers all of her adult life, from her shop steward days in the male dominated bus industry while she worked for the Scottish bus group as a driver through to her Unison steward role representing social work colleagues in Glasgow and Lanarkshire.

She is a determined, courageous, articulate and compassionate socialist who would enrich the Holyrood Parliament and provide the people of central Scotland with a reliable champion.

If she secures enough 2nd votes from across the central Scotland region to become a list MSP she will not let anyone down and carve a space in hearts and minds right across the area. She has experience from several walks of working life from taxi driving, bus driving, social work in the most deprived areas, management of children’s homes to now lecturing in social work at Caledonian University.

I just hope she is given the chance in central Scotland. She would be an excellent socialist MSP.

I also wish all the Solidarity candidates across Scotland the best of luck.

It is vital that our spotless socialist banner is raised and we retain the reputation as the best supported and most respected socialist party in Scotland.

Stay strong & all the best,

Tommy

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April 1st, 2011…

In terms of turnout the TUC anti-cuts/there is an alternative demo in London over the weekend was a stunning success.From one quarter of a million to half a million people made the effort to get to London despite the distance to travel, the costs and the use of a precious weekend for many workers forced to work 50 to 60 hours a week.

This was a genuine outpouring of anger at a series of proposed cuts to jobs, services and the living conditions of millions. Anger at ordinary folk being asked to pay for an economic crisis that has nothing to do with them, a fact even conceded by Bank Of England Governor Mervyn King in a rare moment of candour.

The so-called economic crisis was caused by the unbridled greed of the bankers and bosses who were left unregulated by successive Governments to gamble with other people’s bank deposits in pursuit of obscene salaries, bonuses and profits.

It is criminal that these parasites living off the labour of others condemned public ownership and public subsidies to ailing industries like steel, shipbuilding and coal at every turn and demanded the right to make as much as possible and pay themselves as much as they could get away with for decades.

They insisted the profits were privatised.

Yet when their paper chasing casino economy was exposed as the fraud it is panic set in and the banks threatened to collapse across the planet because they had outstretched themselves and couldn’t even meet depositors demand for withdrawals.

All of a sudden, public ownership and subsidies was the order of the day to save their slippery, oily and two-faced skins. Their profits were to be privatised but their losses were to be socialised.

The capitalist free market stripped naked as the hypocritical and inefficient beast that it is.

The banks have received a total of £1 trillion in bail-outs, loans and subsidies. We are told all the time, and were when there bailouts were sanctioned, that all this money from the public purse will be paid back.

If that’s true then where is the crisis?

We are owed £1 trillion from the banks. They will pay, we are told. So, stop the public service butchery.

Then there is the issue of tax evasion. I think I’ve got that right. Tax avoidance is legal for those who can afford the accountants. It’s tax evasion which is illegal.

Even the dogs in the street know the distinction is irrelevant.

The super rich and their companies evade and avoid taxes in the knowledge that they are above the law. They rob the public purse of billions every year and are never punished. They are thieves and scroungers, plain and simple.

I share space with convicted criminals in here right now whose thefts and robberies amount to pennies compared to the billions these well dressed, pin-striped thieves dip from the public purse every single year.

An accountancy professor, Prem Sikka, of the University of Essex (google him) has researched the area of tax evasion painstakingly over many years. Despite the complexity of the crime due to the schemes and dodges created to cover up the grand larceny he was able to uncover a level of tax evasion by rich individuals and companies that amounted to a minimum of £85 billion per year.

Put that into perspective.

The ConDem cabinet of privileged and pampered millionaires insist we have to suffer a cuts package amounting to £81 billion.

Pish.

If they instead concentrated on collecting owed taxes from their multi-millionaire friends and business associates they could rake in an extra £85 billion a year and allow public services to be expanded, not slashed.

Such a political strategy would save jobs, livelihoods,  communities and allow the return of free education, a universal and reliable health service free for all and a pension that can be lived on in place of the pathetic pittance that we currently expect our senior citizens to survive on.

Of course, don’t expect such a strategy to be forthcoming from either the ConDem Government or their pale reflections in New Labour.

How dare Miliband address the demo on Saturday! His party had already drawn up just about every cut currently being pursued by the ConDems!

He and his party don’t oppose the cuts. They only oppose the speed of their implementation. At least 90% of every cut currently proposed would still be on the table if Labour were in Government.

It is that fact which explains why they’re not in Government. All of these parties represent the rich and big business.

Take the issue of so-called benefit scroungers. Who launched a tirade of abuse against such people in the hope of hounding them and making them pariahs in society? That’s right, New Labour launched the ‘we know who you are’ TV adverts and bus shelter ads.

They spent millions of public sector money to get others to “shop a cheat” and promised vigorous action to prosecute the scroungers working while also claiming benefit.

What sheer and shameless hypocrisy.

They spent millions hounding the poor making some extra money whilst claiming the dole but turned the other cheek to the millionaires defrauding the tax system to pocket billions. Even worse, they rewarded tax cheats whilst hounding benefit cheats.

Take Philip Green of the Arcadia Group, which includes Top Shop, Burtons, BHS and other retail outlets. He was exposed as a major tax evader in 2005. His £1.1 billion dividend that he paid himself that year, a retail industry record, was put in his wife’s name because she was registered for tax purposes in Monaco.

This scroungers actions led to the public purse losing over £300 million in revenue.

That’s a lot of hospitals, schools and street sweepers to keep the entrances to his many stores clean.

What happened to this scrounging, multi-millionaire criminal? Has he roundly condemned by New Labour ministers, as they condemn benefit cheats for claiming hundreds of pounds illegally, not millions?

No. Philip Green, the millionaire tax dodger and scrounger of 2005 was made Sir Philip Green by New Labour in 2006.

He is still a tax evading and scrounging criminal, but now he is a Sir. It is such hypocrisy that turns so many off politics.

Persecution and hounding for poor benefit cheats. Knighthoods and caviar receptions for the millionaire tax dodgers.

It is that double standard behaviour that leads to the universal condemnation of the “violence” at Saturday’s demo. Well, the protesters don’t have access to millions to make TV and bus shelter ads to expose and name & shame the tax dodgers. But they do have the ability to occupy and daub some paint to draw the attention of the public to the scandal of millionaires dodging taxes, and banks who owe us collectively £1 trillion claiming to be skint but paying out £7 billion in bonuses last year alone.

I for one don’t condemn these protesters. I applaud them.

I thank them for exposing the sheer hypocrisy of the situation and the scale and criminality of organised tax evasion in this country. I don’t support physical attacks on individuals, but to groups like UK Uncut and others involved in bank occupations, Topshop occupations and other actions to highlight the massive tax dodging that is practiced by the millionaires and their companies, I say well done! They are effectively making citizen’s arrests of a sort.

Get the rich to pay their taxes and we need make no cuts in library provision, home help services, free education and health.

Such actions as occupations and the painting of slogans will on their own, however, not change society.

The TUC leaders, instead of inviting a charlatan like Miliband to address their massive demo should have named the day for a massive public and private sector 24 hour strike to bring Britain to a standstill against the cuts and force the ConDems to abandon their programme or force them out of office.

Talking, marching & occupying are all important, but co-ordinated and organised strike action is what will really bring about change.

On the jail front everything is fine. In fact, I am now very busy and probably in a very privileged position. No wonder so many prisoners desire the job I got in the joiners assembly shed. It is widely acknowledged to be the best job in the jail.

Not only do I qualify for a wage bonus based on the number of units we assemble and sell to outlets, but I also get to deliver them alongside prison officers.

The other day I got to visit Dobies garden centre off the Hawkhead road and help unload the pallets. No handcuffs, just a sore back.

Some of the staff there were a bit surprised to see me, but it was great to get a wee afternoon outside the jail.

Then, to cap it all off, I found the bonus related to the number of outside table & chair sets we assembled and sold amounted to £25.

25 quid and a wee trip outside the jail all in one week. No wonder some in the press say I’m receiving privileges!

Until next time,

Tommy

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March 28th, 2011…

So, that’s me not just a prisoner but a worker now.

I joined the joiners work party and will now be helping to construct table & chair sets for gardens, pubs and parks.

Rest assured, the products are quality checked at every stage and built with tender care and attention to every small detail.

I had always thought manual labour was a Spanish waiter but I’m now learning that it consists of a sweaty brow and skelf-infested hands.

The wages are poor mind you. I’m starting on £6.40 a week.

I reckon we need to join a union and fight for the living wage! Problem is, in here there is no union for cons and most work to get out of their cells each day and break up the monotony of being locked up 21 to 22 hours a day.

In defence of the Bar-L, a number of useful vocational training courses are also available. From plumbing to roofing to forklift driving.

Given the population of Barlinnie that has been sentenced to less than four years, with many of the convictions being for theft & drug dealing, investing in decent and useful training courses offering the chance of securing employment on release is well worth while.

It has emerged that a number of prison officers have been reading the blog. They should know that as a socialist I have supported public sector workers like them all my adult life, and I’m not just saying that so they will allow me to get PT each morning or access to the phone or showers when required.

The truth is, and some of the other cons may not agree, I’ve found the officers in here to be decent and professional.

Okay, most of them lack good looks and razor wit, but they do work hard in pressurised conditions.

On a political front it is very frustrating not to have access to newspapers to read the debate and discussion around the current situation in Libya. All I have is the news bulletins and I find them to be painfully biased and pro-western propaganda.

As a socialist I hold no candle for Gaddafi.

We in the movement have opposed brutal tyrants and unaccountable dictators for years. We don’t differentiate between those who are ‘friends’ of the West or have oil resources.

If it is right and just to launch hundreds of missiles into Libya to destroy their tanks, air defences and military bases because Gaddafi has attacked and killed civilians, denies freedom to his citizens and breaches international law then why has Israel not been bombed for their crimes against Lebanon, their attempted genocide of the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank?

Why has Mugabe not been attacked for his crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe?

What about the King of Bahrain who has mown down defenceless citizens who have dared to seek democratic freedoms?

What about Yemen? Saudi Arabia?

How damned hypocritical can you get to seek and accept the support of Saudi Arabia to crush the regime of Gaddafi for allegedly denying democratic rights to Libyans while that autocratic dictatorship not only crushes opposition brutally, but sends police and armoured vehicles to crush unarmed democracy protestors in Bahrain?

I’m not sure what others are saying, but I condemn the UN motion and attacks on Libya.

They are acts of war against a sovereign nation no matter how much the west opposes that nation, except of course when signing arms, oil and other trading deals.

The fact that Libya has a few percent of the world’s oil production and significant reserves makes it of more interest to the UN than Zimbabwe, Yemen or the Congo. Israel can illegally bomb civilians in Lebanon with impunity. Massacre and attempt to starve the civilians of Gaza and the West Bank with impunity. Expand illegal settlements with impunity.

Saudi Arabia can crush pro-democracy protestors within its own borders and others like Bahrain, but instead of being condemned and attacked by the international community they are recruited to a coalition to attack Libya for similar alleged actions. It is rotten, stinking hypocrisy from head to toe and we should oppose the actions.

It is another huge blunder that will inflame the middle east against the west even further. Tony Blair middle-east peace envoy? Why not put Genghis Khan in charge of the crèche, or Dracula in charge of the blood bank?

He is a lying warmonger who should be tried for war crimes. To watch him on various bulletins being an apologist for the UN’s actions and apparently writing for the Murdoch press in support of the bombing actions is almost enough of a reason in itself to oppose the missile launches.

This is the guy who embraced Gaddafi lovingly while we sold him arms and set up oil exploration deals only a few years ago!

Was Gaddafi not a brutal tyrant then?

On the football front, can I express my disappointment at the outcome of Sunday’s cup final. There are no excuses to be made. Sadly Celtic were outfought and outran in every area of the park.

Kayal and Mulgrew showed up, and the effort that Samaras put in has to be noted, but too many of the other lads simply didn’t play anywhere near their abilities.

Lenny was let down.

The players must understand that despite great newspaper reports and headlines we have not yet won a thing this season. Let’s hope the shock of Sunday is the spur to kick on and secure the real prize of the title and the end of season icing of the Scottish cup.

In the Bar-L the management took no chances with the passions inspired by the game always possible to spill over.

Celtic and Rangers fans in my hall, D hall, were separated physically. I and all the other Celtic fans were placed on the upper 2 floors of D hall north while all the Rangers fans were locked up on the ground floor of D hall north. Both sets of fans were in good voice before and during the game, and the Celtic fans undoubtedly had an advantage being on the first floor. However, it’s fair to say the Gers fans sang most after the game.

The noise from D hall north lower was significant. I now owe about seven chocolate bars to various Rangers supporting cons. I may have to withhold them on health grounds however! They all tend to be spotty and overweight already and the chocolate could worsen their condition!

On a serious note, well done to Walter Smith in his last season in charge.

He is a very honourable man whom I admire, and I’m pleased to see he’s had this success in his last season.

These best wishes don’t extend, however, to the championship!

In solidarity,

Tommy

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March 23rd, 2011…

In a previous blog post I referred to a woman who was a tremendous source of inspiration to me and everyone who knew her. A woman who radiated love and compassion like a lighthouse beacon.

Who’s commitment to socialism always reassured you in any moments of doubt that you were indeed on the right side.

I mentioned how she took the time to contact Gail and I during our trial and communicate her sincere and consistent solidarity. And then she wrote to me immediately after being sentenced and passed on an upbeat message of support.

Yet at the time of both messages that woman had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Only a couple of years after fighting and beating breast cancer, this woman returned to hospital to be told the deadly and aggressive disease now had hold of her brain, and had spread throughout her body.

This woman, in her late forties or early fifties, I’m not sure, was quite literally dying. She was told her end was tragically near.

Yet, when she contacted Gail and I during the trial and after sentencing she mentioned not a word of her horrible fate. Her concern was for her friends and their well-being.

She died as she lived. Caring for others.

Putting others before herself like only a beautiful woman of compassion could do. She didn’t want us to worry about her.

I didn’t mention her name last time, although I know her friends who read my blog knew who I was referring to.

Well, my friends, that woman died last week and I am thoroughly dejected.

The lighthouse beacon has gone out.

Anne McLeod lit up the lives of anyone who knew her.

Now that light shines no more.

But let me state categorically as she is laid to rest this Friday in Inverness that she will never be forgotten. Whenever anyone who knew her seeks comfort, inspiration, or encouragement during low ebbs in their own lives they will recall the comforting face of Anne, the smile of Anne, the encouragement of Anne, the determination of Anne to fight for a better world free of poverty, hate and oppression.

Anne McLeod is dead but her spirit will never die.

It will continue to inspire all of us and remind us that no matter how much we contribute to building a better society for all humanity, we can always contribute a little more to try and match the contribution of Anne McLeod.

I, and countless other love you Anne. We will never forget you.

We salute your contribution to socialism, trade unionism, peace and humanity.

Rest in peace Comrade,

Tommy

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March 17th, 2011…

Well, life in Bar-L continues to be weird, but never quite wonderful.

The pain of missing Gail & Gabrielle grows deeper each day. I speak to both regularly on the phone (not a mobile I have to add, in case the authorities decide to subject me to another strip and cell search). I use the hall phone and they are recorded calls, so I’m not passing any state secrets.

Gail is bearing up remarkably well. That should be no surprise. As I’ve said for years, she is a woman of considerable substance, sharp intellect and incredible spirit.

Wee Gabrielle has the voice of an angel. Each time we talk I turn to mush.

She asks me to come home immediately and I feel so sad as I just want to hold, hug and smother her with kisses again. Hopefully it won’t be too long.

She lost her first tooth last week and I wasn’t there to witness it. That was very sore.

In here my stamp battle goes on.

First the stamps sent to me to reply to the steady stream of mail received were confiscated. Over the few days surrounding my 47th birthday On Monday the 7th I received an incredible 250 items in the post, mostly birthday cards.

Replying and thanking those who attached addresses was a marathon task but took up loads of time, and let’s face it, one thing I have right now is time.

What I don’t have is access to loads of stamps.

Friends sent in 100 stamped envelopes, but they were seized.

Then many decided to send me stamped and addressed envelopes so I could reply to them without using my own stamps.

They have also been confiscated.

I think it’s all overly pedantic and petty, but maybe my supply of acid and LSD is hidden somewhere on the stamps or inside the envelopes? Who knows?

On the other hand one of my other requests has been taken seriously and appears to be about to be granted. As my friends know I have been kind of addicted to sunbeds for a good few years.

I know they are unhealthy, and would discourage others from using them, but I hate the peely-wally look.

I made a plea to the prison management to consider my addiction and the fact I am suffering from Vitamin D deficiency and allow me access to the sunbeds they have in the medical centre.

I’ve been told it won’t be possible this month, but I will be allowed to begin a series of 20 minute sessions from the 1st of next month so I’m looking forward to that.

Sunbed sessions in prison. You cannae whack it!

Some of the other lads are a bit jealous, but they don’t have my addiction.

We had the pleasure of a one man play performance last week. Despite the Barcelona vs Arsenal game the Chapel house was packed with cons eager to watch David Hayman perform on a makeshift stage with only a coffin (empty, I think!) to keep him company.

It was a story written by one of David’s volunteers from his active anti-poverty charity Spirit Aid. It was about a son’s account of anger and disappointment over the way his father had performed in his paternal duties. The man in the coffin was obviously a woeful dad.

The content was sometimes sad, but David’s performance was masterful throughout. He took the time to field questions after the performance. That conversation brought up some classic exchanges!

I should say that the prison officer who played the MC for the night in front of around 200 prisoners set the tone when he asked us all to turn off our mobiles in case they interfered with David’s microphone! I swear I saw a few of the lads reach into their pockets!

Then one of the characters from my hall made a number of legitimate points about the content of the play, the language used and the case with which he feels he could turn his hand to acting. David encouraged his aspirations. This led to more exchanges. Eventually David said; “you are obviously a smart, mature, intelligent and confident guy. What the hell are you doing in here?”

The answer was a one-word classic, delivered with deadpan abandon…. “time.”

The hall filled with laughter. David also chuckled. A good night was had by all.

On more serious notes, what about this Government of spins and privileged millionaires latest advisor’s suggestions on pensions? Lord Hutton, who won’t have to worry about how he pays his bills in retirement, suggests that the public sector workers should work longer, pay in more to their small pension pot, and receive less out when they retire. 

The contract millions of workers thought they had when they started working in the public sector 20, 30, and 40 years ago is to be ripped apart. After all this time they are told it’s not a contract with legal force.

If the bosses of the big companies or MP’s were told this about their pension agreements there would be outrage. But ordinary workers can be treated with disdain.

Well, if this issue doesn’t stir the Trade Union movement into action, nothing will. Workers pensions are deferred wages. The entitlement cannot be interfered with. That is theft.

There are guys in here for less!

As I said to one prison officer, if you don’t fight this one you’d be as well rolling over and playing dead.

The avalanche of cuts and attacks on wages and pension rights must be resisted all the way.

If coordinated properly, not only can the cuts agenda be stopped and exposed as the giant con that it is, but this illegitimate Government could be brought to its knees and forced to go to the country once again.

There is abundant and obscene wealth across the UK. There is absolutely no necessity for these brutal cuts in public services and public service jobs and conditions.

Getting the rich to actually pay tax, big business to pay proper rates and socialisation of areas like banking, insurance and the utility companies alone would provide more than enough to expand the level of services and jobs base to offer some hope to the million youngsters on the dole.

There is an alternative to the cuts.

How sad is the human cost of the Japan earthquake and tsunami?

It is so tragic. So many lives lost and families ripped apart. It brings back the horror of the 2004 disaster which engulfed the Philippines.

Our best wishes & solidarity should go to all those affected.

I’ll sign of for now. That’s seven weeks gone.

Long may the weeks fly,

Tommy

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