Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Not, perhaps, a time for heroes

With Tommy Sheridan embroiled in further controversy as the News of the World releases a tape containing a recording of someone who appears to be Sheridan confessing to various indiscretions, people have got to be wondering if the SWP/CWI/Sheridan split from the Scottish Socialist Party, calling itself "Solidarity", was really such a good idea. Sheridan's former SSP colleagues are already crowing over the new footage, which they claim vindicates their previous statements (in and out of court) about him.

I'm not going to comment on the footage itself. I'm not a fan of the tabloid press, and to a certain degree I also couldn't care less if political figures are indulging in Bacchanalian orgies, just as long as they do so outside of working hours. Sheridan is no exception to that, in my view - as long as he's true to the principles that he claims to hold dear when he's "doing" politics, that's fine by me.

But what I do think is a problem, is the way that this whole episode goes to show an innate fragility in that brand of politics which relies on a coalition being held together by a lionised hero-figure or "big man" leader, like Sheridan. This is by no means exclusive to the left, but it seems particularly weird when it manifests itself in that part of the political spectrum. Two obvious examples are Solidarity in Scotland, and Respect in England and Wales. I can already hear the denials brewing, but to those who would disagree with me, I offer a scenario. Imagine if tomorrow Sheridan or Galloway were to drop off the political scene. What would happen? In my view the answer is that not only would both the size and media profile of their respective political groups shrink radically (indeed, Solidarity would practically disappear), but also that the coalitions underlying them would fracture. Rather like houses with wonderful decor but no foundations, collapsing in bad weather.

Such is the problem with placing all your hopes on a hero - it might be fine in myth and fiction, but in reality heroes are human, and as such they will never be able to live up to inflated expectations.


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