Tommy Sheridan on Rupert Murdoch, sun beds and overthrowing capitalism

I interviewed Tommy Sheridan, leader of Solidarity, on his campaign to return to Holyrood.

The radical figure is placing independence front and centre in his efforts and he spoke to me about the importance of indyref 2 in an interview which will appear in full later this morning.

In the meantime, I present you his answers to my quick-fire round of questions. I do so with my apologies because his responses are neither quick nor humorous. I’m not sure he fully grasped the format.

Anyway, it’s worth a read if you want to see an interviewer squirm as it becomes increasingly obvious that his subject is taking his light-hearted questions with ponderous sobriety.

Stephen Daisley (SD): Overthrowing capitalism. How’s that going?

Tommy Sheridan (TS): It’s going quite well because capitalism is deteriorating from inside. Capitalism now is probably more discredited than at any time in the last two decades.

Capitalism, if you think about it, at the beginning of the 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet Union, was the system that everybody said was unstoppable. Thatcher, Reagan: ‘Capitalism is the only show in town.’

We’re now in 2016 and capitalism is completely and utterly discredited and I think the banking crisis did more to discredit it than anything else. The Panama Papers, the offshore tax havens has all added to it.

You had a situation in 2008/2009 where the banks, the very bastions of capitalism, were about to go bust. What happened? Oh wait a minute. Those steel yards that we couldn’t bail out. Those shipyards that we couldn’t bail out. Those coal mines that we couldn’t bail out. Because the free market must be allowed to sort itself out and adjust itself.

That was thrown out the window, that ideology, and we bailed out the banks to save capitalism. That shows me that capitalism is on its last legs.

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SD: Billy Bragg or Leon Rosselson?

TS: Oh goodness. I’m going to show myself up here, Stephen. I’m going to be absolutely honest. I know Billy very well. I love his music. I love him to bits. I love his lyrics and I think he’s a very good socialist. I don’t know the other guy.

SD: He was a famous communist folk singer.

TS: That’s my ignorance part of it. I’m going to put my hand up. But given that I know Billy so well, I would say Billy anyway.

SD: The Internationale or Bread and Roses?

TS: Oh, undoubtedly the Internationale. It’s probably the wrong choice you’ve given me. If you’d given me the Internationale or Something Inside So Strong, I would maybe have gone for Something Inside So Strong. The Internationale is a timeless piece of writing which harnesses the hopes and aspirations of the working class. In terms of an inspirational number, I think Something Inside So Strong sums up what it’s all about.

SD: Hillary or Bernie?

TS: Goodness gracious! Bernie, 100%! Actually, that question sort of touches on your first question on capitalism and how it’s doing. There is the biggest, apparently the most viable form of capitalism, the United States of America, and a socialist is within touching distance — whether he reaches it or not, who knows — but who would have thought a couple of decades ago that a socialist could become the Democratic nominee for the President of the United States of America? That shows you the decline of capitalism and of the ideology of capitalism.

I’m for Bernie 100% and I think Hillary represents the outmoded establishment of privilege and wealth.

SD: Can you say anything positive about Rupert Murdoch?

TS: Yes. He will die one day.

SD: A neoliberal independent Scotland or a socialist United Kingdom?

TS: Unfortunately, one is possible in the near future and the other is, at this stage, too distant. We have the opportunity of a neoliberal independent Scotland, which will only be the start of the journey of transforming Scotland and then giving encouragement to the working class of England and Wales to also transform their countries. I think that is a much more viable route to socialism than a socialist Britain or a socialist United Kingdom.

I think we will have a socialist set of islands, England, Wales, and Scotland one day, and hopefully a socialist Europe as well but from my point of view right now, what is on the agenda is, yes, a neoliberal independent Scotland or a neoliberal Britain and I’m going for a neoliberal independent Scotland.

SD: St. Tropez or sun bed?

TS: I’m afraid, given my current economic predicament, then it’ll need to be sun bed because I don’t have the wherewithal to visit Saint-Tropez. One of my few sins is that I do indulge in the odd sun bed or two. That is one of my vices. I don’t drink. I don’t gamble. I don’t smoke. So I’m allowed to use sun beds but I do also have to add the rider, the health warning, they’re not good for you, Stephen. So don’t use them.

[I would explain that I was talking about the self-bronzing product, not the holiday destination on the French Riviera, but why drag things out any longer.]

SD: Tony Benn or Eric Heffer?

TS: Oh, Tony Benn, for goodness sake! Eric was a nice enough guy and I very much respected Eric for having the balls and the solidarity to walk off the platform when Kinnock launched into his disgraceful attack on Liverpool City Council for having the temerity to stand up to the Tories and their cuts. Pity Kinnock and his ilk didn’t have the spinal column to do that. They were too busy looking at what they could get out of politics rather than what they could put into communities.

So Heffer walked off the platform, loads of respect for him, and he was a very, very good operator and a good speaker. But Tony was a big hero of mine. I had the pleasure of spending time with him on several occasions. He made me a lovely microwave meal in his house in Holland Park in London. We had fantastic long chats. I learned a lot from him.

Sadly, I’m not always able to follow his advice. Tony always used to advise me, in relation to personal debates and vendettas, he used to say: ‘Tommy, remember: If you dance with the chimney sweep, it doesn’t matter how clean you are, you’re going to end up dirty. Try to stay away from personal vendettas, personal diatribes.’ And he’s absolutely right.

Sometimes, however, you allow your blood to go to your head and you don’t follow that advice. But I love Tony to bits and he would be my choice over Eric.

SD: Biggest regret?

TS: Goodness gracious, Stephen, I’ve got so many regrets about things that you think you should have done, things that you perhaps should have said, things that you shouldn’t have said.

My biggest regret in life is not having children earlier. Gail and I had Gabrielle when we were 41 years of age. We’re now 52 and she’s coming up for 11 and there is a pang of regret that we may not be there when she’s in her thirties and forties because we started so late in life. My biggest regret in life would be that we never started a family sooner.

[We may not have quite got the hang of the funny in this section of the interview but the answer above was powerful and took the conversation in a more personal direction than I had intended. You can go in with pre-conceived notions about Sheridan and then a very human response like that makes you think again.]

SD: A workers’ republic or Celtic winning the league and cup every year for the rest of your life?

TS: A workers’ republic. The latter would be boring. It’s no good when you win all the time anyway. I’m very much for Celtic winning not just the league and the cup but the European cup as well — I’m looking for a treble someday — but that would be a one-off and it would be greedy to have it every year. Give me a workers’ republic.

Originally published on STV News.

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