Sheridan spin doctor defects to SNP

When Hugh Kerr was excluded from Glasgow City Chambers, Sheridan, above, secured him entry to the building. Picture: Jane Barlow/TSPL
When Hugh Kerr was excluded from Glasgow City Chambers, Sheridan, above, secured him entry to the building. Picture: Jane Barlow/TSPL
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TOMMY Sheridan’s former press chief Hugh Kerr has defected from the convicted perjurer’s Solidarity party to the SNP, claiming he wants to fight for an “independent Socialist Scotland” within Alex Salmond’s nationalists.

Former Labour MEP Mr Kerr told The Scotsman he had held talks with Sheridan during a prison visit to his former boss, whom he insisted was “very sympathetic” to his decision to join the SNP.

He also said that there “could well be” other members of Solidarity planning to defect to the SNP, a move which could see left wingers entering Mr Salmond’s party in a similar tactic used in the 1980s and 1990s to influence Labour by far left groups such as the Militant Tendency.

Sheridan will “review the political situation” before making any decision about his future as convener of Solidarity, Mr Kerr said, and would “discuss with colleagues” his political plans after his expected early release from jail next year.

Mr Kerr, who was expelled from Labour in the late-1990s under Tony Blair’s leadership, said that he had opted to join the SNP because the nationalists had “moved to the left” and that he now wanted to work with other “socialists inside” Scotland’s governing party at Holyrood.

Sheridan’s former press officer also said he would be “delighted” to stand for the SNP as a Holyrood candidate or in the 2012 council’s elections, after contesting a South of Scotland seat in the Scottish Parliament on the Solidarity banner this May.

Mr Kerr, who has already been out leafleting for the SNP and is now a member of the party’s Edinburgh Western branch, said that he “wouldn’t be surprised if other comrades” from Solidarity joined the nationalists.

He said: “There are socialists inside the SNP and I hope to contribute to that by doing my bit to create an independent Socialist Scotland.

“My judgment is that the SNP has moved to the left. I’ve spoken to quite a number of Solidarity supporters and they are sympathetic to my decision.

“I’ve had this discussion with Tommy and he’s very sympathetic. Tommy is focused on his legal situation and he’s studying hard in prison looking into this.” Mr Kerr went on to defend his work in the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) and the subsequent split of Solidarity, amid internecine warfare between supporters of Sheridan and those who gave evidence in the perjury case that saw the former MSP handed a three-year jail term .

However, Mr Kerr said that the far left had become a “sideshow” as he resigned from Solidarity and claimed that the only way he and other Sheridan supporters could have “any influence” would be to join the SNP.

He said: “The split with the SSP and other factors has meant that the far left is doomed to be a sideshow for a decade and if I’m to have any influence the truth is that this has to be in the SNP, which has the support of the majority of Scots.

“I’m still very much a supporter of Tommy and visited him in Castle Huntly open prison last week.”

Colin Keir, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Western, where Mr Kerr is a member, said: “Hugh is one of many from across the political spectrum giving their support to the SNP as the best party for Scotland’s future. He was out campaigning this weekend and we look forward to his continued support.”

How far left made inroads into mainstream Labour

Before the Solidarity breakaway, the Scottish Socialist Party was formed in 1998 from the Scottish Socialist Alliance, a grouping of left-wing organisations, including Scottish Militant Labour – a Trotskyist group in which Tommy Sheridan was a leading light.

A key Militant tactic up until the early 1990s was for the group’s supporters to join the Labour Party en masse.

Although the group, known at one time as the Militant Tendency, had a powerbase in Scotland it also successfully managed during the 1980s to see three of its members in England elected as MPs. However, Militant’s influence was dramatically reduced after Neil Kinnock expelled some of the group’s most prominent members during the late 1980s and early 1990s.