Sheridan 'wanted records shredded'

TOMMY Sheridan wanted a senior Scottish Socialist Party member to destroy the official record of a meeting at which he admitted attending a swingers' club, it was claimed yesterday.

The minutes of the meeting, in which he was toppled as party leader, have become crucial evidence in Mr Sheridan's defamation action.

Allan Green, 48, the party's national secretary, told the Court of Session of a request by Mr Sheridan to shred the document, and also rounded on the MSP for accusing him of being part of a political plot against him.

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Mr Sheridan is seeking 200,000 damages from the News of the World over articles about his private life. The paper says it was true that he cheated on his wife, visited Cupids, a swingers' club in Manchester, and indulged in group sex.

Mr Green said a meeting of the SSP's executive had been called for 9 November, 2004, after the News of the World ran allegations about a married, but unnamed, MSP. "Tommy said he had visited the swingers' club on two occasions ... he accepted his behaviour was reckless and he apologised for it," he said.

The committee members had not been able to accept Mr Sheridan's suggestion that he should continue to deny the allegations, not because they were untrue but because he believed they could not be proved. By a unanimous vote, it was decided he would be removed as leader.

Mr Green said he and a secretary had worked together on typing the minutes, and the document was then locked away. It was surrendered to the court but only after another SSP official had spent three days in jail for initially refusing to deliver it.

Mr Green said that during that process, he had taken the minutes to a meeting with Mr Sheridan in a pub which was also attended by Colin Fox, the party's current leader. He had shown the minutes to Mr Sheridan.

"Both myself and Colin Fox asked Tommy to withdraw the court action. We took the view that even at that stage it would be the least damaging option for both Tommy and the party. He basically strongly rejected that suggestion ... he was now in too deep and it was too expensive for him to pull out," said Mr Green.

Mr Sheridan is conducting his own case in court and, in cross-examination, he put it to Mr Green that the minutes did not accurately record what had been said at the meeting, and were "as dodgy as a ten-bob note".

"You know fine well that is untrue," said Mr Green.

Mr Green added: "You asked me to shred the minutes but I said I couldn't ... I said the minutes reflected why you were asked to resign as convener."

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Mr Sheridan suggested the witness and others had met before the executive meeting to work out a strategy to undermine him politically.

Mr Green insisted he had only ever tried to do his best for the party and for Mr Sheridan, whom he had regarded as a "tremendous ambassador".

He continued: "For you to turn round and accuse the likes of me of a monstrous frame-up of any other socialist, never mind of your standing, is an appalling thing to do. I can hardly believe you are doing this. It is shameful, Tommy. It is shameful."

Mr Sheridan responded: "We are quite used to histrionics in the witness box. There seems to be a lot of rehearsal of these things, so it may not cut as much ice as you think."

It was also agreed Mr Sheridan will appear as a witness for the News of the World in a technical move to let him take the stand, because he is conducting his own case and is therefore unable to call himself to the box.

The trial continues.