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EXCLUSIVE: Gail Sheridan to run for Holyrood

The wife of Tommy Sheridan – convicted of perjury last month – is planning to run as a candidate for Solidarity, the party founded by her husband.

A formal announcement of her place at the top of Solidarity’s Glasgow list is not planned until after her husband is sentenced later this month.

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But The Herald can reveal that Mrs Sheridan has agreed to put herself forward in the hope of rekindling the fortunes of the party, which broke away from the Scottish Socialists during the schism over her husband’s private life.

A friend of the couple said last night: “Gail has said she has been overwhelmed by the support she has received since the trial and the pressure on her to stand.

“She told me: ‘I realised this was the only move forward for Solidarity and I felt I had to take up Tommy’s mantle. There is everything to fight for and I am fighting to win. Given the strength of support I have received in recent weeks, anything is possible.’”

Trial judge Lord Bracadale has warned Sheridan to expect a lengthy jail sentence when he is sentenced later this month.

Party sources claim that, while her husband is in prison, Gail will not only stand for Holyrood in May, but is also prepared to spearhead Solidarity’s campaign for the local authority elections next year by standing for Glasgow City Council.

She has previously stood as a Scottish Socialist Party candidate in Cardonald, Glasgow, in 2003 so she has first-hand experience of electoral politics. She was also influential in the 2007 council election campaign of Ruth Black, although Ms Black defected to Labour after being elected.

Tommy Sheridan was elected for the Scottish Socialists to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and then led the party to its greatest achievement in winning six seats in 2003.

However, newspaper allegations that he had extramarital affairs and attended a swingers’ club in Manchester ripped the party apart and led to him breaking away and forming Solidarity. That split in the socialist vote resulted in electoral oblivion.

But the decision of Gail to stand could change that picture as she has a high public profile in her own right and emerged from the trial in a strong position when all charges against her were dropped.

“There has been a groundswell of support from Solidarity supporters for Gail to stand,” said a party source.

“There was an overwhelming mood in favour of her standing. Gail is a strong character and members see her as someone they can hang their banner on. Solidarity feels that, through Gail, it can relaunch itself.

“She has been considering the invitation to stand for a while but has now decided to go for it.”

Neither Gail nor her husband were available for comment last night but, given her media profile, she will not want for attention during the election campaign.

She was at her husband’s side during the original defamation case and she found herself in the dock alongside him in the recent perjury trial before the case against her crumbled.

Gail, 46, is a former British Airways flight attendant and the couple have a young daughter, Gabrielle.

There was also public sympathy for the way she was treated during the authorities’ pursuit of her husband, with their house searched by police and her Rosary beads confiscated during a police interview in which she was accused of using IRA techniques to maintain her right to silence.

The Herald revealed this week that this had been the subject of a complaint to the police by a member of the public.

Regional members of the Scottish Parliament are elected using a party list system -- the higher up the list, the better chance there is of being elected

In 1999 the SSP gained 7.25% of the Glasgow regional list vote, enough to return Sheridan. Four years later the party achieved 16% -- more than double the vote of the Tories -- and this saw Rosie Kane also elected.

However, after the schism, the 2007 election saw the SSP get just over 1% of the vote and the new Solidarity party just over 4% -- not enough for either to secure a seat.

 

A woman with a passion for left-wing politics

They have shared a secondary school, a marital bed and various High Court appearances, but Gail Sheridan has a few more things in common with her husband -- a fiery, oratorical flair and a passion for left-wing politics.

The former air hostess has been following the socialist cause since her early adulthood, when she began writing to her future husband during his 1992 prison stint.

The pair first met at Lourdes Secondary School in Glasgow, and married in 2000. She was active in the Scottish Socialist Party from its formation in the 1990s, and switched her support to Solidarity when it broke away.

The 46-year-old has even stood for office before, unsuccessfully contesting the Glasgow Cardonald seat in a council election in 2003. She dramatically increased the SSP’s vote, but lost out to Labour by a margin of 1146 to 825.

She has long been a colourful character in her own right, although her husband’s tenure at the helm of his two parties overshadowed her own contribution.

She was charged in 2008 with stealing alcohol from her employers, British Airways, but the charges were later dropped. She left the airline two years later.

Despite the Sheridans’ more recent troubles, and the fact that she now faces the prospect of bringing up their five-year-old daughter Gabrielle alone for some time, she stuck with her husband through his conviction.

Ending a spectacle during which she attracted frequent comment for her glamorous appearance and brave face outside court, she said: “I have and will always stand by Tommy.”

Now, with the Solidarity leader facing a lengthy spell behind bars, she looks set to show how far beyond the realm of marital duty that support extends.

EXCLUSIVE

Robbie Dinwoodie

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