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SSP executive says Sheridan is on the road to oblivion Former leader claims party now 'distorted'

THE SSP executive will launch its campaign towards next May's Holyrood and council elections at a rally on September 2 - the day before Tommy Sheridan's planned meeting to discuss forming a breakaway party.

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In some of the strongest language employed yet in the civil war between the former comrades, the executive issued a unanimous statement yesterday entitled "Tommy Sheridan on the road to oblivion" accusing him and his supporters of "an act of political irresponsibility which can only delight the enemies of socialism in Scotland".

As expected, the executive called off the next meeting of the national council now that the party's future will be determined at the rival meetings on September 2 and 3 and at the national conference the following month.

Accusing Mr Sheridan of seeking to "rupture the most successful socialist unity party in Europe" and a "betrayal of the hopes" of supporters, the statement adds: "This breakaway is not based on any political principle. It is a vehicle for the out-of-control ego of an individual and is based on the fiction that Tommy Sheridan has been the victim of a conspiratorial frame-up by his own party."

It continues: "Despite his abominable behaviour before, during and after the recent libel case in the Court of Session, there was never any threat of disciplinary action against Tommy Sheridan. Indeed, the doorwas left wide open for him to pursue his ambition of returning as party convener if he could muster enough support.

"Despite the extraordinarily tolerant attitude of the party towards him, Tommy Sheridan has chosen to run away from the SSP, and wreak as much damage as he can in the process."

Referring to the former leader's references to "stitchups" and "scabs" the executive claim: "He has lost comprehensively because the membership of the SSP were not prepared to sign up to Tommy Sheridan's fictitious rewriting of the party history . . .

"To paraphrase Berthold Brecht: the party membership has forfeited the confidence of the great leader, so the great leader will now elect a new party membership. Tommy Sheridan's breakaway will fade into oblivion because it is based on a fraud."

Acknowledging damage to the party in recent weeks, the executive insists it has remained intact and is poised for recovery, with the vast majority of members and supporters standing by it as it fields candidates next year for Holyrood and local authorities.

To that end a rally in Glasgow on September 2 will launch under the slogan, "For unity, truth and socialism".

But there is every indication that a breakaway party could be launched at a meeting called the following day by Mr Sheridan and the only otherMSP to stick with him, Rosemary Byrne.

Mr Sheridan said last night that there was an "unstoppable momentum building up" for the creation of a new socialist party in Scotland to replace an organisation that had become "grotesquely distorted".

He said two groupings within the SSP, the SWP (Socialist Workers) and CWI (the former Militant) had voted to leave the existing SSP, as had the South of Scotland regional committee, where Ms Byrne is based.

"I can't win either way. If I stay I am a problem, according to my MSP colleagues who say they will not work with me again, but if I go I am splitting the socialist cause.

"Frankly the SSP has been distorted by the faction which has hijacked its apparatus and the internal regime is now no longer conducive to building a socialist party.

"More than 50per cent of the Scottish electorate did not use their vote in 2003. There is plenty to play for in the election of 2007 and I intend to be involved with a new organisation of comrades not collaborators."

The name of the party was still not decided but it was now inevitable that it would be launched on September 3. "There is an unstoppable momentum building, " he said.

Letters Page 14

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