Well there are those who think Sheridan's move might not prove to be his wisest. The Socialist Party was quick off the mark, making, I think, a pretty measured series of criticisms. Solidarity has put out a statement that neither "endorses or condemns" his appearance. His other allies, the SWP have yet to put anything out on their website. Whatever they end up saying, I doubt they won't feel the need to defend Sheridan in the same way they did Galloway.
The question Sheridan's comrades will ask when he leaves the house will be one word: why? The SP statement offers what some might see as a generous explanation.
The consequences financially [of the court action against News of the World, and subsequent perjury charge] for Tommy and his family have been dire. It has proved impossible to find paid work and undoubtedly these difficulties and other associated financial pressures have played a key role in his decision to take part in CBB.And offers a non-BB solution to these dire straits;
We understand these pressures but it would have been better, via the large support that exists in the socialist and trade union movement for him, to find an alternative solution. When the Liverpool 47 councillors were surcharged and banned from office for the "crime" of standing up for the people of Liverpool in the1980's an appeal to the Labour movement raised more than £100,000.Others are not so charitable. Kevin Williamson, formerly of the SSP, writes in his December 14th blog:
Fame is a drug. Its not as good as proper drugs - and the side-effects can be horrendous - but each to their own I suppose. An addiction to facile superficial fleeting celebrity can surely be the only explanation for Tommy Sheridan's decision to take part in Channel 4's Celebrity Big Brother. (Unless there's a fat cheque at the end of it).There are elements of truth in both. Tommy's family may well be hard up. But then again, Sheridan has never really been averse to the spotlight. Remember this? And this? How about the comedy career? And it would be an injustice if this was forgotten too.
Some will use this as an opportunity to take potshots at Militant, SML, the pre-split SSP, and Solidarity, as each have a responsibility for promoting Tommy as a distinctive political personality. But becoming a celebrity is a process, the length of which depends on the avenue taken to fame. These comrades put Sheridan forward to build their organisations, which enabled him to capture a media profile, but then different processes come into play. He started to play the celebrity game, albeit partly limited by his eight years as a Holyrood MSP. But once he lost his seat at the 2007 election, he turned toward celebrity to make a living. From that point it was probably only a matter of time before appearing on Big Brother.
Unfortunately for Sheridan, even if his conduct in the house is irreproachable, this celebrity will be difficult to overcome if he wants to return to Holyrood. Galloway's speaking tours are successful, but for the majority of working class people he is remembered for his Big Brother antics, and saluting Saddam. There's no reason to believe it will be any different for Sheridan. CBB will offer Sheridan opportunities, but only in the celebrity system where fame equals exposure equals money. A world of OK!, Strictly Come Dancing, Cash in the Celebrity Attic, etc. is there for the taking.
This whole affair should be a warning to the socialist movement. In the future when our movement throws up charismatic figures, we must be on our guard. The celebrity system will be open to these comrades and may go as far as courting them. But be under no illusions. Playing the celebrity game will damage the standing of any prominent activist. In effect, celebrity can nullify the danger they represent to the system.
Now, that's quite enough of that. Time for the really important discussion. What are Sheridan's chances? Will he bond with Coolio? Is class conflict with "Tory bird" Lucy Pinder in the offing?