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Monday, October 02, 2006 

News of the Screws-watch: The biggest liar in politics?

Another Screws journalist not known for his honest methods.

The Murdoch papers, much like the Rothermere press, do not forget criticism. They take most unkindly to being exposed as the lying, traitorous, cheap whores that they are. It's little wonder then that Tommy Sheridan, having won such a huge battle against the Screws' gutter journalism, has once again made the front page.

Sheridan, former leader of the Scottish Socialist Party, and now leader of the newly formed Solidarity, is almost unknown south of the border. A firebrand Trotskyist, his party made a remarkable breakthrough under the proportional representation system for the Scottish parliament, winning six seats. In 2004 he announced he was standing down from the leadership, citing that he wished to spend more time with his family. Within weeks the News of the World in Scotland splashed lurid allegations across its front page claiming that he had had an extra-marital affair and had visited a massage parlour in Manchester twice. The resulting libel trial ended when by a seven to four verdict by the jury found in favour of Sheridan.

Yesterday's banner boost from the Screws screamed "THE BIGGEST LIAR IN POLITICS". Claiming to have a 40-minute video tape made by one of Sheridan's best men, George McNeilage, the tape purportedly has Sheridan admitting to McNeilage that he did attend the Cupids club in Manchester. An edited version of the tape, up on the Screws website, is predictably, incredibly difficult to hear. The Screws claims that the tape was recorded by McNeilage in November 2004, just after Sheridan had resigned. McNeilage said that he recorded the meeting with Sheridan so that he and the local Pollok group of activists would know "straight from the horse's mouth" the truth about why he had resigned. Why they wouldn't have accepted McNeilage's word isn't explained. The video itself does not show Sheridan's face.

McNeilage sets out his reasons for going to the Screws in his own article, which reads suspiciously like a standard News of the Screws subbed and re-written rent-a-rant. Claiming Sheridan is a traitor to the working class for calling his former comrades "scabs" and receiving £30,000 for his interviews with the Scottish Daily Record, he mentions that he's not a great fan of the Screws, but that what's most important is that the truth gets out to as many working people as possible. Why McNeilage didn't go to a different newspaper with his sensational tape if he dislikes the Screws so much isn't explained, especially as any newspaper would have taken such a story. It's therefore not unreasonable to wonder how much cash was involved. McNeilage also doesn't properly explain why he didn't bring the tape forward sooner, as in immediately after the ending of the case, nor why he felt that such compelling evidence wasn't needed at the trial, even if he considered it highly unlikely that Sheridan was to emerge the victor. It seems difficult to believe that the story has been worked on for weeks, or that the Screws would have sat on such a potential goldmine for so long.

The Screws claims that the tape has been authenticated by four different voice verification experts. Again, when you know that Rebekah Wade, former editor of the Screws, currently of the Sun, admitted to a parliamentary committee that the police had been paid for their leaks and indiscretions to the newspaper, then it's not so difficult to countenance the paying of experts either.

The Screws also has form when it comes to entrapping people. Mazher Mahmood, this blog's favourite journalist, has been caught out twice, over the Victoria Beckham kidnap plot that never was, and the more recent "red mercury" case. Why should we believe that the Screws has changed its ways over a man who it lost £200,000 of its propietors money to, without considering the damage done to its reputation and "journalism"?

The tape could of course be real. Sheridan's claims of striking out against gutter journalism were also rather hollowed by his acceptance of the money from the Daily Record, owned by the same company which produces the Screws-lite papers the People and the Sunday Mirror. Roy Greenslade argues that the Screws deserve support from the rest of the media, made more laughable by the fact that the Screws only believes in the freedom of the press when it makes Murdoch more money, as evidenced by its attack on both bloggers and George Galloway when Mahmood's photograph was to be distributed. Until proved otherwise, Sheridan is still the man cleared of wrongdoing, and the Screws is still the biggest liar. The announcement by the police that they intend to launch a criminal investigation into allegations of perjury at the trial, not apparently influenced by yesterday's Screws claims, only emphasises this further. As for being the biggest liar, someone lying about his sex life becomes rather insubstantial compared to the fabricator currently residing in Downing Street, with the blood of a huge number of Iraqis on his hands.

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Is Sheridan a liar? I don't know, but I do know he's an employer who steals from his workers in the Scottish Parliament. Socialist my arse! Solidarity? That's not how I spell Sordid.

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