Pubdate: Sun, 20 May 2001
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Copyright: 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd.


The leader of the Scottish Socialist party, Tommy Sheridan, plans to
sue the Daily Record newspaper which he claims is leading a smear
campaign against him and his party.

Sheridan has instructed lawyers to begin an action for defamation
against the Glasgow-based tabloid which formerly employed him as a

The move follows a public falling-out between Sheridan and Record
editor Peter Cox who has published a series of withering attacks on
the MSP and has now banned any mention of him from the pages of the

Cox, who has held senior executive positions with The Sun, The Mirror
and the New York Post, has a reputation as a pugnacious editor who
revels in confrontation.

Sheridan left the paper around the same time as Cox succeeded Martin
Clarke as editor last September and his brand of ultra-left polemics
were replaced with the more anodyne musings of David Whitton, a former
spokesman for Donald Dewar.

A series of hostile stories followed along with editorials, penned by
Cox, which branded Sheridan a vain self-publicist and an irresponsible

The Record attacked his involvement in the anti-nuclear demonstration
at Faslane earlier this year but the criticism has been focused on his
stance on drugs.

Sheridan refused to back the Record's high-profile anti-drugs

On the same day that 20,000 people joined its anti-drugs march last
month, Sheridan organised a counter-demonstration, calling for
cannabis to be legalised.

He argued that the move would break the link between the widespread
use of soft drugs and dealers in hard and deadly drugs.

The Record has also attacked Sheridan's call for a maintenance
programme for drug treatment, providing pharmaceutical heroin on

A request from Sheridan for a public apology from the tabloid last
week went unanswered. He has now asked his lawyers to start legal

A letter from Margaret Gribbon of Thomsons' solicitors in Glasgow,
said: "While our client accepts and indeed welcomes constructive
criticism of his political views, he does not and will not accept that
his role in public life entitles your paper to suggest that he is
morally bereft and corrupt."

Sheridan, whose legal action is being supported by the National Union
of Journalists, believes that the attacks on him are politically motivated.

Sheridan has already written to the Press Complaints Commission but
his complaints were rejected because they did not breach the terms of
its code of conduct.

NUJ Scottish organiser Paul Holleran said: "This is obviously a very
personal and political campaign. We are unhappy that one of our
members is being put in that position."

Cox was unavailable for comment yesterday, and a spokesman for the
paper had "no comment".
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