Monday, November 1, 2010
Alan McCombes' Testimony Part 1.
The next witness to be presented by the Crown was Alan McCombes. Mr McCombes was Press and Policy co-ordinator of the SSP in 2004, a former editor of the party's newspaper the Scottish Socialist voice and a candidate in the election to replace Tommy Sheridan after he resigned as SSP Convener in 2004. Alex Prentice QC, the Advocate Depute, began by asking the witness how long he had known Mr Sheridan. Mr McCombes stated he had known "Tommy" for 26 years. Mr McComes added he had been so close "politically" to Mr Sheridan that he had written his column in the Daily Record as well as "Tommy's" sports articles in the Sunday Herald. At this point Mr Prentice asked the witness that when he referred in future to "Tommy" he would mean Mr Sheridan? the witness said he would.
Mr McCombes was then asked when he had first become aware of the allegations against Mr Sheridan. The witness told the court he had heard about the visit to a sex club in late 2002, around November/December, from Keith Baldessera. He had contacted "Tommy" by telephone and they had arranged to meet at Glasgow city chambers (Mr Sheridan had an office there as he was at that time a Glasgow city councillor as well as an MSP) Mr McCombes to told the court that Tommy had "accepted" he had visited the club.
Mr McCombes told the court that he had then expressed his concerns, which were not for any "moralistic reasons" but because he felt that Mr Sheridan had a public image of being "squeaky clean" and of being the "Daniel O'Donnell of Scottish politics" but had now revealed he was taking part in activities more suited to a "English premier league footballer." He added he was particularly concerned as as the SSP had an election in the next year (2003) for which it was polling well and the party's prospects could become "collateral damage." Mr McCombes told the court he had expressed these concerns to Mr Sheridan who had assured him that the people who went with him to the sex club were "100% solid" and would never reveal his name. Mr McCombes stated that he had decided to tell no-one and take no action about the allegations.
The Advocate Depute then asked the witenss bout the 31st October article in the News of the World (the original swinger MSP story) and how he had reacted when he had seen it. Mr McCombes stated he had been "extremely alarmed" The witness added that he had called Mr Sheridan and expressed incredulity that one of the people who allegedly visited the sex club with him had been a journalist at the News of the World (Anvar Khan) which he further described as "the hight of recklessness." Mr McCombes told the court he had arranged to meet Mr Sheridan at a party event the next day, but Mr Sheridan had left early. They had finally met up on Monday, again at Glasgow city chambers, in the company of Keith Baldeserra. Mr McCombes told the court he had advised Mr Sheridan to admit the allegations, and "pre-empt" the negative publicity that would ensue when he was named, by contacting the editor of the Scottish Daily Mirror, Mike Graham, and to carry out some "damage limitation." The witness told the court that Mr Sheridan refused to accept that advice and was "gung ho" to take legal action, adding that the defendant had stated he would "destroy Anvar Khan." Mr McCombes claimed that while he was thinking of the SSP Mr Sheridan was only thinking of how he would be "destroyed politically" if the allegations against him were not challenged. The meeting then ended.
Mr McCombes then told the court he had organised a meeting consisting of himself, Carolyn Leckie, Rosie Kane, Ritchie Venton and Alan Green at his Glasgow flat 'at some point in the week." The witness stated that he had hoped Mr Sheridan would attend this "informal meeting" but as he had not the group had decided to call an emergency executive meeting of the SSP. This was later arranged for the 9th November 2004 (the "9/11 meeting" as previous witness Colin Fox called it)
Mr McCombes evidence on the "9/11" meeting did not differ significantly from that of the other witnesses who have testified about it so far. He said he had "not a scintilla of doubt" Mr Sheridan had admitted attending the Cupids club. He added that he had been distressed by the "intransigence" of Mr Sheridan which he said was "guaranteed to lead him to oblivion" The witness then discussed the aftermath of Mr Sheridan's resignation and claimed that Mr Sheridan had been briefing the media and trying to "rewrite the events of the meeting." He said the party was in danger of being "strapped into the back seat of a van heading for catastrophe" and stated that is why he went to the Sunday Herald newspaper and signed a legal statement giving his account of the "9/11" meeting. With that the court rose for lunch.
Posted by James Doleman at 6:57 PM