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'My wife read the Record story.. I thought it was fair but she thought I'd quit over a sex scandal' TOMMY TELLS HOW H HE RESIGNED AFTER ROW WITH MISSUS.

Byline: By Magnus Gardham

TOMMY SHERIDAN quit as Scottish Socialist leader after a blazing row with his wife over rumours of a sex scandal.

The firebrand MSP yesterday opened his heart about his dramatic resignation.

Sheridan dismissed rumours that he had a kinky fling with a newspaper sex columnist.

But he said his pregnant wife Gail was 'sensitive' to a lurid whispering campaign at Holyrood over his private life.

And he admitted he and Gail had a row about his future after the Daily Record revealed that SSP activists were trying to use the sex slurs to oust him.

Sheridan said: 'Gail read the Daily Record yesterday.

' My cut on it was that it was a reasonable story. Her cut was it was all about a sex scandal.

'She is sensitive to that.' Anvar Khan, a sex columnist on an English-based tabloid, claims she had an affair with a married MSP with 'very bad breath' who liked to visit swingers' clubs and enjoyed being spanked.

Khan claimed she met the unnamed man in an Edinburgh bar. Her story sparked the gossip about Sheridan.

The Record exclusively revealed that Sheridan was to quit,despite his denials of the 2001 affair. He resigned within hours of early editions of the paper hitting the streets on Wednesday night.

Yersterday, Sheridan said he wanted to spend more time at home as Gail, 40, goes through a difficult pregnancy.

But he admitted he and his wife argued over his decision to step down.

Sheridan said: 'Gail had a bit of a tantrum last night and was suggesting I would hate her for the rest of my life because she was making me do something I did not want to do. 'But I had to tell her I feel more relaxed and at ease than I have done for months.

'Ours is a small party but it is a heavy burden and I carry the burden.

'The buck stops with me. Now it is going to stop with someone else.'

Sheridan strongly denied that he was the MSP mentioned by Khan.

He said: 'There have been allegations that a particular MSP was involved in sex and sex clubs with a journalist.

'People are putting two and two together and getting 25.

'As each and every one of you knows, Tommy Sheridan met Anvar Khan in 1992,in prison,when she interviewed me.

'But I never met this woman in 2001.

'I don't know about my breath, but I do know I don't drink, take drugs or frequent bars.

'Some people are putting stories about to create mischief.

'If there are allegations, I'll deal with them. But I tell you now - there is no truth in them.'

Sheridan said he had heard rumours about who the gossip-mongers were.

He went on: 'One opponent has the principle that the best form of defence is attack.

'But I'll say no more about that.' Sheridan also condemned the tabloid which employs Khan, accusing it of making its living from 'tittle-tattle and salacious tales'.

He added: 'There have been rumours about me for 20 years, and more particularly for the last five years as an MSP.

'But they remain rumours. They have nothing to do with this resignation.' Sheridan claimed he wanted to announce his departure several weeks ago, but had been forced to delay the move twice.

The announcement was first delayed because it would have been overshadowed by reports of a financial crisis in the SSP.

And Sheridan said he delayed for a second time to avoid the move being linked to the sex slurs. Khan's claims emerged at the end of last month.

Sheridan said he had planned to issue a resignation letter tomorrow, after a meeting of the SSP's ruling executive committee.

But his hand was then forced by the Record's exclusive story.

Sheridan said one of his main reasons for quitting was his desire to support his wife and be a good dad. He added: 'I cannot continue to do what I'm doing and be a father.

'My wife is 40 years of age, as I am.We are not the youngest parents in the world.

'We are both excited about the pregnancy and petrified about the pregnancy. It is uncharted territory for me and her.'

He added: 'Gail is not having an easy pregnancy.

'She is nine weeks in, she is constantly sick and she is going to need a lot of support from me.

'I can't allow her to do this on her own.' Sheridan said Gail 'went berserk' afew weeks ago after work kept him away from home for four nights in a single week.

He added: 'She has been going berserk for many years. But I've always been able to say, 'While I'm convener of the SSP, I have to do these things.' 'But I can't be a supportive father and still do that level and intensity of work. There is no way I can fight a general election with a wife who will be six months pregnant by then.'

Sheridan said he also wanted someone else to take over to nail the 'myth' that the SSP are 'a one--man band'.

He claimed: 'We have a rich array of talent in the party which does not get the opportunity to shine while I'm the convener.

'So there is a two-fold reason for my resignation.'

Sheridan has led the SSP since they were founded in 1999.

He said he would remain as one of the party's six members at Holyrood,concentrating on representing Glasgow voters and fighting to abolish the council tax.

He insisted: 'My activities will now be curtailed to Glasgow.

'I can't go swanning round the country building the party,as I have been.' The party's MSPs will choose a n interim leader, who will serve until a permanent successor to Sheridan is chosen at the SSP's conference in February.

Justice spokesman Colin Fox is the early favourite for the job. Sheridan stressed that he will not be backing any one candidate.

He added that he had no plans to stand as a Westminster MP.

Gail praised her husband's decision to step down. She said: 'I think what he's doing is dead brave and a big sacrifice - and that shows his strength.

'All this baby thing has just finished him off.He realises he has to be grown-up and take on new responsibilities.'

The SSP said in a statement that Sheridan had played 'an outstanding role' in the development of socialist politics in Scotland.They added: 'The SSP executive understands the pressure Tommy is under and accepts his decision to resign.'

CAPTION(S):

TIME TO GO: Sheridan in Holyrood yesterday, left, after he announced his resignation as leader of the SSP. He says he quit after a row with his wife Gail, top. Above, writer Anvar Khan; FIRST AGAIN: Record yesterday
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 12, 2004
Words:1140
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