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It’s ironic, but the allegedly lefty BBC wouldn’t touch this kind of material with a bargepole now. So it’s left to Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Arts to offer us this short drama directed by Johnny Vegas and based on the incarceration and hunger strike of Ricky Tomlinson in 1972.
The young Tomlinson (Stephen Walters, excellent) is a bolshy prisoner in every sense: starving himself until his case is reopened, refusing clothes and apparently unreachable until a governor presents him with a copy of ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’. The modern-day Tomlinson meanwhile, looks on – a benign ghost offering succour where, in reality, there was presumably none.
It’s an interesting insight into Tomlinson’s past and, admirably, the less savoury moments that included a flirtation with the National Front, aren’t glossed over. But its fury at cynical divide-and-rule politics has plenty of resonance for our desperate present too.