BBC greenlights Banished writer Jimmy McGovern’s drama about the father of a soldier killed in Iraq

BBC1 has formally commissioned Reg - about the father who stood against Tony Blair in the 2005 General Election - just a week after McGovern's BBC2 period drama Banished was cancelled

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The BBC has given the green light to screenwriter Jimmy McGovern’s emotive BBC1 film about a former ambulance driver who lost his son in the second Iraq War, just a week after it decided not to commission a second series of Banished, McGovern’s BBC2 drama set in an Australian penal colony.

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As RadioTimes.com revealed last October, McGovern (pictured below) has long been interested in the story of Reg Keys who stood against then Prime Minister Tony Blair in his Sedgefield constituency in the 2005 election (see clip below).

And now BBC1 has given the go-ahead to his as-yet-uncast film, which has the working title Reg – both the first name of the main character as well as the shortened Latin word for Queen, Regina.

BBC’s outgoing controller of drama commissioning Ben Stephenson said of the project: “What is extraordinary is it’s about how one man’s personal circumstances can drive him to do extraordinary things.”

McGovern has got to know Keys, a “wonderful” and “fascinating” man who fought for justice for his son Lance Corporal Tom Keys, who was one of six British Red Caps killed when a mob descended on a police station in Majar al-Kabir in June 2003.

“They were badly equipped as well. They went to a hellhole with 50 rounds each and no radio, that’s why they were killed,” says the writer.

“I think he could even accept that if they weren’t there on a lie. But when it’s both, when they were there on a lie and they are badly equipped and are sent to a hellhole on nothing, it’s tough for a man to take I think. But he is a fascinating man.

“I liked that notion of an ordinary man taking on the British Prime Minister. It’s just wonderful it happened that way. A lot of people will point out that that’s the strength of Britain. But I think that’s baloney. It’s the strength of Reg Keys. He did it against the odds. He did it in spite of the system not through the system.”

The cancellation of Banished was met with dismay by many viewers after series one ended with a heart-wrenching but open-ended finale.

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