Liverpudlian screenwriter Jimmy McGovern caused controversy recently with his impassioned BBC1 drama Common about the law of Common Enterprise.
And he is now penning another emotive BBC film. This time his subject will be Reg Keys, the former ambulance driver who lost his son in the second Iraq War and stood against then Prime Minister Tony Blair in his Sedgefield constituency in the 2005 election, RadioTimes.com can reveal.
McGovern’s film has the working title Reg – which represents both the first name of the main character as well as the shortened Latin word for Queen, Regina.
McGovern has got to know Keys, a “wonderful” and “fascinating” man who fought (and continues to fight) “against the odds” 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 think.
“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.”
But the scriptwriter – whose roll call of TV hits include the drama Hillsborough about the 1989 disaster involving Liverpool football fans and the crime series Cracker – says he is finding this project hard going.
“If I get my act together it will work but it is proving difficult,” he added.
“It’s a while since I have done a drama doc. You sacrifice the freedom of fiction. There are certain narrative problems I am facing which I could solve if it were fiction. But I can’t deviate from the truth. The truth is precious but my God it gets away of a narrative.But I will get there”.
As-yet-uncast, McGovern is not sure if the character of Blair will feature. “I still don’t know whether to cast the old bastard. We could use him from the newsreels I think. I don’t think it would be an easy thing to cast Blair now having seen him in so many films like The Queen and The Deal.”
The drama is likely to air on BBC2 although this has not yet been finally decided, according to the BBC.
If it gets the formal green light it is scheduled to air in 2016.
McGovern was speaking at the launch of the sixth series of Moving On, the BBC1 daytime drama series which he created and continues to work on as storyline editor.
The new series will feature five stand-alone films with a variety of lead stars including screen legend Hayley Mills (Whistle Down The Wind) Strictly star Lisa Riley (Fat Friends, Waterloo Road) and Kenneth Cranham (In The Flesh, Tess of the D’Urbevilles). It will air next month.
Next year McGovern’s new eight-part series Banished, a drama about the first British convicts to settle in Australia, is due to air on BBC2. Set in 1787 it stars Being Human’s Russell Tovey, MyAnna Buring (Ripper Street), Julian Rhind-Tutt (The Hour) and Rory McCann (Game Of Thrones).