Four friends in Newcastle have the strands of their lives interwoven with the political and economic events over three decades. Superficially it’s a nine hour film about housing, but it’s much more than that.

The Labour Party, corruption in public life and housing, the rise and fall of T. Dan Smith (Mr Newcastle), John Poulson and Reginald Maudling, sleaze in Soho, corruption in the Met, the Tories rise to power, the violence and politics of the Miners’ strike in 1984 to name but a few of the political events covered.


PLOT SUMMARY BY CHAPTER – 1970


C1. Nicky is getting in deep with an armed anarchist commune in London. Geordie goes to see him on a social visit having found him via a Met contact. At New Scotland Yard corruption is in full swing, a group are watching porn when Geordie visits to drop off the weekly bung of £750 to John Salway who is watching porn with the rest of them.

C2. Ron Conrad at the Met is trying to investigate the Met for corruption and being obstructed, so an outsider is brought in. Roy Johnson. Nicky visits Geordie on his turf in Soho, and takes Geordie out to see his work as photo-journalist among London’s homeless.

C3. Roy Johnson’s first day at the Met. In Newcastle Tosker and Mary are running a fruit and vegetable business. Ron Conrad talks to Austin Donohue as he gets wind of corruption on the council. Nicky is mentioned as having worked for Donohue.

C4. Ron Conrad tracks down Nicky to his commune but Nicky isn’t talking. The rest of the group don’t like it at all despite the fact that Nicky tells them it was a Fraud Squad enquiry. At the Met Roy Johnson talks to Dennis Cockburn about the corruption and how far it goes.

C5. Evidence that corruption goes right to the top begins to emerge with the influence of Sir Colin Blamire (Commissioner), on the investigation by Roy Johnson who is being thwarted at every turn. Nicky is back in Newcastle as a result of the anarchist group being spooked by the visit of Ron Conrad on an unconnected issue. Geordie is on holiday in “Dorset” (filmed at Whitley Bay) to let things cool down at the Met and falls for the waitress at the B&B.

C6. Geordie proposes to Daphne (the waitress), she accepts but he is called back to Soho by Benny. Roy Johnson has completed his inquiry but the report is ignored by Claud Seabrook (playing Reginald Maudling) and returned without comment. Dismayed, Johnson retires. Benny stitches Geordie up with the help of Salway and he gets three years for possession of indecent material. He was framed. Nicky’s Mum finds a machine gun under his bed (from the commune) and tells him to leave. Patrick dies.


NOTES AND COMMENTS – 1970


C1. Working Class Hero

Nicky lives in a commune in London with Helen his anarchist girlfriend. He has long hair now and is a photo-journalist. Geordie has tracked him down and is driving a Rover 2000 which he toots loudly in the street to attract Nicky’s attention.

They go upstairs to Nicky’s room where the wall is covered with b/w photos which Nicky develops himself in a darkroom in the flat. They arrange to meet for a drink in Soho at Benny’s club Whiskers.

Nicky returns to the others of whom there are about ten, one of whom shows off a sub-machine gun.

Back at New Scotland Yard the Met are having a party, bottles in the lift, “have a nice weekend” – Geordie drops in with the weeks money in a paper bag. The cops are having a drink in their office. Some of them including John Salway are watching porn in another room. John Salway collects the money from him, Geordie watches the screen and sees that Jules is in it. John Salway counts the money at his desk.

On the way out Geordie passes the doubtful copper Ron Conrad outside the lifts. Glances are exchanged.

Dennis Cockburn is drinking alone in his office, apparently he is in charge for the weekend. The Times has got a scoop on corruption in Scotland Yard.

C2. The Times

Dennis calls Sir Colin Blamire at home to warn him about the Times scoop.

Nicky turns up at Whiskers for the drink with Geordie. They are drinking Federation Ale. Benny is there with a group of friends. Nicky is concerned about how Geordie found him owing to the anarchist cell and the gun.

Nicky takes Geordie out to see the Bullring, the homeless at Cardboard City in Waterloo.

CID have tapes and audio recordings of corruption they have delivered to the Met.

Geordie and Nicky are walking and talking in a depressed area of London. Geordie tells Nicky that Tosker has set himself up as a fruit and veg merchant after losing his job at the factory. Benny lent Tosker £500 to buy a van, they have a flat having got out of Willow lane flats.

“Benny took a real shine to him” Geordie tells Nicky.

Mary is getting involved in Labour politics. They arrive at homeless people under a bridge. A water truck and a police van arrive to hose them down. Nicky takes photographs and gets involved trying to tackle the man with the hose. Geordie leaves. Nicky is manhandled by the Police but not arrested.

It turns out the CID investigation has been sparked by Michael Frisch going to them. He is the former porn shop front man who Benny sacked for not looking after the shop properly and taking money from the till.

The Met discuss how to tackle the latest “revelations”. Ron Conrad appears to be investigating something triggered by Nicky, “new town clerk arrives in sleepy Northern town doesn’t like the way the Labour council’s doing its business”. “The smell of bribery and corruption in the air.” The last looking keenly at Harold Chapple who’s in it up to his neck.

While he’s talking Chapple leans across him to stub his cigarette out in Ron’s ashtray. It is a very rude gesture.

“Who’s been bribed and corrupted?” asks Harold.

“The Mayor” comes the reply.

“Alderman Herbert Sidebottom”

“Who by?” asks Chapple.

“A builder called John Edwards, and more than likely a Labour leader called Austin Donohue.” replies Ron.

When Dennis mentions Geordie Peacock who is mentioned in the CID tapes, John Salway is caught in the crossfire because Geordie is paying him £750pw to keep the shops and clubs open. So John Salway has to prevaricate. Clearly Dennis Cockburn doesn’t know what he is up to.

Salway goes to the club to see Benny for damage limitation. He finds out that Geordie has told Croxley (the detective Michael Frish spoke to) about the Salway / Barratt arrangment of £750pw. Salway tries to shut Geordie up and tells him to keep his head down but Geordie replies that Salway doesn’t give him orders.

Salway gets Frisch in to the Met and leans on him to forget about Geordie.

Dennis Cockburn gets the runaround from Salway.

Roy Johnson gets the job of investigating the Met for corruption. The Met lads are not best pleased.

C3. An Advisor

Roy Johnson arrives at New Scotland Yard. “I’ve come to advise you.”

Back in Newcastle Tosker is driving an Austin J4 and has a lad working with him. T. Cox – Fresh fruit and vegetables it says on the side of the van. At home Mary has a womens’ Labour group meeting in the living room.

The lad asks for a pay rise. The lad gets £11.10s as it is.

Patrick still lives with Mary and Tosker in a rented flat (not Willow Lane). Tosker announces that he’s bought a shop downtown with a flat over it. They receive a letter from the council offering them their old flat back now the blocks have been repaired, but they both decline. “Not a word about who built them!” says Tosker to Mary. “John Edwards and his mates. “A million pounds” – “the ratepayers had to pay” – “The Labour party, bloody crooks the lot of them”

Ron Conrad from the Met is face to face with Austin Donohue in his office in Newcastle.

Ron asks him if he introduced Alderman Sidebottom to John Edwards, Donohue prevaricates and says as a throwaway line “I didn’t even operate the projector on that occasion”

“Who did?” asks Ron

“My then assistant, Nicky Hutchinson” is the reply.

The interview continues.

“ESB was not a successful company of getting things built.”

Claud Seabrook is mentioned.

Ron asks where Nicky is now. “I’m afraid I have no idea” replies Donohue, which is true.

C4. We the People

Nicky is rehearsing a speech in front of his anarchist friends, in their living room.

The “Seize the Power” group is still active and going on…

Nicky takes a photograph of the police commissioner’s house, which they later bomb.

Nicky develops his own photographs in the flat, in monochrome, while the duplicator is churning out posters about “Seize the power”.

Ron turns up from the Met to interview Nicky about John Edwards. Nicky refuses to tell him anything despite having had the Edwards file for months. Presumably Nicky doesn’t want to involve himself with the police owing to his anarchist links. It was a bit dodgy the copper visiting the flat at all. The others don’t like it. Helen is upset, they are spooked. Nicky explains it’s Fraud squad, nothing to do with the group.

Roy Johnson and Dennis Cockburn have a chat in the Yard car park. The inquiry’s a waste of time. The Met are running rings round them. They discuss how far up it goes, even to the top?

The Spanish Embassy gets shot across the front at night in a drive by shooting by the anarchist group.

Back at the Met Ron is discussing with dopy Dennis, how far he’s got with his enquiry into town hall corruption. Claud Seabrook comes into the picture. Unfortunately Seabrook is now Home Secretary following the 1970 election and therefore in charge of the Met police who are investigating him.

Dennis pursues the Geordie enquiry with John Salway who warns Geordie off via Benny so …

C5. Holiday

… Geordie leaves Soho for a while because things are getting too hot at the Met.

Sir Colin Blamire is at home reading a file and discovers that Ron Conrad has named Claud Seabrook in his inquiry. “Conrad you blithering idiot, I’ll have your guts for garters.”

He tries to phone the Home Secretary but there is no reply. Then a bomb goes off in his hallway.

Nicky is well out of it back at home in Newcastle, following the Met visit by Ron chasing John Edwards.

Roy Johnson getting nowhere, goes to see Sir Colin, unannounced, who is talking to Harold.

Sir Colin, stands down Dennis Cockburn from the inquiry, who until now has been Roy Johnson’s assistant. Johnson is not best pleased.

Johnson notices that Blamire’s wrist is bandaged, presumably injured in the blast.

When Blamire tells Johnson that Salway is taking over from Dennis it proves their fears that corruption goes right to the top.

“Oh God Colin, you’re a gutless bastard!” says Roy to Colin as he storms out having been undercut at every turn by him.

Now it’s Ron Conrad’s turn. He’s put off the Edwards case. This stinks. Blamire is in it with the Home Secretary obviously.

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Geordie is on holiday in “Dorset”. A sign on the kiosk on the promenade says ‘Dorset County Council’ but I think it was filmed at Whitley Bay because isn’t that St Mary’s lighthouse in the background? And why drag the cameras all the way to Dorset when you’re filming in Newcastle and London?

Geordie asks Frances and Daphne to join him as he eats dinner. He buys the little girl a coke. He is attracted to Daphne and realises she is available when Frances tells him she doesn’t have a Dad.

Back at the Met, Ron is packing up and Dennis is as puzzled as he is. John Salway asks to speak to Ron and stitches him up in an interview getting him to deny ever seeing corruption (despite getting wads of cash weekly from Benny’s enterprises). Ron goes along with it to keep his job. It’s all a bit Casablanca.

Blamire is visiting Claud Seabrook at the Home Office. They are discussing Roy Johnson’s report. But Blamire is really there to warn Seabrook he’s in the firing line when the Edwards shit hits the fan. Seabrook admits he’d have to resign if it came out.

Salway phones Benny and tells him they can all relax.

C6. The Coast is Clear

Geordie is in bed with Daphne. He wants them to become a family. He proposes to her. Daphne agrees to marry him. Benny calls him and says come back to Soho.

Back in London Roy Johnson is stalking the corridors of the Met. Dennis is Harold’s assistant now much to his chagrin. Roy and Dennis commiserate with each other about the report’s lack of impact. The Home Secretary ignored it, just sent it back without comment after a couple of hours.

Roy Johnson asks for his pension, he’s had enough. A noble man.

Nicky is still living back at home. Felix wants to know what he’s up to.

Nicky phones Helen from a phone box and while she’s on the phone to him there’s an armed police raid. Nicky hears the door being broken in and says “oh shit” but by then Helen has hung up.

Back in London Geordie is stitched up by Salway at Barratt’s request. (They fill Geordies old room with porn for when he comes back). Geordie gets three years and it ruins his life. He doesn’t marry Daphne from Whitley Bay because he’s in prison.

Nicky’s Mum finds the gun under his bed in a holdall. Felix and Nicky argue about Nicky’s conversion to anarchy. Felix tells him to leave. Eddie Wells looks on in despair and bewilderment.

Nicky heads for Tosker’s place and speaks to Mary to see if he can stay there for a night. Nicky sobs in Mary’s flat, the first of many men sobbing in this lachrymose serial.

Tosker returns and finds Nicky and Mary on the sofa, he’s jealous. He’s certainly not friendly. Even if it was something which it isn’t Tosker doesn’t have a leg to stand on. He tells Mary Patrick’s died.

“His heart gave out, poor kid”.

Patrick’s funeral. While that goes on Felix and Eddie bury the gun on Felix’s allotment.

End of 1970.

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