Claud Seabrook – Arthur Fieldson – Ron Conrad

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 – 1974


C1. Geordie’s in prison dreaming about shooting Benny for stitching him up. It’s the Heath three day week. Nicky’s got Mary and Tosker’s old flat at Willow Lane, now they’ve been refurbished, and his parents are visiting. Ron Conrad is still pursuing Donohue. Big changes at the Met, the Commissioner and Commander have been replaced with fresh blood from outside London.

C2. Benny Barratt’s fled to Spain now that the new regime at the Yard are serious about cleaning up Soho. Nicky works in a sausage factory while he takes a break from photo-journalism. Dinner party at Tosker and Mary’s flat over the fruit and veg shop. Nicky turns up which puts Tosker’s nose out of joint. Nicky and Mary hug in the kitchen interrupted by a female dinner guest.

C3. Benny is in Spain, Eddie wants to stand following the death of Arthur Watson the local MP. At the Yard, Harold Chappell retires (gets out while he can), Ron Conrad is after Edwards now. Nicky offers to help Eddie stand but Eddie doesn’t want it. He hasn’t forgotten the time when he and Mary went to ask Nicky for evidence against Edwards and Nicky remained silent. “Edwards has started to sing” Donohue tells Nicky on the quayside outside the Guildhall.

C4. Geordie returns to Soho from prison. His room has been taken by a girl from one of Benny’s clubs. They shag. Geordie stays the night. Tosker and Mary are not getting on.

C5. Ron Conrad and the new Commissioner go to see Claud Seabrook at the House of Commons about corruption. Eddie is slandered by an opponent in the forthcoming election, he is standing as an independent. Felix encourages Donohue to give Nicky a push.

C6. Donohue goes to see Nicky after which he is arrested on the street by Ron Conrad. Benny is arrested in Soho later having returned from Spain, and only narrowly avoids being shot by Geordie out for revenge for his three years in jail for shagging Julia Allen. Eddie wins the election as an independent. Chappell is arrested at home despite his retirement, and Salway by implication, later.

[My greatest sadness is that Geordie didn’t get his marriage to Daphne and a life in “Dorset”, he’d had a miserable life thus far, what with his mentally ill alcoholic Father and his Mother never mentioned.]


NOTES AND COMMENTS – 1974


C1. Stitched Up

Geordie is dreaming. He’s in a prison cell but he’s dreaming about being back in Soho, pulling out a gun and shooting Benny because Benny stitched him up for sleeping with Jules.

Heath: Three day week and power cuts.

Nicky’s parents are visiting him in his refurbished flat at Willow Lane. He’s got the flat Mary and Tosker used to live in but didn’t want to return to. His parents aren’t impressed at the state Nicky keeps it in. His Dad’s pleased he’s returning to the Labour Party. The lights go out just as his parents are leaving meaning they will have to walk down the stairs.

Inspector Ron Conrad is interviewing Austin Donohue in the dark about Edwards, again.

At the Met there have been some changes at the top. Two provincials have been brought in. Commissioner Michael Jellicoe and Commander Arthur Fieldson. “When will the changes start?” asks a journalist …

C2. Where’s Barratt?

…“They’ve already begun” is the reply followed by scenes of the Met raiding the usual suspects including Benny’s club. “Where’s Barratt?” Not there obviously.

Salway and Chappell are drowning their sorrows on the other side of “The Tank” while watching the new lot celebrating their Soho raids.

Nicky works in a sausage factory.

Nicky is at home. Arthur Watson announces his retirement from politics, Nicky tells Felix, Arthur was on Edwards payroll. (Nicky had the ESB file for weeks but did sod all with it apart from confront Donohue.)

Dinner party at Tosker and Mary’s. Nicky goes round with some bread rolls his Mum baked, ‘Bustas’. Mary is secretary of the constituency Labour party. Tosker is not pleased that Nicky’s turned up. Now Tosker’s being a snob that he started off in a council flat.

Nicky and Mary are sniggering, eventually Mary has to say why. Nicky chose the flat Mary and Tosker used to live in. Mary has started a law degree. Her female dinner guest opens the door to find them hugging in the kitchen.

C3. Proposal

Eddie is talking to Felix. Eddie wants to stand for Arthur’s seat. He wants Felix to be his agent, but Felix is disenchanted after the Jarrow march. Felix eventually comes round and Eddie is delighted.

Spain – Harold Chappell goes to see Benny who has “retired” while the heat is on. Jellicoe the new Commissioner is clearly taking a hard line. Benny is not best pleased to see the end of his empire. Back in London Chappell announces his retirement (for obvious reasons) but tells them “it’s actuarial, I’ve done my arithmetic. Staying on the bitter end won’t improve my pension by a penny.”

Chappell goes to see Salway. “If anybody asks, I don’t want a clock, but I would like a barometer.” (So he can say ‘Stormy weather’ on his retirement).

Ron goes to see John Edwards in an empty office building. Edwards shows him slides, boasting about his contracts. He admits Seabrook arranged meetings with overseas clients. (Gozo hospital). Ron Conrad tells Edwards he will be charged, he’s drawn up the charges.

At the CLP Eddie doesn’t get the nomination. It goes to Gavin Joseph. Felix says stand as an independent. Eddie agrees. Nicky offers his help but Eddy doesn’t want it. He hasn’t forgotten the time when he and Mary went to ask Nicky for evidence against Edwards and Nicky remained silent (despite having the incriminating file).

[1967 – C5. Keeping silent – Eddie hasn’t forgotten that Nicky refused to tell him if Bede Connor was on Edwards payroll, which he was.]

Nicky stands on the Tyne bridge looking down at Donohue’s offices all lit up. He watches Donohue leave and goes down to meet him on the quayside. “Edwards has started to sing . . . the names are pouring out. He’s got it all on file, like Nixon.” says Donohue to Nicky.

“Will you survive, Austin?” – asks Nicky.

C4. Geordie’s return

Geordie returns to his old room but the key doesn’t work. A girl who knows him opens the door. The has been done up by Benny and she rents the room from him.

“A lot of people felt bad about what happened.” she tells him. He has a bath. He stays.

“Where is he?” asks Geordie.

“You’re the only one who didn’t treat us like shit” – she says.

“Are you real” he asks.

“Why don’t you come and find out?” – she replies.

Elsewhere Tosker is trying to teach Anthony the drums but he can’t pick it up. Mary is annoyed with Tosker and says “he doesn’t want to come second at being you, he wants to come first at being himself.” Tosker goes out.

Geordie shags the bird in his old room. “Better?” she says when he comes. (a bit patronising).

Tosker returns home. He’s been looking at an investment property on the quayside for £22k. A lot of money in 1974. It turns out Benny lent him £500 to buy a van all those years ago. Mary and Tosker are having a discussion about finance and Tosker is not happy with funding her degree and independence. He complains about effectively paying for sex. “I just want you to know I’m not the mug I used to be. You are ripping me off and I know it.”

Back in Soho Geordie is pissed and angry. “I didn’t get a visitor in three years”. He is holding the framed photo of Benny and his girls. He smashes it up, which is a bit unfair on the girl.

Tosker and Mary have “sex” with the aid of KY jelly. Mechanical and awful. She goes downstairs. “I’ve still got work left to do”.

C5. Smear and innuendo

Geordie apologises for the damage. “Geordie, don’t wait for Barratt, he’s not coming back.” At one point earlier she says “why don’t you go home?” “Where’s home?” he replies. [Come to think of it there’s only his mad alcoholic violent Father to go home to. I don’t remember a wife and Mother. Geordie is alone.]

Ron Conrad and Arthur Fieldson go to see Claud Seabrook at the House of Commons.

“Well this is all nonsense!” says Seabrook, “how can I help?” looking up from a report.

Fieldson ends it when Seabrook gets agitated about the subject of commissions. Having seen him rattled, he’s happy. Outside Parliament Arthur Fieldson is more concerned with getting Donohue into court.

Ted Heath’s announced an election for Feb 28th 1974.

Eddie is slandered by the candidate Gavin Joseph who doesn’t deny saying to the press that Eddie killed his wife and daughter in a car crash caused by alcohol. Mary tells him he’s not fit to lick Eddie’s boots and “I hope you lose”, then leaves.

Eddie is at Felix’s house with them all, Nicky comes home. Of course Eddie isn’t likely to accept Nicky’s sympathy.

“Why?” – says Eddie. “Why would anyone say that?” – in disbelief at the slander about him killing his family by drunk driving.

Felix goes for a pint and runs into Austin. “I have a favour to ask you.” says Felix. “Nicky needs a push Austin, from someone he looks up to.”

C6. The Push

Austin goes to see Nicky. Nicky has to walk up the stairs (power cut) and arrives at his floor just as the lights come back on. Austin is waiting on the landing and laughs. Austin tells him to do something in the Labour party. “Don’t forget to visit us eh?” says Austin, predicting his time in jail.

Ron Conrad stops Austin in the street, with a Rover 2000 and opens the door.

“Not in the middle of the street!” he exclaims “Oh, not in the middle of the street!”.

So that’s the end of Austin Donohue (T. Dan Smith got six years in 1974).

Benny returns to London from Spain. Who knows what his reception will be?

Geordie checks out of a hotel room and gets into a black cab.

“King’s Cross via Soho please”.

Chappell gets his retirement barometer. “Stormy weather” he says – to laughter. He doesn’t give a speech.

Both the Met and Geordie are after Benny. Geordie spots his Rolls Royce convertible. Geordie has a gun.

Benny’s girl sees his safe. “I’ve got tapes, photographs, it’s my insurance policy”. They are in a club, not one of Benny’s.

“Is Whisker’s nicer” – Benny’s compainion asks, quite reasonably.

“It’s the best club in Soho” he replies.

Geordie goes into a bar but Benny has left. A girl says “the back door behind me” so Geordie exits and runs down the alleyway. Barratt is avoiding the Met. He knows they’re after him with the new regime.

[I don’t know why he came back really. I can understand why Geordie is after him though.]

In Newcastle the voting is close, there are recounts.

Geordie is floundering. Barging people as he goes from club to club. He tries to get into a club but needs a tie. He fails to buy one off a guy in the street. He runs into a bunch of Hooray Henries. He pulls a gun on them. He gets the tie and spots Benny and woman but is pipped at the post by squealing tyres and the arrival of several police vehicles. Geordie stands in a doorway and watches in dismay as Barratt is arrested and taken away. His attempted revenge has failed.

After a third recount Eddie wins by 23497 – 23421 = 76 votes and that’s in spite of the slanderous newspaper article. Eddie walks straight past the loser’s outstretched hand.

Back at the Met meanwhile they’re playing tapes. Harold Chappell is identified by Benny by implication, John Salway is named, Tony Weir (who?) and Ron Conrad. Fieldson speaks up for Ron who was always a reluctant bent copper but Jellicoe is having none of it.

“I want the book thrown at this lot, I want them chopped down!”.

Chappell is arrested at home, with a blanket over him. John Salway is at home waiting for the doorbell to ring. Poor old Ron; Fieldson tells him “It’s all over”, in a manner that suggests he thinks he’s one of the good ones, which he is.

In Newcastle Eddie is having a party to celebrate his win, Geordie turns up from his adventures in Soho. He’s hungry, homeless and jobless.

End of 1974.

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