Scabs

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 – 1984


C1. A pit village with pickets by the gates, local Police being friendly offering rolls and sandwiches. Felix is showing signs of dementia. Nicky has a photographic exhibition. Felix is getting aggro from Valley View kids. Eddie Wells is an MP.

C2. Alan Roe and the working miners are seen in the village. Tosker’s associating with Freemasons. Out of area police are shown living in a dormitory. The Met arrive to join them. Tosker becomes a Freemason. Police drive through the village to protect miners going to work in spite of the strike.

C3. The police hold back a coachload of flying pickets up the road from the gate. Eddie and Nicky arrive by car and Eddie is forced onto the coach by Police while Nicky runs off to take photos. In the village miners attack scabs houses and the Police in turn attack them. Anthony is in the scuffle. Nicky is hit. Nicky goes back to Mary’s.

C4. “If not now then when?” says Mary and leads him upstairs. Nicky’s Mum asks him to come and help Felix cope with the attacks from Valley View. Mary takes Nicky to photograph miners injuries. Felix is attacked by Christopher Collin’s dog at Valley View. Mary represents the miners in court.

C5. Anthony asks to be excused strike duties. He has divided loyalties. Felix is in hospital. Eddie clashes with Claudia in the HoC over the violence. Anthony goes to see his Mother at the civic centre. Mary considers him a witness for “the only side the jury will believe”.

C6. Felix and his wife move to a bungalow. Felix has dementia. Tosker and Anthony have a drink, Anthony is sarcastic about Tosker joining the Masons. Anthony decides to be a witness for the defence. The court case takes place, a plea bargain is arranged and the Police get off scot free. Felix wanders up to Valley View. Nicky and Mary agree to marry.


NOTES AND COMMENTS – 1984


C1. Pit Strike

Scene – a pit village on a sunny day, the local police are being friendly and supportive of the miners. Anthony, Mary’s son, is now a policeman and chatting to Eddie Wells at the gates.

Felix is at the allotment and showing the early signs of dementia.

Nicky has an exhibition of photographs from his trip to El Salvador. Mary and her two children, copper Anthony and a chubby undergrad’ Bernadette are there. “Nick Hutchinson – A Retrospective 1979-1984”. Bernie has a place at Oxford. It turns out Mary has put all Nicky’s postcards up on her office wall. She is now deputy leader of the council. Mary asks Nicky out. She gets out her Filofax, she is clearly a busy lady. “How about tonight”.

They have dinner in a restaurant. She compliments him on the photographs. He talks about his time in El Salvador.

What was it he didn’t get to say? It was implied but I didn’t pick it up.

Felix is being hassled by kids from Valley View. Christopher Collins in particular who is arrested by Anthony.

Eddie Wells is an MP at Parliament – he questions Claudia Seabrook in the HofC and in her office about the pit strike. The most interesting thing he says is that

“the Coal Board has split the miners into high earners in the good pits where they’ve invested in new machinery and low earners in pits where they’re practically digging coal out with their bare hands.” says Eddie.

“Which the Coal Board wants to close, quite rightly.” replies Claudia.

C2. Divisions

Alan Roe and the working miners are seen in the village. They are seen as scabs by the picketing miners.

Tosker’s going up in the world. He’s got a black bow tie on and is associating with Freemasons now.

Out of area police are shown living in a dormitory. The Met arrive to join them, noisily.

Tosker becomes a Freemason.

The police drive through the village to protect miners going to work in spite of the strike.

C3. Pithead conflict

The police control events by holding back a coachload of flying pickets who’ve come to support their colleagues. Eddie and Nicky arrive by car and are forced onto the coach by Police who wave £20 notes at them through the windows. In the village local miners attack scabs houses and the Police attack the miners in turn. Anthony is in the scuffle. Nicky is hit by a truncheon and loses his film, ripped out by a policeman.

Nicky goes back to Marys and they get closer.

C4. If Not Now When

“If not now then when?” says Mary and leads him upstairs. At the foot of the stairs the phone rings, it’s Eddie. Some miners want representation she agrees to go at nine the following morning. They make love. This is their first time. It’s only taken twenty years. They first got together in 1964.

It’s morning. Mary and Nicky are in bed together.

Nicky checks the answering machine and it’s his Mother who says that Felix has his knickers in a twist about Christopher Collins and can Nicky come and help? Mary is waiting outside in the car and tooting the horn.

Felix goes round to the walk up flat of Collins and following an argument is attacked by a dog.

Mary is in court representing the miners (she’s been a solicitor since law school) but she doesn’t get anywhere with the magistrate.

Nicky takes photographs of the men’s injuries from yesterday.

C5. Divided loyalties

Anthony asks to be excused strike duties. He asks for motorway duties instead. He disagrees with his C/O about what happened but is countermanded. His loyalties are divided because his Mother is representing the miners and he is a potential witness.

Felix is in hospital having been injured by a dog belonging to Christopher Collins.

Eddie and Claudia clash in the HoC over the violence. He calls her a liar and has to leave the House.

Anthony goes to see his Mother at the civic centre. She has a large office. Bernadette (Anthony’s sister) is discussed, she’s at Oxford. Mary has already considered him a witness for “the only side the jury will believe”.

C6. A New Start

Nicky brings Felix and his Mum home to the new bungalow. Felix (Peter Vaughan) has dementia.

Tosker and Anthony are having a drink. It’s a bit frosty. Anthony is amused that his Dad is in the Masons. His Dad implies he knows about Anthony’s problems and has come to talk about them.

“You don’t want to be driving lemon curd sandwiches up and down the A1 all your life do you?”

However Anthony dismisses his Dad before hearing what he’s got to say with the comment that “now I know why they call it the mafia of the mediocre”. “It’s the right place for you Dad.”

“Thanks” he says. “For what?” says Tosker. “For helping me make me mind up”. He realises his Dad was going to try to talk him out of being a witness for the defence.

Anthony arrives at court in his uniform prepared to be a witness for the defence. He isn’t needed because Toby pleads guilty to affray instead of being charged with riot but Barry was “in the thick of it” and gets four years for riot. The police of course, got off scot free.

Felix is watching the court report on TV. Then he wanders off into the street and ends up in Valley View where Christopher Collins lives. It’s all about housing again.

Nicky and Mary propose to each other with a champagne toast.

End of 1984.

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