09 June 2016, The Tablet

For the love of a son


One of the turning points in the public estimation of Tony Blair was when he was challenged in his own constituency by Reg Keys, who had lost a son fighting in Iraq. Keys’ passionate speech at the 2005 election count provided one of the most uncomfortable moments of Blair’s career.

This week, in Reg (6 June), Jimmy McGovern dramatised the events leading up to that speech. It was as passionate and trenchant a drama as we have come to expect from McGovern, one of our strongest television writers over the past four decades.

The story was told almost entirely from the viewpoint of Keys (Tim Roth), with no time wasted on backstory. After a brief flash of British soldiers under attack in Iraq, we saw Reg greeting the military men who had come to tell him his son, Tom, had been killed.

From the start, Reg wanted to know more. He unscrewed his son’s coffin while it was at the undertakers, discovering that he had been shot 31 times. A visit from his boy’s commanding officer roused his suspicions about the death: the six military policemen who died had been left in an isolated police station with only 50 rounds of ammunition each and no radio.

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