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Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Tomlinson learns of secret files
Ricky Tomlinson
Ricky Tomlinson was jailed during 1972 strikes
Secret service files compiled on Royle Family star Ricky Tomlinson described him as a "political thug", it has been revealed in an upcoming BBC documentary.

The revelations will be screened in a new series, True Spies, which is part of BBC Two's autumn season.

The actor, who first made his name in Channel 4 soap Brookside, said he was "shocked and outraged" to discover he had been spied upon by MI5.

True Spies looks at the world of Special Branch and MI5, and discovers many conspiracy theories about dossiers being compiled are true, and that there are in fact a vast number of them.

Tomlinson was jailed in 1972 for his part in a builders' strike, but said he was amazed to only find out now he had been branded a "political thug".

Alan Partridge
Alan Partridge was last seen presenting Radio Norwich
Investigative reporter Peter Taylor said: "Ricky Tomlinson was gobsmacked when I told him. It is the first time he has heard when I tell him on camera."

The programme also suggests that Special Branch had sources inside the BBC, but Mr Taylor said "in many cases there was no justification whatsoever" for investigating some people.

Radical and writer Tariq Ali also learns in True Spies that a colleague in one of his political groups was a mole who went as far as taking moulds of office keys.

Mr Taylor did not have access to the files but interviewed Special Branch officers, who gave details of their surveillance activities over many years.

"I think they felt they had a story that people didn't know about that could and should be told and should be told responsibly. After much heart-searching they agreed to do it."

Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson stars as professor who is diagnosed with cancer in Wit
Other additions to BBC Two's 106m autumn schedule include the return of smarmy radio presenter Alan Partridge.

Actor and comedian Steve Coogan is reviving the character, who is no stranger to failure, after a five-year absence.

Black comedy Happiness, starring Paul Whitehouse and Johnny Vegas, will also return for a second series as will the residents of Royston Vasey in a new run of award-winning The League of Gentlemen.

BBC Two will also be tackling a season dedicated to disability with a mixture of dramas and documentaries on the topic.

Flesh And Blood stars Christopher Eccleston as a man trying to trace his father after the birth of his own daughter.

'Prejudices'

His parents are played by two people with learning disabilities following a search to find two suitable actors.

There will also be series of short films and documentaries on deafness, blindness and thalidomide.

"For the first time we are using drama - as well as documentaries - to tackle this often undiscussed subject and the result is some really powerful voices, which I think will help us to confront our own fears and prejudices," said station controller Jane Root.

Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson will star in a new drama called Wit, based on a book by Margaret Edson, in which she plays a university professor who is diagnosed with cancer.

Tipping The Velvet is a three-part lesbian love story starring Spooks actress Keeley Hawes and Anna Chancellor, who played Duckface in Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Veteran entertainers from days gone by will be the subject of a series of fly-on-the-wall documentaries including Bernard Manning and Bernie Clifton, in a series provisionally titled The Entertainers, on which Louis Theroux worked as an advisor.

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The BBC's Torin Douglas
"Ricky Tomlinson was horrified"
See also:

21 Aug 02 | Entertainment
20 Aug 02 | Entertainment
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20 Mar 02 | Entertainment
24 Aug 01 | Entertainment
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