TV star and trade union activist Ricky Tomlinson claimed the late Countdown presenter Richard Whiteley was a member of the security services as he opened a Wetherspoon’s pub in Chester city centre .
Ricky dropped the bombshell after relaunching The Bull & Stirrup in Upper Northgate Street where back in 1972 he and his late Chester pal Des Warren helped organise the first national building workers’ strike in an upstairs room.
Ricky, a former plasterer, and the other so-called Shrewsbury pickets later faced a trial which saw him and Des jailed with an ongoing campaign to clear their names as alleged victims of a political conspiracy.
And the TV funny man believes 1973 ITV documentary Red Under the Bed featuring the defendants, which aired on the day the jury retired to deliver its verdict, may have influenced the decision to convict. The show was presented by Richard Whiteley and former politician Woodrow Wyatt, also deceased.
Ricky, best known as Bobby Grant in Brookside and Jim Royle in The Royle Family, told The Chronicle: “I’ve got documents at home, which are printed ‘confidential’, ‘strictly confidential’, ‘not to be seen’, but it involves the likes of Ted Heath, Woodrow Wyatt.
"And we’ve just discovered that they made a film which went out on television the night the jury were out considering the verdict called Red Under the Bed and it was so anti-trade union that two of the jury changed their mind and brought a majority verdict in of 10-2 guilty.
“We found out this week that the film was designed, written, made and paid for by the security services. Woodrow Wyatt was a member of the security services and unbelievably so was Richard Whiteley who hosted the show. Richard Whiteley from Countdown was a member of the intelligence services.”
Ricky insists he has the evidence but was not prepared to pass it to The Chronicle.
Scouser Ricky, who was actually born in Blackpool after being evacuated during the war, recalled that weekly union meetings were held in The Bull & Stirrup where all the decisions were made.
Strike organisers Ricky and Des Warren were jailed for conspiracy to intimidate, unlawful assembly and affray, following altercations at a construction site in Shrewsbury. Warren was sentenced to three years, Tomlinson two.
Ricky, who lived in Coedpoeth, near Wrexham, for many years, said his pal, who died aged 66 in 2004, had effectively served a life sentence, because drugs given to him in prison brought on Parkinson’s Disease.
He said: “It killed him, didn’t it? We know of four sedatives that were used on him. We also have certain evidence about a doctor that followed him into jail giving him injections.“
Ricky warned that new ‘anti-trade union laws’ were being brought in this week which he described as ‘ludicrous’.
“Things are going backwards instead of progressing,” added Ricky, who is fully behind Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn: “I love him. I think what he stands for is tremendous. He’s not asking for anything that isn’t reasonable. And what the Labour Party needs to do; the MPs need to get behind the man and give him all the help in the world. Don’t be sniping at him behind his back.”
Ricky remains a close friend of his TV wife Sue Johnston and sees Chester-based former Brookside stars Vince Earl (Ron Dixon) and Steven Pinder (Max Farnham) from ‘every now and again’.
He also spoke of losing his Royle Family co-stars Liz Smith (Nana) and Caroline Aherne (Denise), who co-wrote the classic comedy with Craig Cash, in a bleak 2016.
“It knocked us for six,” said Ricky, talking about Caroline’s death aged 52. “I didn’t know about it until the newspapers rang and said what did I think about Caroline. I didn’t know she was that ill because she never mentioned it, ever, ever.
"It never stopped her working. It never stopped her writing, never stopped her having a laugh and all that time she must have been in tremendous pain. She had a Mensa IQ of 174.”
He said Ralf Little, who played his son Antony in The Royle Family, was particularly close to actress Liz Smith who passed away in December aged 95. “In the show I was always having a go at Antony but he loved Liz Smith. He used to go and visit her. He loved her.”