We don’t hire American actors to play Brits – not since Dick Van Dyke’s hilarious Cockney in Mary Poppins in the sixties – but that doesn’t stop our actors nicking all the best parts over there.

The Trial Of The Chicago Seven, presently streaming on Netflix, is a prime example. Four of the main characters are well-known English thesps. Mark Rylance takes the prominent lead, but there’s also Eddie Redmayne, Alex Sharp and Sacha Baron Cohen in leading roles as the defendants accused of conspiracy, incitement to riot and generally having a libidinous lifestyle the state disapproved of but probably envied back in 1968. A Brit, Daniel Pemberton, even wrote all of the music.

The film, written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, is a superb, if perhaps a little glossy, recall of the trial and the circumstances that led to it – the demonstrations against the war in Vietnam surrounding the Democratic National Convention. It was brutally suppressed by Mayor Daley’s police and many a demonstrator’s head was bloodied. There’s an eighth defendant, the Black Panther leader Bobby Seale, who had no lawyer, spent much of the trial manacled and gagged, and who wasn’t even in the city when violence broke out.

The film is a pretty faithful reconstruction, with some cracking lines put in the mouths of the actors. However, some of the great events of it all are missing, for dramatic reasons. Like Judy Collins singing Where Have All the Flowers Gone in court.

Or singer Phil Ochs, who put up a pig for president, who was asked by the prosecuting counsel Dick Schultz: “Did you plan for public fornication in the park?” Ochs: “No.” Schultz: “In your discussions with either [defendant Jerry] Rubin or [Abbie] Hoffman did you plan for public fornication in the park?” Ochs: “No, we did not seriously sit down and plan public fornication in the park.” Clearly it was spontaneous.

Schultz is still alive, aged 82. Some of the courtroom scenes, which don’t appear in the movie, reminded him of watching barroom brawls in Westerns when he was young. He recalled: “I used to love those movies, with people being thrown over the bar and chairs being smashed over people’s heads. When I was standing in the courtroom watching all this, it was just like what I I saw when I was a kid. It was really exciting. But it was painful too.”

The main defence lawyer, at least as far as the movie has it, was William Kunstler, played by Rylance, who in the actual trial summed it up thus: “This is no longer a court of order, Your Honour, this is a medieval torture chamber.”

Alongside him was another legend, Leonard Weinglass, who successfully defended Daniel Ellsberg in the Pentagon Papers case. And put the CIA on trial effectively, for trying to recruit spies at the University of Massachusetts. He represented student activists who had claimed that the CIA was a “criminal organisation that fomented coups and atrocities all over the world and should therefore be banned from campus”.

In 1986, Weinglass was defending Amy Carter, daughter of the former president, and he Weinglass employed the necessity defence, arguing that the activists’ campus disruption was necessary. He argued that it was “the reaction any right-thinking, peace-loving American would have, in the face of the serious harm the agency has done”. She was acquitted.

I had a memorable and extended lunch with Len Weinglass in New York in 2005. He was in his seventies then but still working, as he did right up until he died six years later. He was funny, self-deprecating and interested. He talked about the case and several others, involving Jane Fonda, Angela Davis, and the Symbionese Liberation Front. “When I get the call,” he said, ”and they say I’m about the fifth lawyer they’ve called, that’s when I become interested.” In truth, I bet he would be the first they’d call.

Don’t kid me on

The UK’s Children’s Minister you’ve never heard of (it’s Vicky Ford, but don’t lodge it in your memory because she’ll disappear without trace) voted against the Marcus Rashford-inspired motion to extend free school meals over the Christmas holidays. At least she had conviction, if not heart. Douglas Ross, the football referee leading the Scottish Tories, abstained, although he has pledged to deliver a variation of it in Scotland if his party gets elected – which is about as likely as the Tin Man donating a ticker.

Where are the Scottish players rallying to Rashford’s support and the poor kids who support them and go hungry? Get some backbone guys. Wouldn’t it be fitting if at least one of them did, then scored and pulled up his top to show a T-shirt demanding free meals. And Ross booked him.

Not so zippy

Riders in the epic Giro d’Italia cycle race went on strike on Friday over risks to their health and the heavy rain further depleting their already shattered immune defences. They insisted on buses to the halfway point of the stage. This came after perhaps the most dramatic stage in any race I can ever remember, which certainly depleted the immune defences of now leader Wilco Kelderman, and may even cost him the race. And all because of a zip on his jersey.

Zippergate began at the top of the climb of the Stelvio, at 2,757 metres – more than twice as high as Ben Nevis – and the most fearsome climb in all the Grand Tours, and that’s saying something. Kelderman had become the leader of the Giro on the road and was more than two minutes ahead of his nearest rivals, including the Brit Tao Geoghegan Hart.

He had already nearly completed the brutal 25km climb in a howling wind, the road a tarmac ribbon through the snow all around, when a soigneur handed him his warm covering jacket for the descent, where speeds can reach 100km/hr and the risk of hypothermia is real, not to mention ending up in traction if you make a navigational mistake.

Well, first he couldn’t get the jacket on because of the wind, veering all over the road in his struggle and almost coming off against a rock wall, then, when he had it on, flapping around him, he couldn’t do up the zip. So, rather than risk losing time on the descent he threw the jacket away. The cold clearly affected him because he lost over a minute to his main rivals.

You would have thought that they’d have Velcro on the blooming things, but not on poor Kelderman’s. Fastenings have always been a problem for me, zipping up and catching an important part of me is an extremely painful memory, and laces which have unravelled at the most inopportune moment, usually in public, once caused me to trip and deposit a steaming black coffee down the décolletage of a charity hostess. Thankfully no plastic surgery was required, although I did offer to pay for the dry cleaning.

Now I only buy trousers with buttons and a solution is on hand for the laces imbroglio, if I could only afford it. You may recall the self-tying shoes that Marty McFly had in Back To The Future. Well now Nike has come up with trainers that lace on command – well, wires. You bark “Hoy Nike, tighten my trainers” into your phone and hey presto, it Bluetooths and you’re done up. The catch is that they cost £300 and have to be charged every fortnight.