Ricky Tomlinson is 73, but the Royle Family star is showing no signs of slowing down – and he could not be more different than couch potato Jim Royle.

"I love work, I'm a workaholic! If I stopped working then I would be on the Jeremy Kyle Show because I would not know what to do with myself," he says. "Y'know how they say: 'My cup overfloweth'? I'm a lucky lad!"

Just do not get Ricky started on politics. Or rather, do get him started on politics, but only if you have time to spare.

The actor, whose screen alter ego Jim Royle does not need much encouragement to offer his tuppence-worth either, is talking about the UK Government and to say he is not a fan is putting it mildly.

"I have nothing in common with this Government," he says. "How can you have a Cabinet where there is 23 millionaires, and some of them multi-millionaires?

"They are telling people: 'We'll have to cut your benefits'. It's ludicrous. Let them walk a mile in their shoes and see how they feel."

Tomlinson certainly has some rage inside him. A lifelong Liverpool FC supporter, he has campaigned for justice for the victims of the Hillsborough disaster while he himself is still looking for an official pardon for his time spent in prison in the 1970s for 'conspiracy to intimidate' during trade union activities.

"It was a disgrace we were sent to prison and certainly for the sentences we got," fumes the actor, whose first high-profile job in showbusiness was playing union activist Bobby Grant in Channel 4 soap Brookside.

Tomlinson nearly ran for Parliament as a Socialist Labour candidate for Liverpool in the 2010 General Election in protest at a 28-year-old being parachuted in from London to represent the Labour Party.

But he withdrew before being selected due to personal reasons ("me lad was ill").

He supports lots of local children's charities.

Combine that with the job of running his two businesses in Liverpool: a dog-grooming parlour called Mucky Pup and cabaret club The Green Room, where he comperes every weekend, and his grandfather duties to seven-year-old Louis, and there is enough on the agenda for a man half his age. He is certainly no Jim Royle.

The actor is at the beck and call of Caroline Aherne, and their recent Royle Family special drew in more viewers than Call The Midwife, Doctor Who and Downton Abbey.

"It's weird because we don't see each other from one year's end to another, but when you walk on set it's as though it was only last week that we worked together. And it's funny because if someone's sitting in Jim's chair and I walk past, they get up," he says with a cheeky giggle.

His latest TV project is Great Night Out, a comedy drama about four football-mad mates and the long-suffering women in their lives.

Tomlinson's character brings them all together: the landlord of their local pub, he acts as a father figure to the lads – even though he is after their money at the same time.

"I do everything and anything to keep them in there, making sure they keep on drinking," says Tomlinson. "He is just an old-fashioned busybody, an old-fashioned pub landlord. But at the same time he has a soft spot for those lads."

The actor had a soft spot for his co-stars too, describing them as "good kids". He also got on with all the extras.

"I got talking to them. One of them had been a boxer as a young man, he knew all the sorts of villains from Soho and that. It was lovely, in my break I would go and sit with them and have a laugh. It was a nice job."

l Great Night Out, STV, Friday, 9pm