Two Yorkshire MPs join Jeremy Corbyn in call for Ken Loach to be readmitted to Labour

Two Yorkshire MPs have joined Jeremy Corbyn in calling for the reinstatement of veteran filmmaker Ken Loach to Labour after the lifelong socialist said he was being kicked out in the party’s latest antisemitism row.

Ken Loach has said he has been expelled from the Labour Party in a "purge" of critics of the leadership. He has now received support from left-wing MPs who want him reinstated. Picture: PA

Leeds East MP Richard Burgon and Jon Trickett, who represents Hemsworth, are among the signatories on an open letter from the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs.

The letter has been signed by 20 MPs including Mr Corbyn and former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, as well as five Labour peers.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It states: “We strongly oppose the expulsion of Ken Loach from the Labour Party and call for his membership to be immediately reinstated.

“Ken is an outstanding socialist and a fierce opponent of discrimination in all its forms, whose work has done more than any living British filmmaker to shine a light on injustice and oppression.

“The values embodied in his films - solidarity, compassion, equality - should be the values proudly championed by our party.”

The letter added that the Labour leadership is “drifting away from these values” and claimed “these attacks are aimed at demoralising and pushing socialist members away from the party”.

Mr Loach, 85, said on Saturday that Labour HQ “had finally decided I’m not fit to be a member of their party” after he refused to “disown” other critics from the Labour left who had been removed from the party.

The move came after the party last month expelled four associated groups on the grounds that they were “not compatible” with Labour values. They included groups which had been critical of Sir Keir Starmer’s efforts to tackle anti-Semitism within the party’s ranks.

Past controversy involving Ken Loach

In 2017, Mr Loach was criticised following a BBC interview in which he was asked whether holding a debate about whether the Holocaust happened was unacceptable and replied that “history is for us all to discuss”.

In a subsequent letter to the New York Times, Mr Loach wrote: “In a confused BBC interview, where question and answer overlapped, my words were twisted to give a meaning contrary to that intended. The Holocaust is as real a historical event as World War II itself and not to be challenged.”

The letter added: “Exaggerated or false charges of anti-Semitism have coincided with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Discredit his supporters and you weaken his leadership. The Jewish Socialist Group wrote: 'accusations of anti-Semitism are being weaponised to attack the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party'."

In October 2020, the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that Labour had been responsible for “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination” after investigating allegations of anti-Semitism in the party.

Orgreave campaigners send their support to filmmaker

Following Mr Loach’s announcement of his expulsion, he has also been sent “support and solidarity” by the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.

The campaign, which includes ex-miners and trade unionists and describes itself as “strictly non-party political”, seeks an inquiry into the events of the Battle of Orgreave during the Miners’ Strike and the conduct of South Yorkshire Police.

A statement released by the organisation did not directly reference his expulsion but instead sent him “support and solidarity” and highlighted his “consistent support” for their campaign.

Kate Flannery, secretary of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, said: “Ken’s recent film Sorry We Missed You highlighted the misery caused for workers employed in ‘gig economy’ low-waged, insecure, zero hours jobs.

“His film I, Daniel Blake emphasised the poverty and distress caused by the benefits system and reliance on food banks.

“Ken’s films resonate with the life experiences of many people living in Tory Britain today.

“He is one of our greatest film directors and it is an honour for the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign to have worked with him and be supported by him.”

Director's announcement on Twitter

Mr Loach announced on Twitter on Saturday that he had been declared as "not fit" to be a member of the party and criticised Keir Starmer.

In a defiant series of tweets, Loach insisted that the “clique” around the Labour leader would never ultimately prevail.

“Labour HQ finally decided I’m not fit to be a member of their party, as I will not disown those already expelled,” he said.

“Well, I am proud to stand with the good friends and comrades victimised by the purge.

“There is indeed a witch hunt.

“Starmer and his clique will never lead a party of the people. We are many, they are few. Solidarity.”

Following Mr Loach’s comments, Mr Corbyn wrote on Twitter: “Ken Loach has made outstanding films from Cathy Come Home to I, Daniel Blake, directed brilliant broadcasts for Labour, and has always stood with the oppressed. He deserves our respect and solidarity. #StandWithKenLoach.”

But Mike Katz, chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement, welcomed the party’s decision and said it was “well past time he was expelled”.

The decision to expel Mr Loach was also supported by Labour MP Neil Coyle, who said: “Goodbye Ken Loach. You were against Labour in Government and fielded people against us even five years after we left office, helping the Tories, but still mindless cretins pretend you were Labour.”

The Labour Party did not wish to comment.

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you'll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click here to subscribe.