“If you are not angry, what kind of person are you?”

JVL Introduction

The letter of support below has been circulated by members of Ken Loach’s CLP in Bath.

Your web editor is about to sign it!

Open Letter to Labour Leadership on Ken Loach’s Expulsion

In 2016, after six years of Conservative austerity had slowly drained the life blood from so many of the services relied on by the majority of the British public, filmmaker and political activist Ken Loach asked a poignant question:

“If you are not angry, what kind of person are you?”

Of course, Ken Loach was referring to the ‘constant humiliation to survive’ that the conscious cruelty of an overhauled and ravaged benefits system had visited on thousands of people. Yet, today, two days after Ken Loach’s expulsion from the Labour Party, this question feels more poignant than ever. But, this time, instead of anger at cuts to public services and the decimation of the British welfare system the question needs to be asked in relation to the expulsion of a dedicated, highly regarded and passionate defender of social justice, from the very party which is meant to share and uphold these values.

Since the Labour Party is refusing to comment in individual cases of expulsion, including to the people they are expelling, then members and voters have little to go on other than the increasing evidence of a ruthless purge of left-wing members on dubious charges of ‘incompatibility’ with the party’s values. This begs the question, if the values of Ken Loach, a lifelong socialist and ardent campaigner for social justice and equality are not ‘compatible’ with the Labour Party, then what does the Labour Party actually stand for? For decades Ken Loach has stood with the poor and the disenfranchised, the oppressed and the disempowered, he has been a voice for people with no voice and has given a platform to people with nowhere to stand. For the Labour Party to claim that his values are not only incompatible with their own, but to darken his name with the smear of anti-Semitism accusations, which Ken Loach has robustly refuted, is quite simply, unforgivable. People only need to see the legacy of Ken Loach’s work and activism to see that he is not only in no way anti-Semitic, but is an unequivocal anti-racist.

To add to this troubling situation the Executive Committee of Bath CLP (Ken Loach’s own CLP) have remained completely silent on his expulsion, refusing point blank to answer the many questions from local members and seeming to try to hide queries about their stance on the CLP Facebook page. Ken Loach has been an active member of Bath CLP for many years and has given time, energy, publicity and, importantly, friendship to many on the EC. This silence speaks so loudly to all of those who wonder, “Will the CLP do the things they’ve promised for the residents of their constituency if they gained the seat in the next GE? If they cannot defend a friend and ally can they be trusted by the electorate?”‘

What the Labour Party needs to start to understand is that left wing people are not only Labour Party members, apparently there to be treated with cruel disregard and contempt, but they are also voters. Voters who can swing elections and change the electoral landscape for the Labour Party, for better or for worse. Contrary to the assumptions of Peter Mandelson, working class voters did find other political homes outside of the Labour Party and left-wing voters have this choice too. Whilst decades of Labour taking working people for granted resulted in many turning their backs on the party, the same will be true of those who hoped the Labour Party would stand for the values of equity, fairness and democracy, the values of the many, not the few. These voters have been betrayed by a party they believed to be their only hope for a progressive, forward-thinking Britain.

The behaviour of the party leadership in recent months, culminating in the expulsion of Ken Loach, has been staggering, like watching a slow-motion car crash, the wreckage of which holds a once respected and revered party of the people. Ken Loach is not only popular with left leaning voters and Labour Party members, but with people of other political persuasions and none. Quite what the Labour leadership hope to achieve with this ongoing smear campaign and witch hunt is beyond the imagination of anyone outside of the party machine. All the general public can see is a party which is betraying its most dedicated and trusted members, which is stripping all semblance of democracy from its internal functions and fighting with its own shadow.

The Labour Party claims to be a broad church and very much needs to be a broad church if there is any chance of coming close to defeating the Conservatives at the next general election. This means accepting dissenting voices and working with dedicated socialists both in and outside the party. The Labour Party needs to learn the lessons of 2017 as well as 2019 and stop behaving as though a key section of their voting base, left wing people, are somehow an embarrassment to be brushed under the carpet so that they can access some imagined electorate of people they may be able to persuade away from the Conservatives with flags and empty rhetoric. If Labour do not start to really understand the desperate changes needed in this country, highlighted by people like Ken Loach, then it is highly likely they will lose even more seats in the next general election and inflict another five years of a hard right Conservative government, years we really cannot afford to lose.

So we, the undersigned, ask this question of Keir Starmer, those in the Labour leadership team and MPs and CLPs who have stayed silent over the injustice of Ken Loach’s expulsion- ‘if you’re not angry, what kind of people are you?’

You can add your name to the letter here.

Comments (19)

  • Naomi Wayne says:

    I take it this letter is open to non members of the Labour Party to sign?!

    [Can’t see why not! – JVL web]

  • Joseph Hannigan says:

    If he is not reinstated ,with apologies then I cannot see myself remaining a member. I may join the Real Labour party when it forms.

  • The mission of Starmer and his like is not to win elections, certainly not if it means adopting any commitments to scare the horses of the wealthy and powerful. Their mission is to destroy the party as a vehicle for “left” ideas, such as redistributing wealth and services more equitably, for a generation.

    This continues the projects of Thatcher and Blair to destroy organisations and ideas that threaten their hegemony and control of the ruling classes.

    The purges are part of that. Then the electorate can be given a choice of two almost identical parties once again, business as usual.

    Starmer and underlings will be very adequately rewarded for this service whether he ends up in government or not.

    The premise of the letter is flawed. Pointing out that their approach may lose Labour more parliamentary seats in the short term is both saying something the LP leadership knows, and a secondary priority for them.

  • Ian Hickinbottom says:

    Starmer is an establishment patsy, his appointment as DPP is proof of this. His job is to destroy any chance of a political choice being available to the electorate. The Labour party membership fell for his lies and deception hook line and sinker by voting for him in the deluded belief that he would win elections. A simple and very quick scan of his voting record and his back stabbing actions in support of a 2nd referendum. The ideal is to become a replica of the US two party state, which vary very little in actual reality, with both maintaining the neoliberal status quo.

  • Dave Postles says:

    I admire and support JVL and Jewish Socialist. I am reluctant, nevertheless, to sign the document (and not just because it is associated with Alphabet/Google). Labour is defunct. The years 2015-2019 were only an intermission in the Blairite project.

  • Stephen Flaherty says:

    Joseph Hannigan and Dave Postles, if you’re serious about leaving Labour and joining or forming a new party, you might want to consider that such a new party would be doomed under FPTP and/or would only cement the Tories in power. The case for PR is surely obvious here and you might want to consider backing it, either from within or without Labour. The Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform might be useful for the first whereas Make Votes Matter is non-party political (supposedly – though it didn’t stop their chief executive, Joe Sousek, from banning me for supporting a post on the Labour Forum calling for the abolition of the IHRA definition).

    I mention this not just to shoehorn in a political ideal that’s close to my heart but because there are an increasingly large number of Labour people, here and elsewhere, who have either left or are seriously thinking about it (I’m one of the latter). And the question of what to do next is strongly influenced by the electoral system. Were we living in a PR country like, for example, Spain, we could start a new party, call it something like “We Can” (to show that we reject There Is No Alternative), adopt the slogan “Yes We Can” (for the same reason) and stand in an election knowing that: 1) We might actually have a chance of winning a few seats; and 2) We wouldn’t be enabling the Tories to win the election. Neither of those are possible under FPTP.

    The Spanish example, incidentally, is a real one as I’m sure you know. Podemos are now a part of the Spanish government.

  • Joe says:

    I am so angry a man that has done more for the Labour cause than any of the current Parties PLP

  • Simon Korner says:

    The expulsion of Ken Loach is designed to drive out good leftwing members from the Labour party – not enough Corbynites have gone for Starmer/Mandelson. There is a still a substantial Left, able to fight, able to win CLPs and to influence the upcoming conference, whose agenda is not under the control of the Right. The battle is on now. This is what it looks like. When we were riding high, it was easy to stay in the Party. Now it’s become harder, that is precisely the time not to let Starmer have it his way.

  • John Bowley says:

    I have signed the open letter to the Labour leadership on its expulsions without justice or basic fairness, not only Ken Loach’s sickening expulsion.

    I urge everone to put their names to this open letter.

    A turning away from the false antisemitism which is routinely smeared on everyone not of the old ruling establishments will inevitably come.

  • Deirdre Taylor says:

    I’ts like living in a parallel universe

  • Nigel Haines says:

    So the penny is finally beginning to drop that the Labour Party’s, careerist, right-wing PLP is in cahoots with Party officials to smother and destroy the influence of those whose revolt shocked them when sweeping Jeremy Corbyn to power In 2015. Don’t you realise this Tory 5th Column in the Labour movement is only interested in advocating measures purporting to be for social justice but is only a ploy to enable them to line their own pockets and use us as voting cannon-fodder towards that end?
    My own former constituency Labour MP did just that. A PLP chief whip, he did all he could more than 40 years ago to obstruct genuine socialists in the party, before ratting on us, joining the “Gang of Four” to set up the SDP, in due course to form the washed out Lib-dems and further his quest to line his own pockets by acceptance of a life peerage!
    So why all the surprise? Any compromise with these traitors is doomed to failure as Jeremy has belatedly discovered. The best that can be done is to organise strident opposition prior to Party Conference, taking advantage of the disarray caused by the Afghanistan debacle for which the Blairite gang also bear responsibility, as well as the other failures involved with Brexit, the woeful response to the pandemic and its catastrophic economic effects, and press for a political cull of these wolves in sheep’s clothing. If they succede in heading this off, then stage a well publicised split and walkout at Conference to announce the formation of a new real socialist party, the intention of which would be to put up candidates to unseat every right-wing Labour political rat-bag possible as a starting point to destroy the old, corrupt Labour Party just as happened over a century ago to undermine & destroy the Liberal Party as a credible party of government. Any thing else is just smoke and mirrors.

  • Meg says:

    I’m not sure I can be angry at Starmer and the PLP any more. I seem to be beyond that now. I’m bemused, a little stunned maybe.
    I was at the CLP meeting in Brighton at which all manner of accusations were thrown. None of them were true and I said so. Then they tried to lock us out then they split us into 3 smaller groups. So afraid of the size of Brightons CLP were they.
    All this whilst tearing apart, arguably, the best PM Britain never had. I say arguable because John Smith has to be up there too.
    I’m not angry about the expulsion of Ken Loach. What I am, is livid with rage about all of it. The whole rotten, stinking, corrupt mess that claims the name Labour Party.
    Not in my name. I left, taking my little bit of funding with me, the day Starmer took the leadership.
    I shall vote, it is my duty but I will not vote Labour until it is a real party of working people once again. I shall vote for … well any alternative to Conservatives or Labour.

  • Meg says:

    I have to agree entirely with Paul Seligman. Thanks for saying rather more deftly than I could, the truth of things.

  • John Burgess says:

    I’ve spent 41 years representing union members across numerous employers, public, private and voluntary sector. I am also a member of the Labour Party and I am deeply ashamed and angry at the bullying behaviour of the Labour Party.

  • Daniel Wimberley says:

    Agree entirely with Stephen Flaherty on the need for PR. To split Labour into 2 is simply suicide electorally under FPTP. Shameful, but that is the way it is.

    Anyone really desperate can up sticks and join the Greens (or vote for us).

    Two caveats: 1) The Greens ain’t perfect either. We have bizarre arguments, well at least i think they are bizarre, and we are not managing the re-vamping of our Constitution (sigh!) very well! But there is nothing, nothing remotely like this, purging people like Loach. The machinery is not there and the members would not stand for it. There is a genuine feeling that we all matter.

    2) “voting Green” is subject to the complications caused by PR, for which the only answer is a well-thought out electoral pact. And that process should start ASAP, as it is not an easy thing to do – tribal loyalties on all sides i fear. But it HAS to be done.

  • Anthony Baldwin says:

    ‘What is to be done’ was the heading of my first, unacknowledged , letter to Starmer once he ad been elected.
    The answer to the question has been obvious from their part with the complete process of following John McTernan’s prescription for Unity in the name of Progress and only Progress.
    So what is to be done? Well a rousing reception for Jeremy at Conference with silence, no clapping for any of the place people who are in the Shadow Cabinet and then when Starmer stands to give his speech a silent walk out with each person waving a Palestinian flag or carrying pictures of one of those who have been unjustifiably expelled.
    That will be the time when the Television News and the Propaganda sheets that pass has News Papers will finally have to recognise that Democracy is being stamped out in this country.
    That is what needs to be done before all those in exile come together again in solidarity.

  • John Burns says:

    In line with Nigel Haines comments, it is I feel essential that as many Trade Unions withdraw financial support for the Pink tories and transfer some of it to a Real Socialist Labour Party. A Party that MUST be street wise this time, be ahead in the dirty tricks game. To offer a real alternative we must stand on all the good policies of ’17 / ’19. Most importantly extended Public enterprise (R & D, drug production etc) within an expanded NHS as well as a massive program to fight the oncoming environmental & ecological catastrophe. We may not win a cartload of seats but destroying the B.o.D / Mandy / Starmer vehicle would be main the short term objective. Co-ordinating a vote splitting party is going to be difficult but it has been done; eg L D’s last G.E. , with ironically, major funding from a Labour Peer, who as far as I know is still a L.P. member – rubbing shoulders with the likes of Mann, Austin, Levy, Welby et al! I was angry before, angry then and am still angry now after Ken has been expelled. We need t direct that anger into action!

  • Allan Howard says:

    And how would this Real Socialist Party set about ‘destroying’ the BoD John?

    As for ‘pennies only beginning to drop’ Nigel, I doubt there is a single person on the left who fits such a description, unless that is of course they’ve been living on another planet for the past six years.

    Anyway, are you intending to keep repeating such abject nonsense, having repeated it twice yesterday in the space of ninety minutes, first in one thread on here, and then in THIS one?!

  • Emma says:

    I’ve added my name to the letter.
    The expulsion of Ken Loach is astonishing as was the expulsion of Jeremy Corbyn and many others.Yet another injustice by the new labour leader ,when will it end ?
    Labour desperately needs to wake up to the fact that this sort of behaviour by the current labour leader and his team will not win elections.
    Will there be another labour leadership election any time soon?

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