Labour’s expulsion of Ken Loach has been decades in the making

JVL Introduction

Is Labour trying its hardest to make it impossible for socialists to stay in the Labour Party?

Ken Loach’s expulsion (“auto-exclusion”) would suggest so (as would the attacks on so many Jews in the Party including now Graham Bash, Leah Levane and Roger Silverman reported on this website a few days ago in “Are you now or have you ever been……”)

In this article on Novara Media, Steve Topple finds little other explanation possible.

This article was originally published by the Canary on Mon 16 Aug 2021. Read the original here.

Labour’s expulsion of Ken Loach has been decades in the making

The Labour Party’s expulsion of acclaimed director Ken Loach has been met with fury on social media. But the story represents a decades-long fight between factions in the party. Except this time, it may well be the end for the left wing as we know it.

Ken Loach looking at Tony Blair and Hugh Gaitskell. Featured image via Channel 4 News – YouTube, ITV News – YouTube and Bradford Timeline – Flickr

Loach out of Labour

On Saturday 14 August, Loach tweeted news of the party expelling him. He said:

Labour HQ finally decided I’m not fit to be a member of their party, as I will not disown those already expelled…

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.

It was predictable that Labour would expel Loach. This is because he sponsored a group the party recently banned. Labour said that the four proscribed groups were “not compatible with Labour’s rules or [its] aims and values”. As some people on social media pointed out, Labour saying Loach isn’t compatible with the party’s values is jaw-dropping.

Mixed reactions

A handful of Labour MPs tweeted in support of Loach. But as the Times’ Gabriel Pogrund noted, the party seemed unrepentant. A “source close to Keir Starmer” told him:

When Keir was elected leader he said he would work tirelessly to make the party a welcoming [and] safe place for Jewish people. He remains totally committed to doing exactly that

Other people on social media were saying that Labour was right to expel Loach because of comments he made in 2017. People accused him of supporting Holocaust denial. But this wasn’t actually true. As The Canary‘s former editor-at-large Kerry-Anne Mendoza previously wrote:

he is accused of Holocaust denial. Did he deny the Holocaust? No. Did he advocate for denying the Holocaust? No.

Loach himself has cleared up the situation. But the party’s expulsion of him is part of a wider campaign.

Destroying real opposition

The Canary has been documenting the ongoing purge. It seems that the Labour machinery is intent on destroying the left wing of its party. As journalist Jonathan Cook wrote, this is part of a wider agenda to maintain the corporate, capitalist status quo:

Loach and [Jeremy] Corbyn’s demonisation as antisemites – and parallel efforts across the Atlantic to silence Bernie Sanders (made more complicated by his Jewishness) – are evidence of a final public purge by the western political and media establishments of this kind of old-school class consciousness

He added that their:

grassroots activism is the antithesis of a modern politics in which corporations use their huge wealth to lobby and buy politicians, who in turn use their spin-doctors to control the public discourse through a highly partisan and sympathetic corporate media.

And this kind of attack on left-wing thinking by the party machinery is nothing new.

Nothing new

As The Canary wrote back in 2016, attempts by the centre-right of the Labour Party to destroy the left wing have been happening for decades. As New Socialist wrote, it goes back as far as the 1950s with the election of Hugh Gaitskell as party leader and his “social-democratic revisionism”. This was, as New Socialist described:

calling into question the very fundamentals of Labourism as an ideology…

In other words, Gaitskell was trying to move the party away from socialism. Another example is from the late 1970s, when a Constituency Labour Party (CLP) tried to deselect its less-than socialist MP Reg Prentice. As author Hilary Wainwright wrote, the party machinery’s smear campaign kicked in:

overnight those who wanted Prentice to go were described as ‘extremists’, ‘bed-sit revolutionaries’, ‘members of the Trotskyist Militant’, ‘unrepresentative of the Labour voter’ and ‘enemies of democracy’. These descriptions, with the term ‘hard left’ added as a useful catch all, have stuck for any group in the Labour party which challenges established (especially parliamentary) power.

Prentice was eventually deselected. He went on to defect to the Conservatives, serving under Margaret Thatcher in her cabinet.

Things coming to pass

Fast-forward to 2016, and as The Canary predicted:

If [Corbyn] fails, then you can forget the idea of Labour ever leaning to the left again. His rise and fall will be cited forever as the reason why the party cannot try the “hard-left” experiment.

It will also have a knock-on effect on the whole of the left, more broadly – as his fairly polite form of social democracy will forever be painted as that of “Trots”, a “rabble”, and “militant”. Anyone beyond that sphere of thinking will be seen as positively Maoist from then on.

So Labour has been here before. And now, the left wing could be facing eternal marginalisation from the party. But where next for Starmer’s regime?

The Tories’ B-Team?

As Novara Media‘s Aaron Bastani tweeted, the party:

is on a precipice.

The coterie around Starmer have no intention of winning in 2024. They’ll lose for another decade if need be. This is about becoming the establishment’s b-team.

It’s hard to think otherwise. The left wing is being systematically and permanently destroyed. Starmer and Co have plotted a course back towards the corporate, capitalist status quo. So is now, finally, the time for anyone with socialist tendencies to leave the party and put their efforts into a more worthwhile project? The answer may well be a resounding ‘yes’.

Comments (20)

  • Paul Smith says:

    Yes, it is obvious that the new leadership of the Labour Party wants socialists to resign. In the past such people were kept in order by block vote of the unions but this is no longer the case. Do not be provoked into leaving. Rejoin if you have left.

  • Ieuan Einion says:

    Paul Smith is entirely correct, the expulsion of Loach and other fine comrades is designed to demoralise the left in Labour. The membership is still largely socialist and if we can get past the pandemic, which Starmer and his apparatchiks have cynically used to mask their stratagems, defeat is by no means a given. I was expelled as long ago as 2017 (for being a “communist,” which was politically but not organisationally true) but have continued to urge comrades to stay and fight. No army abandons the battlefield when the outcome is not yet clear.

  • Nick says:

    Agree with Paul – when we leave we leave with the treasury, the relics, the hagiography, the history of solidarity and resistance and they get to keep the betrayals and lies and smears and petty self-interest

  • The Tories ‘B’ Team. Very well put.

  • Jack T says:

    If Socialists leave the Labour Party voluntarily, they are gifting the Party, its heritage and its assets to a bunch of racist political thugs who are no more that settler colonisers in line with their counterparts in Israel whose writ they follow.

  • Nigel Haines says:

    Over sixty years ago I was a supporter of the Gaitskell supporting CDS (Campaign for Democratic Socialism) in the Young Socialists, not surprising as both my parents had been Labour councillors, and as a teenager I didn’t know any better. The economic downturn, combined with the harsh winter of 1962/3, changed my mind when I found myself facing possible redundancy in my first job since leaving school. The local Party officials obstructed all the youth movement’s endeavours to campaign against the Tory government, racked as it was by the Profumo Scandal as well, aided and abetted by our local Labour MP who was the Party’s Chief Whip in Parliament at the time. Suffice to say he later quit the Party to join the “Gang of Four” in their quest to form the Lib-Dems and accepted a life peerage to boot.
    This right-wing cabal haven’t changed in their quest to line their own careerist pockets, not in the 1960’s nor today. The time must be surely approaching when socialists in the Labour Party should seriously start organising to make a break with these political gangster cliques of full time Party officials and right-wingers in the PLP, forcing the issue at Conference in defence of socialism, if necessary as far as a split and the formation of a new party in which genuine socialists would be welcome.

  • Dave Bradney says:

    You report: “The party is on a precipice. The coterie around Starmer have no intention of winning in 2024. They’ll lose for another decade if need be. This is about becoming the establishment’s b-team. It’s hard to think otherwise. The left wing is being systematically and permanently destroyed.”

    Despite a preference for the “broad church” approach, which you could sum up as “tolerance”, it is hard not to conclude that the left should have done more to “systematically and permanently destroy” the right of the party while it had the opportunity.

    Were we “hard left”? Maybe not hard enough.

  • Allan Howard says:

    And there was the ‘Loony Left’ of course, who did all sorts of loony things! Only they DIDN’T, and it was all lies and fabrication and distortion:

    As Jenkins noted, the truth of the stories mattered less than their resonance with voter fears. Three of the most famously recorded instances of “Loony Left” activities – the renaming of the nursery rhyme Baa Baa Black Sheep, of “manhole covers” and of “black bin-liner bags” – were myths, outright fabrications by the press. Others stories, such as reports that London councils had insisted that homosexuals be placed at the heads of the waiting lists for council housing and that London councils had spent £500,000 on “24 super-loos for gypsies” were found to be highly misleading upon investigation by the Media Research Group of Goldsmiths’ College, University of London.[14][15]

    The report of the MRG investigation estimated that some 3,000 news stories about the “Loony Left” ran between 1981 and 1987 in the British tabloid press alone. It determined that a large proportion of these stories were either partially or wholly fabricated and that their targets, against whom they aimed to inflame public opinion, were a small number of London local councils that were under Labour Party control.[2]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loony_left

    Subverting democracy is the name of the game. Or to be more precise, anyone who threatens the Establishment’s ‘democracy’ is vilified and demonised and rubbished.

  • Michael McMahon says:

    Leaving in dribs and drabs with nothing more than a vague idea of a new party will atomise the left. If we go, it needs to be en masse, with solid union support and a bloody convincing plan.

  • John Coates says:

    This is just one more step is Starmer’s war on the Labour Party.
    His class of people want to destroy the Party as an effective voice on behalf of the poor, the exploited and the oppressed.
    The expulsion of Ken Loach and other comrades is a calculated outrage designed to cause members like us to tear up our membership cards.
    I shall not do so.
    I will stand and speak in solidarity with Loach and all others who are victims of this witch-hunt.
    If they proceed to suspend or expel me – So be it.
    I will fight them every inch of the way – Inside or outside of the Party.
    These people are colonisers of our party on behalf of the rich and the powerful.
    I have spent all my working life as a trade union activist – fighting for justice for ordinary people.
    I will not be silenced.

  • Richard Kuper says:

    Mark Perryman wrote this on his Facebook page and tagged me. Reposting with permission.

    Labour MP Neil Coyle has bid Ken Loach’s expulsion from the party ‘good riddance’ because Ken wasn’t sufficiently supportive duriig the Blair-Brown years and was a backer of an project for some kind of alternative, Left Unity, when in Ken’s view things didn’t markedly improve under Ed Miliband either.

    Meanwhile John Bercow, a lifelong Tory is welcomed into Labour with open arms. Cretin, mindless doesn’t even begin to describe this stuff.
    But then John Bercow has publicly declared he doesn’t believe Jeremy Corbyn is antisemitic so not to worry he’ll be expelled soon enough too.

    Cretin, mindless, kettle, black, calling the? This is the same Neil Coyle who as a Labour MP nominated Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader in 2015. Seems like a dodgy past, p’raps Neil needs to turn himself into the Labour Party Compliance Unit?

    As for Ken Loach. He is outstanding at moving social issues into the public, popular, domain via film. Surely the Labour Party, as it did under Jeremy Corbyn, should be making maximum use of his talent not subjecting him to ‘auto-expulsion’ the modern equivalent of a show trial, without the trail.

    I’ve seen an indecent number of Ken’s films (there’s been 37 in total, see https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/oct/17/ken-loach-all-his-films-ranked) . Some brilliant (Looking for Eric, Riff Raff, Sorry We Missed You) some good (Sweet Sixteen, I Daniel Blake, Raiming Stones) some a tad worthy for my taste (Bread and Roses). And one of course genuinely path-breaking (Cathy Come Home).

    I happen to think Ken, like Jeremy, doesn’t take anti-semitism seriously enough but on what possible basis does this make him anti-semitic? In Ken’s case those 37 films put his views absolutely out there, could the compliance unit find a single instance of anti-semitism in any of them? The sad, awful, fact is, they probably didn’t even think of looking, instead they rubber-stamped his expuslsion ‘ guilt by asociation’. Which leaves me thinking what the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) 2008-13 would have had to say about such malpractice.I’ll give you three guesses who the DPP in those years was.

  • Mary Davies says:

    Solidarity with Ken Loach – an inspiring Socialist.

  • Tony says:

    “This is the same Neil Coyle who as a Labour MP nominated Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader in 2015. Seems like a dodgy past, p’raps Neil needs to turn himself into the Labour Party Compliance Unit?”

    Mark Perryman is correct. But there’s a bit more to it than that.
    He initially nominated Mary Creagh who withdrew before nominations closed. A group of her supporters then decided to nominate Cooper.

    But Cooper did not need their nominations and they were encouraged instead to nominate Corbyn as this was envisaged at the time to be a way of helping her during the election itself.

    This kind of thing happens a lot in politics.

    I hope you find this useful.

  • Allan Howard says:

    Richard (Kuper), On what possible grounds do you assert that Jeremy doesn’t take anti-semitism seriously enough, or Ken Loach? I’d say that THAT is tantamount to a smear!

    And why on earth do you bring Ken’s films into it? He was auto-expelled because he was a member of LAW, as you must obviously know. How could you NOT.

    And John Bercow hasn’t ‘declared’ anything! He was asked about Jeremy Corbyn in an interview in GQ magazine and responded that he had known Jeremy for the twenty-two years he – John Bercow – had been in Parliament, and that he had never detected so much as a whiff of anti-semitism from Jeremy. Hardly a declaration!

    Anyway, THAT’s a new one – ie that Jeremy didn’t take anti-semitism seriously enough. Of course he did, as he did ALL forms of racism. So what reason(s) do you have for making such a claim about Jeremy and Ken? I mean if you’re gonna make such detrimental and offensive claims about them at least have the decency to explain why you think so.

  • Richard Kuper says:

    Allan Howard: I merely sent in Mark Perryman Facebook post which I thought raised some interesting points. Doesn’t mean I agree with it all.

  • Allan Howard says:

    Tony, I’m at a loss as to how nominating Jeremy could possibly have been envisaged as a way of helping Yvette Cooper in the leadership election. Surely the very opposite would have been the case. But where does this information come from out of interest – ie what is the source? Thanks

  • Dave says:

    I don’t like the use of the word ‘cretin’ quoted in Richard Kuper’s post, which is derived from a medical condition. We don’t say ‘mongol’ now.

  • Allan Howard says:

    I don’t have a facebook account OR access to facebook (although I did click on the link just in case it was visible), so I wasn’t quite sure if you were quoting Mark Perryman or not. I’ve never heard of him myself, but going by the facebook post you posted he comes across as being very full of himself.

    And a smear is a smear, and HE smeared both Jeremy AND Ken Loach! Perhaps you could ask him on what grounds he makes such a claim and, if he responds, post it on here.

  • Tony says:

    Allan Howard: Many thanks for your question. My source is one of the books written about Corbyn. I am not sure which one but there are not very many.

    Why else would Coyle nominate Corbyn? Presumbly, Corbyn would damage front runner Burnham was the view at the time.

    “Before dropping out of the race on 12 June, Mary Creagh had 10 nominations: Sarah Champion, Jo Cox, Neil Coyle, Thangam Debbonaire, Helen Hayes, Susan Jones, Mike Kane, Stephen Kinnock, Tulip Siddiq”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Labour_Party_leadership_election_(UK)
    [24]

    Several people on that list subsequently nominated Corbyn. Perhaps people should be careful what they wish for.

    I hope you find this useful.

    Best wishes.

  • Allan Howard says:

    Tony, many thanks for your response, but I’m not quite sure what you mean when you say that ‘Perhaps people should be careful what they wish for’ given that obviously Neil Coyle didn’t ‘wish’ for Jeremy to be elected leader (nor some of the others no doubt, and Stephen Kinnock for sure).

    But given all that’s happened SINCE Jeremy WAS elected leader (and since he stood down), I have little doubt that Coyle and Kinnock and a few of the other MPs who nominated Jeremy have seen their BIGGEST ‘wish’ fulfilled, so to speak.

    I mean if Jeremy HADN’T been nominated AND tens of thousands of left-wingers joined the party as a consequence etc, then none of what’s happened during the course of the past six years – ie a Blairite/Establishment dream! – would have happened.

    I mean it really couldn’t have worked out better for the Right if it had ALL been planned!

Comments are now closed.