Generally speaking I’m not in favour of ad hominem attacks on people, in much the same way as I’m not keen on boycotts — because I believe that both can so easily be turned upon the accuser.
In the case of film-maker Ken Loach, however, I’m ready to make an exception.
Loach, now 85 and thus apparently a National Treasure who is beyond criticism in some circles, has just, finally, been kicked out of the Labour Party for his support of groups which had already been proscribed by Labour because they were “not compatible with Labour values”.
The four groups — Resist, Socialist Appeal, Labour in Exile Network and Labour Against the Witchhunt — were, according to Loach, “purged” by Sir Keir Starmer in his pledge to root out antisemitism from the Party, which in my opinion is about the only true thing Loach has ever said in this whole sorry debate.
Yes, they were purged, and so was Loach, and about time, too. For me, there is no place for Loach and his ilk in the Labour Party, and I congratulate Sir Keir for kicking him out.
It ought to be recorded that this is not the first time Loach and Labour have parted company. He flounced out in the 90s over some deeply-held criticism of Tony Blair, but by 2017 he was back, living it large among the Corbynistas at the Brighton Labour conference.
Notoriously Loach was asked about the remarks made by Israeli anti-Zionist Miko Peled at a fringe meeting in Brighton the previous day. Peled had suggested that nothing was off limits for discussion, including “the Holocaust, yes or no”.
Interviewed by the BBC’s Jo Coburn, Loach first attempted to dismiss Peled’s comments by asking “Reported by whom?” as though the identity of the reporter, or the place in which it was reported, would immediately offer proof of bad faith. Since I was sitting only yards from Peled when he made his remarks, and subsequently went on to report them, I suppose I must now, indeed, confirm Loach’s prejudices.
But then Loach went on to say: “History is there for us to discuss” — immediately adding: “the founding of the state of Israel, based on ethnic cleansing, is there for us all to discuss. The role of Israel is there for us to discuss”.
He later wrote a letter to the Guardian in which he categorically rejected the charge that he was a Holocaust denier. Whew, glad you cleared that one up, Ken.
Back in 1987, Loach was the director of the infamous Jim Allen play, Perdition, due to be performed at the Royal Court and cancelled 36 hours before its first night because of fury from the Jewish community about its antisemitic content. Loosely based on the controversy around Rudolf Kastner and his “deal” with Eichman to free Jews during the Holocaust, the play, according to the late historian Sir Martin Gilbert, contained 60 separate errors of fact.
More recently the CST’s Dave Rich called Perdition “a Stalinist lie”: as with so much extreme left propaganda, the play blames Jews as both victims and architects of their own fate.
There is a particular type of well-educated left-wing socialist who really, truly, deeply, loathe Israel much more than is strictly necessary. I give you Jeremy Corbyn, Ken Loach, Ken Livingstone, Seamus Milne… the list goes on and on. More power to Sir Keir’s elbow as one by one, he rips these creatures out of the Labour Party. It’s a cleansing the swamp process. Just unfortunate that it takes so long.
And frankly, if you stand alongside proven antisemites at every opportunity, people are bound to have a particular view of you. Loach aired his expulsion this week as a badge of pride. It’s not. It’s a badge of shame.