Director KEN LOACH talks to the Star about how the results of this election could shape society for generations to come
FILM-MAKER Ken Loach is taking a short breather from his work on Labour’s general election broadcasts to speak to the Star about what is arguably one of the most important moments in the party’s history.
For the first time in decades Labour has a leader in Jeremy Corybn who truly represents what the party was founded on. Fighting for the interests of ordinary working people or, as the Labour election slogan goes, “for the many not the few.”
Labour’s future is in the balance and whatever happens after June 8 will shape the party and — if it wins — society for generations to come.
“For the first time for as long as anyone can remember we have a Labour leadership that would make significant changes to the structure of society,” says the famed director.
“A Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn would limit the power of capital and boost public services with plans to renationalise railways, Royal Mail and energy, ensuring people own and democratically control fundamental parts of our economy.”
This is “an absolutely critical and historic moment” for Labour, he says, adding that, while it’s “a great opportunity” it’s also one of “great danger.”
He explains: “If after the election we’ve lost a great opportunity it’s vital, not only for people who desperately need help, to secure the future direction of the party.”
No stranger to those who desperately need help, Loach has made it his life’s work to create powerful, ballsy films shining a light on the everyday struggles of ordinary people that have often helped give a voice to the voiceless.
The 80-year-old two-time Palme d’Or winner came out of retirement to produce what turned out to be arguably the greatest film of his career — I, Daniel Blake — a quintessential tragicomedy for the 21st century.
It deals with the laughable bureaucracy of the Tory-driven “fit-for-work” benefit assessments while having cinema-goers across the country in tears at their callous consequences for disabled people.
I, Daniel Blake tackled some of the Tories’ most shameful legacies since coming to government in 2010, namely benefit cuts, the shocking rise in foodbank use and the housing crisis.
But what does Loach feel will be the consequences for ordinary working people if the Conservatives were to win the general election on June 8?
“More and more people and communities are getting socially cleansed and will continue to do so,” he says.
“The chaos of the market economy that does well for the riches of the few but not much for the rest of us will carry on business as usual.
“We will also experience the ongoing stresses of the gig economy and the insecurity of work, the collapse of the NHS as a social good and the continuing logic of capital.
“When talking about the Sports Direct warehouse in Shirebrook, Dennis Skinner pointed out that there used to be a pit there where workers had holiday pay and sick pay. But now that’s gone it’s just exploitation.”
But perhaps most worryingly he believes that a Tory victory will see racism increase.
“As poverty and stress increases, so does racism,” he says. “As people become more desperate their anger will become more unfocused and they will look for a scapegoat.”
He also predicts that the Tories will see “a lurch to the right” as the party obsesses over immigration, evidenced in its manifesto, and further tries to appease Ukippers.
But it’s a different story in camp Corbyn. Now busy filming election broadcasts for the Labour leader, Loach’s work has certainly given him an insight into Corbyn the politician and Corbyn the human being, as well as how he’s perceived by the general public.
“Corbyn is a man of principle, quiet strength and dignity. He generates great respect for that. He is not a man who wants to do it on his own. He’s not an egomaniac like Trump. He’s not someone who wants to be the centre of attention all the time.
“Corbyn is like Attlee in some respects. Attlee also had to deal with a lot of division and look what he achieved. He became the greatest Labour leader of all time.”
Describing the flak Corbyn has had to take since he became Labour leader in 2015 as “division” is an understatement to say the least.
He’s faced coups, plots and sabotage from his own Labour MPs and savage attacks, not only in the usual suspects — the right-wing tabloid press — but also in upmarket titles like the Guardian and New Statesman as well as in the Labour-supporting and self-proclaimed “intelligent tabloid” the Daily Mirror, not to mention from the supposedly impartial BBC.
In fact in an increasingly biased media, and against the backdrop of Murdoch’s aggressive attempts to buy out Sky, the Morning Star is the only national daily to officially back Corbyn. Loach knows why.
“The right-wing press is vicious and crude in its attacks on Corbyn,” he said. “The likes of the Guardian and the BBC are more subtle.
“They represent the interests of the Establishment, which is business and capital. The Guardian is the high priest of right-wing social democracy. Its position is that employers need to make a profit before you can defend jobs.
“Ultimately, when the chips are down, the Guardian supports capital.
“Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are people who can make serious inroads into that consensus; that’s why we’re seeing attacks on them from all sides of the media.”
Loach reserved a final scathing attack for the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and all they’ve done to sabotage their own party and the hope of creating something new, away from the “rump” of Blairism.
“The PLP is a relic of the Blair and Brown years,” he says.
“If Labour doesn’t win we have to ask who is responsible. The majority of the PLP have to carry the can for it as their agenda has been to undermine Corbyn from day one, refusing to serve while demeaning and attacking him in the press.
“Noam Chomsky said that the future of the Labour Party is in groups like Momentum. Labour’s task is to strengthen that new membership.
“Labour needs to see through the new direction Corbyn has taken the party to develop a new generation of Labour leaders.”
Whatever happens post-June 8, it’s clear that the fight for Labour’s future has only just begun.