Loach reacts furiously after BBC presenter raises claims of ‘appalling antisemitism denial’

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Loach reacts furiously after BBC presenter raises claims of ‘appalling antisemitism denial’

Ken Loach uses interview on BBC World At One claim to make unsubstantiated claim that Jewish members of Labour more likely to be expelled.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Film director Ken Loach 

Photo credit: John Stillwell/PA Wire
Film director Ken Loach Photo credit: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Ken Loach has reacted furiously after he was asked to answer claims he had been “appalling in your antisemitism denial” during an interview with BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme which discussed his new film.

In an interview with presenter Sarah Montague, Loach accused the BBC of being party of a “fraudulent campaign” after she raised concerns about Loach’s views in relation to claims around antisemitism.

Loach claimed he had the support of “many Jewish people in the Labour Party and outside” as he attempted to suggest allegations made against him were “slurs repeated again and again.”

The film director had earlier proceeded to launch a scathing attack on Labour leader Keir Starmer as he discussed issues around migration in relation to his new movie The Old Oak, which he claimed was based around “facts”.

BBC presenter Sarah Montague

As with previous films made by the director, the new one is a fictional account of the impact of the resettlement of Syrian refugees in a mining town in the north-east.

Loach had told presenter Montague that he had “no confidence in Keir Starmer whatsoever” after she asked him if he thought Labour in government would deal with the migration issue better.

The WATO host then suggested that part of the reason Loach was so dismissive of Starmer was because he had been “kicked out” of Labour himself.

Loach then proceeded to claim his expulsion from Labour was the ending of “an abusive relationship to be honest” and added “its whole process of dealing with disagreements is very flawed.”

The film maker then proceeded to make the unsubstantiated claim:”The fact that now Jewish members of the Labour Party are four times more likely to be expelled than non-Jewish members.”

Loach then reacted angrily to Montague’s pointing out that groups such as the Campaign Against Antisemitism had previously raised concerns about the BBC inviting Loach on to its platforms for interviews to promote his new film.

She said campaigners had pointed out to the BBC that Loach had been “appalling in your antisemitism denial” before adding “that’s not why you were kicked out of the party.”

He responded saying:”Have you evidence for that?” Montague then responded saying she was repeating claims from campaigners.

Loach then proceeded to suggest that if the presenter had no evidence she should withdraw the claim because  “you are now providing another misleading, insulting misrepresentation.”

He then protested that he had appeared on the show to talk about his new film, adding;”And what happens is this kind of slurs repeated and repeated and I am afraid you have done it again.

“I think the way that you and the BBC constantly divert serious conversations into this fraudulent campaign in order to discredit people on another premise, I think that’s disgraceful.”

Ken Loach in discussion with North Tyne elected mayor Jamie Driscoll at an event in Newcastle in March 2023

Montague then challenged Loach again, saying that some would say he held views “that needed to be called out.”

But Loach again protested that he wanted to talk only about the “facts of the film”.

He then claimed:”If you wanted to talk about antisemitism then I suggest you get some of the many Jewish people in the Labour Party and outside who know the facts and what it’s about better than I do who is not Jewish.
They have written in my support.”

As the interview ended, the presenter told listeners that “when we recorded that this morning the conversation about whether we should have touched on allegations of antisemitism was much much longer.”

Montague said Loach had produced “a lot of heat but not much light.”

Labour also responded to Loach’s claim that Jewish members are more likely to be expelled than those who were not Jewish saying “the implication of deliberate targeting made by Mr Loach is completely false and not based on reality.”

The party added it was not clear on what statistical basis Loach was attempted to justify making such a claim.

Loach was expelled by Labour in 2021 over his repeated involvement with the Labour Against The Witchhunt (LATW) group – formed explicitly to downplay or deny antisemitism claims against party members.

Senior figures involved with the group at some time included Tony Greenstein and Jackie Walker, while former London mayor Ken Livingstone was made its honorary president.

Kes and I, Daniel Blake film maker Loach had long faced further accusations of antisemitism, which he denies.

In 1987, London’s Royal Court Theatre dropped his production of Jim Allen’s controversial play Perdition, which accused some Zionists of collaborating with the Nazis.He has also courted controversy at a Labour conference fringe event for saying in response to questions about Holocaust denial that “history is for us all to discuss”.

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