Unite union cancels Ken Loach political school event

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Unite union cancels Ken Loach political school event

The two day long Durham Political School event, at which Loach, expelled by Labour last year, was due to be headline speaker has been postponed, Unite sources say.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

A Unite the Union event at which the film-maker Ken Loach was due to be the headline speaker has been postponed, Jewish News has learned.

Sources at the trade union confirm they have received confirmation that next month’s Durham Political School has been cancelled, with cost factors being cited.

The two- day long event is traditionally staged in July, immediately prior to the Durham Miners’ Gala, and is designed to be a major educational event for the union’s most promising recruits.

Adverts for this year’s event promised “two days of political education, workshops and discussion” with a pledge to attendees that “all accommodation and food costs will be covered by Unite.”

Jewish News revealed last month how Loach had been given top billing at this year’s event despite being expelled from the Labour Party last year over his membership of a proscribed group that downplayed antisemitism.

The move infuriated Jewish Labour and trade union activists.

Loach had been a staunch supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour, accusing party MPs of trying to undermine the Islington North MP in 2019.

He drew anger in 2017 at a fringe event at Labour conference, after a speaker reportedly questioned whether the Holocaust could be discussed, and when asked if it was acceptable, he said: “I think history is for us all to discuss, wouldn’t you?”

At the same event he added: “The founding of the state of Israel, for example, based on ethnic cleansing, is there for us all to discuss, so don’t try and subvert that by false stories of antisemitism”.

In the 1980s Loach had been director of the inflammatory play Perdition – which centred around claims of Zionist collaboration in the Holocaust.

An email circulated by Unite has suggested the Political School could be rearranged to take place at a later date.

Previous Political School events were closely associated with the leadership of former Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, and had once included senior Labour figures such as former deputy leader Tom Watson.

But Sharon Graham replaced McCluskey as Unite leader last August. Unite was later revealed to be facing a loss over an estimated £100 million spend on a Birmingham hotel complex.

A Unite spokesperson told Jewish News they would not be commenting after being approached about the cancellation of the Durham Political School.

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