‘You don’t think Loach is antisemitic? Well, I think we might have to agree to differ’

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‘You don’t think Loach is antisemitic? Well, I think we might have to agree to differ’

Labour's shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves disagrees with Guardian journalist after he attempts to defend film director Ken Loach's record over antisemitism claims

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Rachel Reeves
Rachel Reeves

Rachel Reeves has told a Guardian journalist “we might have to agree to differ” after he attempted to defend the film director Ken Loach over antisemitism claims.

Labour’s shadow chancellor was speaking the newspaper’s leading interviewer Simon Hattenstone who suggested her party was now “gung-ho” in  “labelling people antisemitic who simply aren’t.”

Hattenstone, who is Jewish himself, claimed to agree with Keir Starmer’s zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism in the party, but said that in some cases “there is a danger of destroying lives in the process.”

Reeves stressed she was not personally involved with decisions around those found guilty of downplaying or denying antisemitism, and did not know the details of all cases.

But she told the Guardian journalist:”But it is so important that we are seen to – and we do – tackle antisemitism.

“Ken Loach, you might like his films, but his views … well, certainly, they are not ones I share.”

Jeremy Corbyn, wife Laura Alvarez, and Ken Loach at Durham Miners Gala

Hattenstone responded by telling the shadow chancellor that in the case of Loach “this doesn’t make him antisemitic.”

Reeves then replied:”“You don’t think Ken Loach is antisemitic? OK. Well, I think we might have to agree to differ.”

Hattenstone then confirms that he had contacted Loach over his expulsion, and that the film director insisted due process had not been followed on his expulsion, and antisemitism had not been mentioned.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, left, and Sarah Sackman, Labour’s Finchley and Golders Green parliamentary candidate with the JN’s Lee Harpin in East Finchley.

Loach had been 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.

In his interview with Reeves, Hattenstone claimed LATW were formed “to campaign against what were seen as politically motivated allegations of antisemitism in the Labour party”, and suggested Loach appeared on a platform with group before they were proscribed as an organisation.

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 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”.

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

On being expelled by Labour he issued a message of support to those who had also been booted out of the party, many of whom had faced allegations of antisemitism.Loach tweeted:”I will not disown those already expelled. I am proud to stand with the good friends and comrades victimised by the purge.”

Last weekend Loach was pictured alongside former leader Jeremy Corbyn, and his wife at the annual Durham Miners Gala.

Also pictured with them at one stage was the North of Tyne mayor, Jamie Driscoll, barred from becoming a candidate for the wider North East mayor role.

Driscoll has refused to condemn controversial remarks made by Loach.

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