Ken Loach gave ‘callous’ Tories both barrels in his BAFTA speech, and right-whingers can’t handle it

Ken Loach BAFTAs
John Shafthauer

Ken Loach has won the Best British Film BAFTA for I, Daniel Blake. The film follows a man who finds himself out of work and becomes trapped in a callous benefits system. Loach used his acceptance speech to call out those responsible for this ‘brutally callous’ system. Namely, the Conservative government.

The speech

Loach told the audience:

Thank you to the academy for endorsing the truth of what the film says, which hundreds of thousands of people in this country know, and that is that the most vulnerable and the poorest people are treated by this government with a callous brutality that is disgraceful. It’s a brutality that extends to keeping out refugee children that we promised to help and that’s a disgrace too.

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But films can do many things. They can entertain, they can terrify, they can take us to worlds of the imagination, they can make us laugh, and they can tell us something about the real world we live in. And in that real world – it’s a bit early for a political speech, I’m sorry – but in that real world it’s getting darker, as we know. And in the struggle that’s coming between the rich and the powerful, the wealthy and the privileged, and the big corporations and the politicians who speak for them on the one hand, and the rest of us on the other, then film-makers – and we’re all film-makers here – the film-makers know which side they are on. And despite the glitz and glamour of occasions like this, we’re with the people.

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Media criticism

The Express published a reaction story to the speech titled:

‘PREDICTABLE DRIVEL’ Viewers lash out at Liberal luvvie Ken Loach for BAFTAs speech’.

The article also commented:

the 80-year-old sparked outrage among many Twitter users who criticised him for using the stage to lecture people about politics.

The problem with this statement is that politics has always been a part of film and television. Successful political films from history having included:

  • Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939 – Best Writing Oscar)
  • Dr. Strangelove (1964 – Best Film BAFTA)
  • JFK (1991 – Best Director Golden Globe)

As BAFTA stands for ‘British Academy of Film and Television Arts’, there’s really no reason why politics shouldn’t come up.

Tory criticism

Others also laid into Loach’s speech. The Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham had this to say:

The charity Mind deselected Loughton as a patron in April 2016. He also picked up criticism from comedian John Bishop:

The film itself has drawn criticism in the past. Iain Duncan Smith, who was formerly in charge of the benefits system Loach criticises, said:

The film has taken the very worst of anything that can ever happen to anybody, lump it all together, and say this is life absolutely as it lived by people and I don’t believe that

Loach has since defended the content, responding:

We talked to hundreds of people who work at the DWP under your guidance and instructions, and they are told to sanction people

I, Daniel Blake also featured some former Job Centre Plus employees who defended the portrayal:

Back in 2002 we used to be able to sort out people’s queries about benefits there and then. Now everything is centralised and we can’t do that any more. We used to be able to do more to help vulnerable people than is possible now. I remember one man who had multiple sclerosis. He worked … for as long as he could but eventually his employers said he was too ill to continue working there. He was on employment support allowance [for people who have health problems] but was moved on to jobseeker’s allowance. He was too ill to look for work so he was sanctioned

The Canary has reported on cases of several ‘real-life’ Daniel Blakes.

Exposure

Loach’s film drew attention to a system that is failing the very people it was designed to help. Loach himself has since been defending his portrayal and bringing the fight to the Tories.

And if the rest of the media had the drive and conviction of this 80-year-old director, the Tories would never have got away with this mess in the first place.

Get Involved!

– Support Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).

– You can also write to your MP asking them to take action on poverty, inequality and the pay gap.

Watch the trailer for I, Daniel Blake.

Featured image via screengrab

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