The parliamentary Socialist Campaign Group has released a statement, signed by 20 MPs and five peers, urging Labour to reinstate English filmmaker Ken Loach to the party on the basis that he is “an outstanding socialist” and “fierce opponent of discrimination”.
Loach confirmed via tweets on Saturday that he had been expelled from Labour, writing: “Labour HQ finally decided I’m not fit to be a member of their party, as I will not disown those already expelled. Well…” He added that there “is indeed a witch hunt”.
Mike Katz, chair of the party-affiliated Jewish Labour Movement, reacted to the decision by saying “Labour was right to kick out Ken Loach”, Keir Starmer “has shown strong leadership in tackling antisemitism in the Labour Party” and “Loach is no anti-racist”.
While Labour MP Neil Coyle also tweeted his support for the move, others including Labour parliamentarians, the Unite the Union general secretary Len McCluskey and the former Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard criticised the expulsion of Loach.
It is understood that Loach was expelled from Labour because he is a supporter and ‘sponsor’ of Labour Against the Witchhunt, a group that campaigns against the suspension and expulsion of Labour members, particularly “critics of Israel/Zionism”.
Labour Against the Witchhunt opposes the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism and states that it stands in opposition to those who “promote the false antisemitism smear” and “the myth of a ubiquitous left antisemitism”.
It was proscribed by Labour at the July meeting of the party’s national executive committee, along with three other groups. Supporters of these organisations will be auto-excluded from the party, which means the cases do not have to go through the usual full disciplinary process.
The affiliated Jewish Labour Movement supported the decision to ban the four groups, saying it sends a “strong political signal” and that “membership of these groups is incompatible with Labour’s values and its drive to tackle antisemitism in our party”.
The SCG statement published today, signed by MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and Rebecca Long-Bailey, has called for the membership of Loach to be “immediately reinstated”, adding: “That Ken is expelled while Islamophobes are welcomed is shameful”.
Loach has been criticised not only for his support for LATW, but also because when asked whether Holocaust denial was unacceptable at Labour conference in 2017 he replied “I think history is for all of us to discuss”.
Loach later clarified his comments, writing: “In a confused BBC interview, where question and answer overlapped, my words were twisted to give a meaning contrary to that intended. The Holocaust is as real a historical event as World War II itself and not to be challenged.”