The controversial filmmaker and Jeremy Corbyn enthusiast, Ken Loach, will not judge a Show Racism the Red Card competition after all.
Show Racism the Red Card describes itself as an anti-racism educational charity and appears to focus on discrimination and hate towards Black and Asian communities in the UK and does not appear to offer resources on antisemitism. Earlier this year, the activist group again became involved in controversy over antisemitism following an invitation to Mr Loach to join a panel of judges for a school competition on creative anti-racism designs.
The group’s chief executive, who has his own troubling history in relation to the Jewish community, described Mr Loach at the time as a “valued supporter” and he said that he could not “think of two people better qualified to choose winners,” in reference to Mr Loach and another controversial judge.
But today the organisation released a statement saying that it and Mr Loach “have together agreed that Ken will not act as a judge for the SRtRC School Competition 2020.” The statement reaffirmed that Mr Loach “has been a supporter, and advocate, of SRtRC for many years. He is a member of our Hall of Fame, in tribute to the work he has done over many years in combating racism and his support is greatly appreciated.”
The statement went on to disclose that evidence had been presented to the organisation of Mr Loach’s support via email for an appeal by Pete Gregson, a Labour activist, against his dismissal. Mr Gregson has been suspended from the Labour Party and expelled from the pro-Corbyn pressure group Momentum and from the GMB trade union after suggesting that the Holocaust was exaggerated and for abusive behaviour towards a female Jewish Labour member. Mr Gregson is the founder of Labour Against Zionism and Islamophobic Racism (Lazir) and was a guest speaker at an event organised by Keep Talking, a conspiracy theorist group that brings the far-right and far-left together.
The statement claims that Mr Loach “has since unequivocally denounced and rejected Peter Gregson for his antisemitism and behaviour, now that Gregson’s antisemitic behaviour and comments have been drawn to his attention. Ken Loach accepts a mistake in expressing support for Peter Gregson and in failing to contact the GMB prior to his reply to him…SRtRC and Ken Loach unreservedly support the GMB in the decision to expel Peter Gregson.”
However, although this revelation is implicitly a reason for Mr Loach’s withdrawal as a judge, the statement adds that “a significant factor in Ken Loach’s decision is the abuse online and in person that he and his family have received. It is profoundly distressing, and he is very concerned to protect those closest to him.”
Abuse is never acceptable, and Campaign Against Antisemitism hopes that Show Racism the Red Card is not suggesting that highlighting Mr Loach’s history of inflammatory comments on the subject of antisemitism and his consequent unfitness to serve as a judge in an anti-racism competition constitutes abuse.
Mr Loach’s voice has been among the loudest of those who attempt to dismiss Labour’s antisemitism crisis as non-existent and a right-wing smear campaign. He claimed that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was subjected to a “torrent of abuse” that was “off the scale” and that regardless of what he did, the “campaign” of antisemitism accusations was “going to run and run”. He described the BBC’s Panorama investigation into Labour antisemitism as “disgusting because it raised the horror of racism against Jews in the most atrocious propagandistic way, with crude journalism…and it bought the propaganda from people who were intent on destroying Corbyn.” He was also reportedly behind a motion passed by Bath Labour Party branding the Panorama programme a “dishonest hatchet job with potentially undemocratic consequences” and asserting that it “disgraced the name of Panorama and exposed the bias endemic within the BBC.” John Ware, the programme’s reporter, is apparently considering legal action against Mr Loach for his comments.
In 2017, Mr Loach caused outrage when, during an interview with the BBC, he refused to denounce Holocaust denial. The International Definition of Antisemitism states that “denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust)” is a manifestation of antisemitism. Although Mr Loach later sought to clarify his remarks, he has continued to make inflammatory and provocative statements about Labour’s antisemitism scandal. While speaking at a meeting of the Kingswood Constituency Labour Party, Mr Loach advocated the removal from the Party of those Labour MPs, some of whom are Jewish, who have taken a principled stand against antisemitism. Shortly after that incident, the Labour Party announced that it would no longer use Mr Loach as a producer of their election broadcasts.
Mr Loach’s record should have been sufficient to disqualify him as a prospective judge in an anti-racism competition, and it is regrettable that further evidence of his disconcerting views had to come to light before Show Racism the Red Card reversed its decision to enlist him. Still, Show Racism the Red Card is at pains to defend and praise Mr Loach instead of cutting ties completely. Evidently, some types of racism are more tolerable than others.