Ken Loach has launched an uncompromising attack on the UK government at the 70th British Academy Film Awards.
Speaking as he picked up his award for outstanding British film for I, Daniel Blake, which is conceived as a critique of the current state of the benefits system, Loach touched on accusations by some that his film failed to reflect reality.
Loach thanked his cast and crew, the people of Newcastle and the academy for “endorsing the truth of that this film says, which is that hundreds of thousands of people – the vulnerable and the poorest people – are treated by the this government with a callousness and brutality that is disgraceful.”
Loach continued by making reference to the Tory government’s apparent U-turn on its promise to accept thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing danger in Syria and elsewhere.
“It’s a disgrace,” he said, “that extends to keeping out refugee children we promised to help.”
“In the real world,” added Loach, “it’s getting darker. And in the struggle that’s coming between the rich and the powerful, the corporations and the politicians that speak for them, and the rest of us on the other side, the film-makers know which side they’re on.”
Speaking at the press conference afterwards, Loach went further, saying that the government “have to be removed”. He hoped that voters would see his film, but there was little point politicians doing so as “the people actually implementing these decisions know what they’re doing. It’s conscious.”
Their welfare policies, he said, harked back to the Victorian workhouse ethos of telling people that poverty was their fault. “They know they’re doing. We have to change them; they have to be removed.”
His words were echoed by screenwriter Paul Laverty, who sought to draw attention to the UN’s ruling on the UK’s treatment of the disabled. “They found systematic and gross violations,” he said, before saying the Tories had “denied, spun and tried to discredit” the findings.
“They don’t give a toss,” said Laverty, that “scurvy and rickets” had returned to the country, or that “16,000 people were admitted to hospital last year with malnutrition. We have a moral obligation to do one thing, and that’s get rid of them.”
Meanwhile producer Rebecca O’Brien spoke up for those employees of the Ritzy cinema not being paid the living wage. “We think that’s completely wrong in this day and age.”
Dave Johns, who stars in the film, added he felt I, Daniel Blake “gives the working class a voice back. People haven’t listened to them for 40 years.”
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