I, Daniel Blake

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Publication.png I, Daniel Blake Rdf-icon.png
Loach Corbyn.jpeg
Ken Loach and Jeremy Corbyn at the film's London premiere
Typeaward-winning film
Founded2016-05-13
Author(s) • Ken Loach
• Paul Laverty

I, Daniel Blake is a 2016 British-French drama film directed by Ken Loach and written by Loach's frequent collaborator Paul Laverty. The film stars Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Dylan McKiernan and Briana Shane.

It won the Prix du public at the 2016 WAMA film festival in Poland.

It won the Palme d'Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and the Prix du public at the 2016 Locarno International Film Festival.[1][2]

Promoting the film

At Prime Minister’s Questions on 2 November 2016, Jeremy Corbyn suggested Theresa May ought to “support British cinema” by watching the film which might give her an insight into the struggles faced by the “just managing” families she has pledged to help. Although it was denounced as “monstrously unfair” by Damian Green, the minister now in charge of the system the film condemns, he hastily added he had not seen it. For Green’s benefit:

The film tells the story of Daniel Blake, a 59-year-old joiner who stops work after suffering a massive heart attack. His doctor says he is too unwell to work but the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) declares him fit to work. This makes Job Seekers’ Allowance his only option for benefits as he falls into poverty. But he will be sanctioned, with the money cut off, if he fails to prove he has been actively seeking work, which his doctor has said he is too unwell to take up.[3]

Timely

Unite the Union described I, Daniel Blake as incredibly timely:

It lays bare the human cost of the Conservative Party’s attack on our social security system – and it matters to each and every one of us because more and more people are being left without a penny. Yes, even those in work will be targeted too.
With the roll out of Universal Credit (UC) upwards of 11 million part time workers could face being sanctioned under draconian new rules which force recipients of Tax Credits and Housing Benefit to constantly look for more hours and better paid work.[4]

Reaction

The film seems to have riled the Tories on the issue of benefits more than anything Labour has said under Corbyn. As well as Damian Green’s condemnation, the DWP called it “a work of fiction, not a documentary”. Loach clashed on BBC Question Time with Communities Minister Greg Clark over it.[5]

Films can reach further than politicians whom people simply ignore, Loach says:

“It’s a different medium isn’t it? People switch off from politicians... They feel [politics is] a private discussion with private gossip and something from which most people are excluded. Politicians don’t speak for them.”[6]

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said:

I, Daniel Blake was one of the most moving films I’ve ever seen so I’m very pleased we have teamed up with Ken Loach to urge people to go and watch it at these special screenings taking place before the autumn statement.
“We’re living in an I, Daniel Blake society as a result of having the Tories in power for six years. The government should be caring for sick and disabled people, not making their lives worse."

Benefit cuts

Jeremy Corbyn urged Labour members to attend a series of special screenings of the film in the run-up to Philip Hammond’s autumn statement, in an effort to rally support against planned cuts to disability benefits. In particular, Labour is calling for Hammond to scrap cuts to the Employment and Support Allowance. ESA, which goes to sick and disabled people, who either can’t work or are trying to find employment, is due to be reduced by £30 for some new claimants from April next year. Labour has said it would reverse the policy.

The ESA cut is one of a series of planned reductions in benefits for future years set out by George Osborne before he was removed as Chancellor by Theresa May in June.

Damian Green, the new work and pensions secretary, has signalled that there will be no fresh cuts in the welfare budget; but his department have insisted they will go ahead with reductions set in train by Osborne, including £3bn a year due to be trimmed off the cost of universal credit.[7]

 

Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Hostages to wealth and the growing resistanceArticle26 October 2016Keith Ordinary GuyThe UK government has prostituted itself to the free markets and private interests, and, as with the banking crisis, it is we, the public who get shafted. The least we can do is oppose, resist and expose and be ready for whatever comes next.


References