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Popcorn time for Labour leaders with cinema trips to highlight cuts to welfare

Published 02/11/2016

Ken Loach won the Palme d'Or with I, Daniel Blake
Ken Loach won the Palme d'Or with I, Daniel Blake

Jeremy Corbyn and senior Labour MPs will go on special trips to the cinema to see Ken Loach's award-winning film I, Daniel Blake in an attempt to highlight Government welfare cuts.

The Labour leader told Theresa May to see the movie as the pair clashed over welfare policy at Prime Minister's Questions.

Mr Corbyn, along with senior allies including shadow chancellor John McDonnell and other MPs, will attend screenings of the film as part of the campaign against planned cuts to the employment and support allowance (ESA).

Labour will encourage its members to go and see I, Daniel Blake at special screenings taking place in cinemas on November 17, six days before Chancellor Philip Hammond's Autumn Statement.

ESA payments are due to be cut by £29 a week to £73 from April for new claimants in the work-related activity group - those unable to work at present, but judged capable of preparing to return to work, by attending interviews and training.

Labour's campaign comes after the Prime Minister claimed the party was "drifting away" from its voters under Mr Corbyn's leadership by supporting "unlimited welfare".

Loach's film tells the story of a 59-year-old joiner who is plunged into extreme poverty and confronted by a faceless bureaucracy when his benefits are stopped.

It has won rave reviews and was given the coveted Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival, but has been criticised by Tory ministers past and present for its portrayal of welfare cuts.

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green criticised as "monstrously unfair" the portrayal of job centre staff in the movie, despite admitting he had not watched it.

Mr McDonnell said: "In the run up to the Autumn Statement Labour will be pushing the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, to scrap these cruel ESA cuts to sick and disabled people.

"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.

"Labour will be demanding that the Government scrap these appalling cuts to the most vulnerable in our society at the Autumn Statement."

Loach said: "Go to the food banks Mr Hammond, have the guts to face the people you treat with such conscious cruelty. If you don't know the suffering you cause you are not competent to be in Government. If you do know, you are not fit for the job.

"Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are right to do all they can to prevent this from happening."

At PMQs the Labour leader told the Prime Minister: "Can I recommend you support British cinema and take yourself along to the cinema to see a Palme d'Or winning film - I, Daniel Blake."

In an attack on welfare sanctions he said: "It is time that we ended this institutionalised barbarity against often very vulnerable people."

But Mrs May told him: "You have a view that there should be no assessments, no sanctions and unlimited welfare.

"I have to say to you that the Labour Party is drifting away from the views of Labour voters. It's this party that understands working-class people."

Press Association

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