Yesterday the shadow chancellor John McDonnell tried his his best to wrestle back some shreds of economic credibility for the Labour party in a major speech.
But, curiously, the lefty firebrand broke off his attack on the Government’s economic record to recommend a film to his audience:
We said austerity will suppress growth; wages won’t recover; the country’s infrastructure will fall apart.
They said – don’t worry, most of the cuts will fall on welfare.
The film I, Daniel Blake brought home with exceptional force some of the cruelty of what that means.
His none-too-subtle plug is an example of the seemingly endless stream of endorsements for the multi-million pound movie from Labour high command.
The PR campaign will culminate tomorrow when McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and other Labour frontbenchers will attend screenings across the country, and have implored party members to hand over their cash to join them.
Terrific idea – would be great if the Tory Cabinet could join them: Corbyn and Labour MPs to see 'I, Daniel Blake' https://t.co/85AF2dmWA3
— Ken Loach (@KenLoachSixteen) November 2, 2016
Labour used their party press office to plug the watch-along screenings – for a film which has already brought in excess of £6 million at the box office.
Corbyn attended the film’s premiere a few weeks ago, and even used one of his six Prime Minister’s Questions to plug the film, direct by his ally Ken Loach:
A particularly hyperbolic social media post of his told followers “If there’s one thing you do this year, go and see I, Daniel Blake.” Not donating to Labour, canvassing, or volunteering – but spending around £10 on a movie.
— I, Daniel Blake (@idanielblake) October 21, 2016
McDonnell has plugged it in print as well, telling the Guardian that the UK has become “an I, Daniel Blake society”.
@KenLoachSixteen It was an absolute privilege to join so many great campaigners to watch Ken's moving, hard hitting and truthful "I Daniel"
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) October 20, 2016
Abbott has also praised the film alongside other MPs:
— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) November 5, 2016
— Geraint Davies MP (@GeraintDaviesMP) October 29, 2016
— Debbie Abrahams (@Debbie_abrahams) October 20, 2016
— Angela Eagle (@angelaeagle) October 20, 2016
While I, Daniel Blake evidently chimes with Labour’s anti-austerity politics, the links between party high command and director Ken Loach go deeper.
Earlier this year, Loach directed an hour-long propaganda film about Corbyn’s re-election campaign.
He also has a long association with McDonnell, who appeared in Loach’s 1990 film Hidden Agenda, seven years before he got his seat in parliament:
lol, never noticed John McDonnell's cameo in Ken Loach's Hidden Agenda before pic.twitter.com/Xrheyi1VrN
— tom (@malaiseforever) August 27, 2016
@TheSpiritof45 We've been on same side in so many battles I'm proud to call Ken Loach a comrade.This
film makes an inspiring contribution.
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) March 17, 2013
As useful as the film may be politically for the party, it is an inescapable truth that the film’s handsome, and growing, returns are feathering the nest of one of their friends.
In other quarters the PR campaign for the film has taken an unpleasant turn – including this piece of commentary Loach retweeted saying the film made him want to kick Conservative voters in the face:
…kick the teeth down the throat of the first Tory I encountered. This is truly the redemptive power of Art
— Martin Rowson (@MartinRowson) October 22, 2016
A spokesman for Sixteen Films, the production house behind I, Daniel Blake, confirmed to Heat Street that the film is a profit-making enterprise.
He suggested it might not make “very much money”, but declined to explain why, given its success so far.
According to Box Office Mojo, the film’s international takings have already exceeded $7.5million – and that is before any cash raised by tomorrow’s mass viewing, sponsored by Britain’s biggest political party.