Blair got to power on backs of workers, says Ken Loach

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The Independent Culture

The director of the only British film competing for the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday launched an outspoken attack on Tony Blair and his Home Secretary, Jack Straw.

The veteran socialist director Ken Loach, ostensibly flying the flag for Britain at the festival, instead used the Cannes platform to tell media from around the world that the Government was "right-wing".

And to add to the unusual atmosphere, where hostility was superseding glamour for once, there was the rarest of Cannes moments - an actor directly attacking others in her profession.

One of the stars of Loach's Bread and Roses, the Mexican-born Elpidia Carrillo, said it was hard for Latin actresses to get parts in Hollywood. They were always cast as maids or prostitutes. And she said she was appalled that Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close and Meryl Streep had played Latin characters in the 1993 film The House of the Spirits. "It was totally insulting," she said.

The remarks were particularly provocative as Irons is on the Cannes jury this year and will be sitting in judgement on the Loach film.

Loach, the director of a host of socially omitted films and television dramas, from Kes and Cathy Come Home in the Sixties to Raining Stones and My Name Is Joe, has madeBread and Roses in America. It is a compelling film centred around office cleaners in Los Angeles, many of them illegal immigrants, and their fight to form a union in the face of intimidation. The film is one of the favourites for the top prize.

But before its screening for a gala audience last night, Loach used a press conference to say that it was not just the United States where there was social inequality and a lack of trade union rights.

He said: "In Britain we had a right-wing government, and now we have a government which claims to be on the left but actively continues the policies of the right. The people who masterminded it got to power on the back of a workers' movement. But there are no more trade union rights.

"They have carried on privatising. They are planning to privatise the Tube. They are building hospitals on private finance initiatives and they are going to cost the taxpayer three times over the odds. It is clearly a right-wing agenda.

"We find Mr Blair is in favour of flexibility of labour, and it destroys job security. The rights that have been fought for for generations are disappearing." He added that Mr Straw's "instincts are quite repressive. He plays to a right-wing gallery."

Loach's film was refused National Lottery funding, as it was not shot in Britain.