It’s important not to lose sight of the most important fact in all this and that’s that Tim Loughton MP still managed to have a great night.
There he was, a humble Conservative backbencher, exercising his democratic right to a jolly at the Baftas, when a film director who won an award for a film savaging the callous brutality of the Conservative Government had the temerity to come to the stage, collect his award and again bring up the callous brutality of the Conservative Government.
It was 20 past 10 at night when Loughton, hitherto best known as the organiser of the mysteriously un-gonged Leadsom4Leader campaign, reached for his phone to reassure us all that yes, he had a great night, “apart from the usual predictable drivel from Ken Loach”.
The obvious point to make might be that an award-winning film director winning an award at a film awards ceremony might be well within his rights to give a speech about the subject matter of his award-winning film, and that the audience might even be interested to hear it.
But given it was Bafta who chose to give the award to Loach, and presumably Bafta who also chose to invite Tim Loughton, it is arguably not unfair to call their judgement into question, albeit unexpected that it should be Loughton himself who chose to do it.
It is at this point that we must pause and decide whether it is safe to continue, as to do so would apparently be to place free speech itself at peril. For the mind of the MP for East Worthing and Shoreham turns out to be no less razor-sharp this morning as it was at the end of his enjoyable evening last night, and he has again taken to Twitter to stand firm in the face of thousands of individuals who have reacted with a mixture of surprise, hilarity and outrage to his late night observation, with a rare threaded three-part tweet which I repeat here in full: “So when Ken Loach uses a Bafta platform to lambast the Government for stuff that is nothing to do with his film it’s fine but when I dare to criticise what he said, certainly not his right to say it nor his film-making skills, the left go and launch a whole load of alternative facts about my parentage. Says a lot about where the real threat to free speech lies in our country.”
First of all, we must applaud Tim Loughton’s bravery in “daring to criticise”. Free societies depend on those who are unafraid to speak truth to power and the courage it must have taken for an MP to do a tweet about how Ken Loach’s drivel didn’t ruin his night out should not be underestimated.
We should also not assume that the threat to free speech posed by the “alternative facts” about Tim Loughton’s “parentage” is not real, merely because I have now spent a fruitless half an hour trying to find them. When I do, I have no doubt they will pose a considerably graver threat to free speech than an elected politician aping the “alternative facts” attack line of a Trump advisor who was busily defending a White House press spokesperson telling blatant lies to the media, before invoking a fictional terrorist massacre to justify a travel ban that has since been declared illegal.
The bit of Ken Loach’s speech that Loughton rightly pointed out was “nothing to do with his film”, by the way, was when the director had the gall to mention “the brutality that extends to keeping out refugee children that we have promised to help”.
In the face of such injustice meted out by a film director to a nice MP innocently trying to enjoy a freebie, we should, again, be thankful that he managed to have a great night at all.
But there were other bits he will have enjoyed. Loughton campaigned for Brexit almost as hard as he campaigned for Andrea Leadsom, and towards the end, the chief executive of Curzon cinemas collected the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema award, and used his speech to draw attention to the direct EU funding that will no longer be forthcoming after Brexit, limiting “the risks we are able to take with films that exist outside of the mainstream”.
So even if you can’t stop Ken Loach’s usual predictable drivel at the Baftas, you can at least keep it out of the cinema, and anyone who tries to tell you that’s not a good thing – well, you don’t need Tim Loughton’s brain to know that they’re where the real threat to free speech in this country lies. But it certainly helps.
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