Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Red and the Blue, The (1983)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment ltd

Main image of Red and the Blue, The (1983)
The Red and the Blue - Impressions of Two Political Conferences, Autumn 1982, Central Independent Television for Channel 4, tx. 1/10/1983
90 minutes, colour
DirectorKen Loach
ProducerRoger James
CameraChris Menges
EditorJonathan Morris
SoundJudy Freeman

The 1982 conferences of the Conservative and Labour Parties, as seen through the eyes of a number of party delegates.

Show full synopsis

The Red and the Blue was transmitted on Channel 4 almost exactly a year after Ken Loach had filmed both Labour and Conservative party conferences in October 1982. The piece is a fly-on-the-wall look at both conferences and focuses on the grassroots of each party, although members of the cabinet and shadow cabinet make cameo appearances. By alternating between the two parties, the film gives an impression of balance that was lacking in other films Loach made around the same time, such as A Question of Leadership (ITV, 1981) and the untransmitted Questions of Leadership, and so did not have the same highly controversial impact.

Although a very serious piece, it is full of humour, and Chris Menges' excellent camerawork captures some wonderful vignettes of conference life. Most amusing of these is an excitable and slightly tipsy Tory party worker desperate to meet her political heroes - "I want Mrs Thatcher and I want Cecil" - but the sight of future cabinet minister Peter Lilley almost missing his big conference speech is similarly entertaining, and also rather endearing. Loach remains neutral in the sense that he portrays both the Labour and Conservative leadership as obsessed with controlling their respective grassroots membership, a state of affairs that seems profoundly undemocratic.

Despite this air of balance, Loach's film is still extremely pointed. Dennis Skinner's polemic against both Conservative and Labour leaders is intercut with Tories ostentatiously enjoying champagne while indulging in some genuinely disturbing dancing. Loach lays bare some of the cynicism present at the conference - one of the Tories protests that "It's all stage-managed" - and he clearly relishes the moments that go out of control, particularly when that involves the left-wing splinter group Militant.

Margaret Thatcher herself is only seen on a couple of occasions but her political presence haunts the film. While heavily controlled, the Tory party workers, even the extremists of the Monday Club, are much more aligned with their leader than those of the internally divided Labour Party. Filmed nine months before their landslide victory in the 1983 General Election, The Red and the Blue shows an increasingly confident Conservative party basking in the 'Falklands Factor', following victory in the war with Argentina earlier that year). A harsher political climate was on its way both for the country and Loach himself.

John Williams

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Peter Lilley (4:51)
2. Party games (5:17)
3. Neil Kinnock / Dennis Skinner (5:52)
Ploughman's Lunch, The (1983)
Question of Leadership, A (1980)
Tracking Down Maggie (1994)
Loach, Ken (1936-)
Menges, Chris (1940-)
Morris, Jonathan (1949-)
Ken Loach: Documentaries
Party Election Broadcasts