Jeremy Corbyn told Andrew Marr he is ‘a lifelong anti-racist’ – but maybe he’s just not very good at it?

If there is anyone out there who has been a victim of racism or thinks they may be in the future, you needn’t worry because Jeremy Corbyn has got your back.

The depth of his commitment to anti-racism cannot be doubted, because on Sunday morning, live on the BBC, as the Labour conference got underway, he looked Andrew Marr straight in the eye and told him, unequivocally, “I have spent my whole life fighting racism in any form. I will die fighting racism in any form.. ”

So that’s clear then. For those affected by racism though, the only area in which some residual doubt may be allowed to creep back in, is on the separate but related question as to whether Jeremy Corbyn is actually any good at this anti-racism thing.

For, as Andrew Marr led the Labour leader on a patient walk through through his iconic Summer of Antisemitism, there was the odd flash where it felt like the will was there but perhaps not the resources.  

Jeremy Corbyn has been fighting anti-racism all his life and will carry on doing so, that much is beyond doubt, so what exactly did happen, Mr Marr wanted to know, in that short moment, when he saw a blatantly antisemitic mural on Facebook and his immediate reaction “was concern that it had been taken down”?

That mural featured men with hooked noses shuffling money and playing monopoly on a board held up on the bent backs of the struggling poor, and has since been described as “instantly and obviously antisemitic” by a very large number of Jewish leaders. Imagine being a lifelong anti-racist and not only not spotting that, but also complaining that it had been taken down? For a lifelong anti-racist, that’s got to burn.

Of particular interest, was Mr Corbyn telling Mr Marr that the antisemitic mural “contained other symbols, such as the freemasons”. Which indeed it does, though these symbols are specifically the small pyramid shaped playing pieces in use by the grotesque hook-nosed Jewish caricatures.

How dearly we must hope that no footage ever emerges of Jeremy Corbyn, say, playing monopoly with Combat 18, though should the unthinkable happen, brave will be the person who questions the Labour leader’s inevitable watertight defence – that he thought he was playing against the dog and the top hat.  

At times Corbyn’s lifelong commitment to anti-racism felt a bit like the lifelong commitment to trainspotting, as experienced by those men last year who waited for hours at a level crossing in Stevenage for a glimpse of the Flying Scotsman, only for it to be obliterated from view at the vital moment by a passing high-speed Virgin commuter train.

That sort of bad luck can happen to anyone. It wasn’t his fault, either, we learned, that he had gone to Tunisia to commemorate those killed in a 1972 Israeli bombing raid, and years later it would emerge that the ceremony he had attended had also commemorated the assassination of leading Black September terrorists linked to the Munich Olympic massacre. The fact that it had also emerged, shortly after the ceremony, when he had written about it himself in the Morning Star… well, what do you know, surely that can’t be the 08.44 from London Euston to Crewe, roaring up the tracks at the very worst time, yet again? 

Jeremy Corbyn will die an anti-racist, that much is clear. That he’s fought so hard against it all his life, and ended up being asked, live on television, by the calm, measured and hardly sensationalist voice of Andrew Marr, “are you an antisemite?” is desperately unlucky.

Sometimes in life, you can have the best of intentions and things just not go your way. You’ll remember, of course, that Jeremy Corbyn was a dedicated campaigner for the UK to remain in the European Union for six full weeks of his life between April and June in 2016, and that didn’t go quite according to plan either.

The man will die an anti-racist, that much we know. What’s not quite so clear yet is whether he might die a former prime minister. But if that happens, then the whole of the country will get to sleep just as soundly in their beds as the unfortunate victims of antisemitism everywhere, which is to say knowing that Jeremy has got their back.


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