The Courier

Corbyn describes ‘pain’ at being called racist

Jeremy Corbyn has spoken of his “pain” at being called a racist and compared to Enoch Powell during the anti-Semitism row that has ripped through Labour.

Mr Corbyn insisted he is not anti-Semetic in the wake of former chief rabbi Lord Sacks comparing his remarks regarding a group of British Zionists with Mr Powell’s incendiary 1968 “Rivers of Blood” speech.

Lord Jonathan Sacks (Toby Melville/PA)

The Labour leader told Holyrood magazine: “I have found these accusations very painful because my whole life has been about opposing racism and I saw at first-hand in Jamaica the hurt inflicted by Powell’s words.”

Mr Corbyn added: “I was in Jamaica when Enoch Powell made his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.

“When the speech came through, there were a lot of people in Jamaica, quite rightly, very, very angry.

“I was teaching in a school where we had facilities to listen to the speech and we read about it, and the reaction was enormous.”

Mr Corbyn recalled that some of children he had been teaching that day “wanted to make sure I got home alright because a lot of people were very angry, and they didn’t want me blamed”.

The Labour leader added: “They were right to be angry about Powell. Fighting racism, it’s been my life and now I represent, and have done for a very long time, a very multicultural mixed society and I’m very proud to represent it.”

Veteran Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge branded Mr Corbyn “anti-Semitic” and “racist” as the pair clashed over the Labour leader’s stance.

Lord Sacks remarks came after footage from 2013 emerged of Mr Corbyn attacking a group of British Zionists who had criticised Palestinian ambassador Manuel Hassassian.

Mr Corbyn said: “They clearly have two problems.

“One is they don’t want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all of their lives, they don’t understand English irony either.”

Lord Sacks said: “The recently disclosed remarks by Jeremy Corbyn are the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.

“It was divisive, hateful and like Powell’s speech it undermines the existence of an entire group of British citizens by depicting them as essentially alien.”