John Bercow: I’ve had antisemitic abuse myself, but I don’t believe Jeremy Corbyn is antisemitic

The Jewish former House of Commons speaker said in a GQ interview that the Labour Party has a ‘big issue’ to address


Former speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow has said that he does not believe Jeremy Corbyn to be an antisemite, but that Labour had a “big issue”.

Speaking to Alastair Campbell for GQ Magazine, Mr Bercow said that “though there is a big issue, and it has to be addressed, I do not myself believe that Jeremy Corbyn is antisemitic. That is my honest view.

“I’m not saying that he doesn’t have a challenge in his party… I respect those who are very concerned about it, but I don’t believe Jeremy Corbyn is antisemitic.

“I’ve known him for the 22 years I’ve been in parliament – even, actually, when I was a right-winger, we got on pretty well… I’ve never detected so much as a whiff of antisemitism [from him].”

Mr Campbell had asked him about his views on the “Labour party antisemitism debate” as a Jew, to which he responded: “I think that racism is a challenge across society and after decades in which huge advances were made, I think there is a real danger of regression now.

“Now, I know you didn’t ask more widely about racism, but that’s my answer on racism. You asked about antisemitism and I think it is a big challenge.

“I don’t want to intrude on the grief of a particular political party. All I would say is that, yes, it’s an issue, and it needs to be addressed, but I myself have never experienced antisemitism from a member of the Labour party.”

However, when asked if he had experienced antisemitism outside of parliament, Mr Bercow said: “Yes, yes I have.

“I remember… somebody once saying to me: ‘you know, if I had my way, people like you, Berkoff, wouldn’t be in this place.’

“And I said to this individual: ‘when you say people like me, do you mean people like me in the sense that I’m lower-class or Jewish?’

“To which he replied: ‘Both.’”

Mr Bercow’s family name was formerly Berkowitz, which they changed when they arrived in the UK from Romania.

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