If, as August Bebel, the 19th-century German leftist, warned, antisemitism is the “socialism of fools”, then it is becoming ever more pressing to ask whether the man who fancies himself our next prime minister might be rather foolish. Jeremy Corbyn’s gift for empathy does much to explain his remarkable electoral performance last June. But his wholly inadequate response to the Tower Hamlets mural controversy suggests that this gift may have clear – and alarming – limits.
To recap: in 2012, a wall painting by the street artist Mear One in east London was designated for removal by the local authority. Using grotesquely antisemitic imagery, it depicted Jewish financiers playing a Monopoly-style board game on the backs of naked people. On the artist’s Facebook page, Corbyn posted the following response to this decision: “Why? You are in good company. Rockerfeller [sic] destroyed Diego Viera’s [Rivera’s] mural because it includes a picture of Lenin.”