“Now remember, Jeremy,” cooed Seumas Milne, crouching down to eye level and dabbing his master’s brow with a handkerchief. “You oppose racism in all its forms.”
Corbyn remained sullen in his wheelchair, his arms folded tightly and his face contorted into a petulant scowl. He stared furiously at Milne, his gimlet eyes burning with resentment.
“Oh Jeremy, please,” groaned Milne, pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration. “We’ve already been through this. We can’t have a big crowd of Jews out there smearing you and your Labour Party every other day. It’s absolutely vital that you say something to make them go away.”
He straightened up and began rocking on heels, stroking his chin feverishly.
“They’re getting in the way of the revolution, Jeremy. They’re standing in the way of progress. After we’ve overthrown the capitalist system we’ll deal with them like we discussed with our Hezbollah friends…I promise you.”
“But they drink babies’ blood, Seumas,” mewled Corbyn, pathetically. “What if this Jew you’ve invited in tries to drink my blood too? Who’ll be Prime Minister then?”
Milne raked a hand through his sweat-drenched hair and drew in a weary breath.
It had been a most troublesome week for Labour. The national conversation had moved away from Jeremy’s glorious march upon Downing Street. The chatter in working men’s clubs up and down the country had shifted dramatically from the glittering future of a fully socialist society. Coal miners were no longer discussing Jeremy’s statesmanlike response to the Russian nerve agent crisis on their lunch breaks.
The Jews, he thought, had once again conspired to make it all about themselves.
“Listen, Jeremy,” he said. “Nobody’s asking you to say you like the Jews. You just need to keep going on and on about how you oppose racism until he goes away.”
“Can’t we just give him some money, Seumas?” croaked the old man. “Jews like money. Perhaps that’ll make him go away?”
“No, Jeremy. If we give this one money they’ll all want money from us and before you know it they’ll have used it to set up a new bank. We’d be simply helping them tighten their stranglehold on the global financial markets if we go down that route.”
“But I don’t want to talk to the Jews, Seumas,” wailed Corbyn, swatting his tartan travel rug to the floor. “I want to do my Hugo Chavez jigsaw. I want a tin of beans. Why are you always making me do things?”
The fractious interview preparations were sharply interrupted by a loud rap on the door of Jeremy Corbyn’s office.
“Come in,” snapped Milne, staring angrily at Corbyn and biting his bottom lip.
The door swung open. “Mr Justin Cohen to see you, Mr Corbyn,” announced a pretty young female aide, showing in the reporter from Jewish News.
“Don’t you try and drink my blood!” screeched Corbyn, cowering in his wheelchair.
“Ah, Justin,” smarmed Milne, wearing a rictus grin. “Jeremy and I were just discussing…erm…our favourite vampire films. Do you like vampire films, Justin?”
“Erm…I suppose,” replied the reporter, staring quizzically at Corbyn, who had now curled himself up into a tight ball in his wheelchair.
“How jolly,” continued Milne. “We’ve got so much in common. Take a seat, by the way. I prefer the old Christopher Lee vampire films, personally, but Jeremy’s really into the Twilight series. He likes the interracial romance aspect of it. Maybe you could put that in your article?”
“Look Seumas, I don’t want to be rude but you’ve only given me fifteen minutes and I’ve a lot I’d like to discuss with Mr Corbyn,” said Cohen, unpacking a pair of microphones from his holdall. “I’d rather just crack on if it’s all the same?”
“Of course, of course. No problem at all, Justin. Just you get set up.”
Milne crouched at the wheelchair and grasped the old man’s face in his hands.
“Jeremy, pull yourself together, man,” he whispered. “You’ve got to be brave. Think of all the little children in Gaza who have to go through this sort of horror at the hands of the Jews every day.”
Corbyn half straightened himself up and gazed mournfully at Cohen, who was now sitting expectantly across the table from him.
“I’ll just be over there at my desk if either of you need anything, gentlemen,” spat Milne, pacing feverishly across the office.
The interview commenced.
Cohen: 1,500 people felt compelled to come onto the streets of London on Monday to protest you and your party’s handling of anti-Semitism, some of whom are ready to call you personally an anti-Semite. How does that make you feel?
JC: I condemn all forms of racism. Racism, in all its forms, is something I wholeheartedly oppose. The one thing I condemn more than anything in this world is racism. We have to stop racism. We have to find a final solution to racism. And by that I mean all forms of racism. In fact, I would treat racism with the same appalling brutality that you people treat the defenceless children of Pales….
“Jeremy!” barked Milne, gazing sternly over a copy of The Guardian. “You’re rambling. I told you not to bore the poor gentile…sorry…gentleman with long answers. Terribly sorry Justin, as you were.”
Cohen: In the last few days alone we’ve seen a candidate removed for alleged Holocaust denial, MPs who came out to protest against anti-Semitism being targeted by a blog which supports you, Jewish councillors in Haringey speaking out about the terrible treatment they faced. Surely this makes you profoundly concerned, even ashamed?
JC: All forms of abuse make me profoundly ashamed. I condemn all forms of racism in all its forms. And I mean all its forms, not just a few of them. All of them. Every single one. I’m even opposed to racism against races we haven’t even discovered yet. Extra-terrestrials, for example. Even that alien who went after Sigourney Weaver. At the time, I strongly condemned her unilateral decision to blast the creature into space instead of entering into a peaceful dialogue about a two-state solution, and I stand by that to this day.
Cohen: Another expression of regret that you’ve made in relation to your description of Hamas and Hezbollah as ‘friends’. Can you see that to call a group that wants me dead, wants our readers dead, that want all their relatives in Israel and around the world dead, means that British Jews are bound to be profoundly concerned?
JC: I was merely using inclusive language. If I’d used non-inclusive language I’d have been forced to thoroughly condemn myself for non-inclusivity, which is a form of racism. And if I got myself into a situation where I was forced to oppose myself, I’d be opposing a man who condemns racism in all its forms. That would make me an anti-anti-racist, if you like. So, by simply referring to Hamas and Hezbollah as friends, I saved myself from committing an act of racism I would not be able to condemn without simultaneously condemning anti-racism.
Cohen: Luciana Berger highlighted the anti-Semitic mural and your comments around that in 2012. For her efforts she’s been accused of being in the wrong party for bringing it up, accused of being a racist because of her links to Labour Friends of Israel, accused of a smear campaign and has faced personal threats. Can make it clear today that you don’t support anyone expressing such views?
JC: I oppose all forms of racially-motivated accusations of racism. Diane Abbott…sweet Diane Abbott…faces this sort of vile abuse all the time. Apparently she’s black, you see. Not that I’d know, of course, because I’m so passionately opposed to racism that I simply don’t notice these sorts of things any more. It’s entirely possible that she’s also Jewish and I haven’t been informed about it. And I’d be okay with that, being utterly opposed to any form of racial discrimination and all.
Cohen: I’m talking about the specific abuse Luciana Berger received as a result of standing up against anti-Semitism at this rally…
JC: I’m really not very well placed to comment on burgers. I’m a vegetarian. A vegetarian who opposes racism in all its forms. Tom Watson would probably be the best person to speak to about that sort of thing.
Cohen: Do you plan to visit Israel?
JC: I strongly oppose Israel in all its forms.
“Jeremy!” snapped Milne, slamming down his newspaper. “I…I…don’t think he heard the question properly, Justin. It helps to speak up a bit.”
But any further attempt to interrogate Corbyn on the subject of the state of Israel was cut short by the sound of someone bursting violently through the door of the Leader of the Opposition’s office.
It was David Lammy, the eminent Mensa member and Member of Parliament for Tottenham.
“Jeremy…Jeremy,” he panted, unable to properly catch his breath. “You’ve gotta come outside and see this, bruv. I overheard Mr McDonnell said there was a load of bloody juice outside the House of the Parliaments. So I went runnin’ out finking I might get a free can of limited edition blood orange Fanta, which would have been so, so sweet.”
He paused once more to catch his breath and continued. “But when I got out there it was just a bunch of guys standing around wearing silly little hats and talking about their aunties’ sensualism or sumthin’. It was proper hilarious.”
“I fink it’s some kind of circus or sumfin, Jezza,” he added, bouncing up and down on the spot. “Do you want to come wiv me? Please say yes, please say yes, please say yes, please say yes.”
“Mr Lammy,” boomed Milne, slowly rising from his chair. “Not now. Can’t you see we’re in the middle of something?”
Lammy gazed vacantly around the office for a few moments before his eyes came to rest on Justin Cohen. His eyes widened.
“That’s one of dem there, Jezza!,” he squealed, pointing and running on the spot. “That’s one of dem circus clowns from outside! Is he doing magic tricks like that Dymano guy I like off the telly? Can I watch too?”
“This is a Jew, Diane,” proclaimed Corbyn, excitedly. “Seumas says I have to make him go away until after the revolu…”
“Right, right that’s enough,” bellowed Milne, striding across the office, waving his arms around wildly.
“No bruv,” yelled Lammy, over Milne’s shoulder, as he bundled him out of the office. “They’re not givin’ out any Mountain Dew out there but there is a bunch of funny clowns wearing these big fake nose things. We could take our own pop, though. It’ll still be dead fun.”
Milne snapped the door shut, strode back over to his desk and slumped down, head in hands.
“Sorry about that Justin, as you were,” he moaned.
“Erm, Seumas,” said Cohen, nervously. “I think it’s probably time to call it a day, actually.”
Milne slowly looked up. Corbyn’s head was tipped back and his mouth was wide open. The old man let out a loud, guttural snore which echoed around the office.
“Oh, Jeremy does get so passionate when he talks about social justice that he simply wears himself out,” sighed Milne. “Especially when he speaks of Jewish rights.”
Cohen frantically packed up his kit as Corbyn continued to grunt and twitch in his wheelchair.
Milne strode across the office and mournfully wheeled his boss through to the adjoining anteroom.
“Well, thanks for coming in, Justin. I hope your little chat has put all that antisemitism business well and truly to bed,” said Milne, a hint of desperation creeping into his voice as he stepped forward to shake the reporter’s hand. “It just saddens me so much that people don’t realise just how much Jeremy cares about eradicating the ugly scourge of antisemitism.
“Did I mention, for example, that Jeremy is so offended by the character of Fagin in Oliver Twist that he spends his weekends buying Dickens novels from charity shops to put on an annual ‘set antisemitism on fire’ bonfire, the proceeds of which he hands over in full to the Chabad Lubavitch Synagogue and Community Centre?”
“Erm, no,” said Cohen, raising a sceptical eyebrow.
“And…and…that Jeremy was so angry after he saw Schindler’s List that he once swung a punch at a man he thought was Ralph Fiennes outside Finsbury Park tube station? You can put that in your article.”
“Seumas, I don’t think that’s likel…”
“And that Jeremy once killed a cat just because it reminded him a bit of Adolf Hitl….”
“Seeeuuummmaaas!” rang out a reedy screech from the anteroom. “Has that miserly, money grubbing Jew gone back to occupying the West Bank on behalf of his ruthless, apartheid, blood-drinking masters or does he want to spit more Israeli propaganda at me with his forked Zionist tongue? Because if he does he’s going to have to wait because it’s lunch time and I want my tin of beans and my Tomorrow’s Pioneers video on please.”
A long, excruciating silence passed between Milne and Cohen.
“I’ll…show you out,” muttered Milne, gazing awkwardly at the floor as he opened the office door.
He trudged wearily back to his desk, picked up his telephone and jabbed frantically at the buttons.
“Shami, Seumas here,” he mumbled. “Listen Shami, we’re going to need a more robust report…a report that ignores at least twice as much as the last one…”
© DH 2018