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Behind enemy lines: When Jeremy Corbyn was spotted in Tory headquarters back in 1971

By Toby Neal | Wellington | Politics | Published: | Last Updated:

Labour supporters, make sure you're sitting down.

Jeremy Corbyn with members of SCAR at Wellington Tory Party HQ in 1971

Because we bring you a world exclusive which will rock the party to its very core and have you rubbing your eyes in disbelief.

Today we publish a November 1971 picture which shows Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, in the heart of enemy territory – at the Tory Party headquarters in Wellington.

And we can also reveal that it was not unknown back then for him to have a sociable pint or two with a local Tory.

Back in 1971 Jezza was a stereotypical bearded leftie

Mind you, we have to admit there were special circumstances.

At the time the bearded young Jezza, who lived on the outskirts of Newport, was a leading light in SCAR, which stood for Shropshire Committee Against Racialism, which was presenting a petition to the Tory Wrekin MP of the day, Dr Tony Trafford.

The anti-racism group was chaired by a local Conservative – he belongs to no party now – George Evans.

George, who is 95, remembers Corbyn well.

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"As far as anti-racism was concerned, I got on with him 100 per cent," he said.

Wellington's George Evans, now 95, is no longer a member of a political party

"The Young Socialists were go-getters, enthusiasts, and sixth-formers mostly (Corbyn in fact would have been 22 at the time) who wanted to have a Shropshire committee against racism, but thought they had a reputation of being wild lefties, which was fair enough, and wanted for preference a chairman who wasn't connected with the Labour Party who was not a racist. They picked on me.

"I was a Tory by marriage. I was a member of the Conservative Party. I was probably at the extreme left wing of the Conservative Party.

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"He came across to me as a very enthusiastic and intelligent young fellow, with a lot of enthusiasm for things you might call Marxist if you are that way inclined – left wing ideas, not all of which I disagreed with in spite of my membership of the Tory Party.

"I was not a very good Tory, although my wife (Naomi) was very keen indeed.

A younger, clean-cut Corbyn at the first annual dinner of Wrekin Young Socialists in 1967

"Jeremy I liked. I didn't necessarily agree with everything he said or believed, but what he believed, he believed.

"I got on with him quite easily as he was intelligent and an interesting person.

"He and his group were ever so keen on passing resolutions. They thought if they passed a resolution the Press would get it and they could tell everybody.

"This didn't really make much difference to the world. What I wanted them to do was practical things, like getting together the West Indians and Indians and doing practical things, like tasting each other's cooking."

'Jeremy is no anti-Semite'

At the time, says George, Indian wives were not allowed, by their husbands mostly, to learn English, and he strove for that to be changed.

As for the allegations of anti-Semitism which have been laid against Corbyn, George said: "Absolute rubbish. I cannot imagine for one moment that Jeremy Corbyn could possibly be an anti-Semite.

"What the problem is is that he is in favour of all sorts of people, particularly people who are persecuted, and he is in favour of Palestinian Arabs who are persecuted. He has supported them when they have been persecuted by the Israeli jews. That isn't anti-Semitism at all."

Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs this week

George did get to know Corbyn socially as well.

"You know what sixth formers are like. They like to meet in a pub. I certainly had a pint or two with Jeremy Corbyn, at the Raven in Wellington, as it happens."

George, who fought in Normandy after D-Day but is now a pacifist who instigated the Wellington Peace Garden, said Corbyn had not changed his basic beliefs.

"I haven't changed mine either."

'An interesting discussion'

The occasion which took Corbyn into the Conservative Offices in Queen Street, Wellington, was the handing in of a petition of 700 signatures collected by SCAR in protest against the Tory government's proposed Immigration Bill.

We don't still have the original print of the picture, so we have taken it direct from the Shropshire Journal report carried on November 19, 1971.

The accompanying story read in part: "SCAR member Mr Jeremy Corbyn said after the petition had been handed over to Dr Trafford: 'Obviously, we didn't agree on most issues. We disagreed about the Race Relations Act and the need for it and we obviously disagreed over the Immigration Bill.'

"However, it had been an 'interesting' discussion, added Mr Corbyn."

The caption was: "Pictured with Dr Trafford are Miss Andrea Davies (secretary), Mr Swarm Singh Sangha (president of the Indian Workers' Association), Mr Corbyn, Mr P. Sturges, and Mr George Evans (chairman of SCAR)."

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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