Boris Johnson criticised for 'Sir Keir Schnorrer' remark in newspaper column


Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come under heavy criticism after referring to Labour Party leader Keir Starmer as "Sir Keir Schnorrer" in his weekly

column for the Daily Mail.

ITV presenter and political editor Robert Peston expressed his outrage, describing Johnson's use of the Yiddish term for beggar and scrounger as "pretty offensive." Peston took to X (formerly Twitter) to voice his concerns, stating: "‘Schnorrer’ is the Yiddish word for beggar and scrounger. It is pretty offensive. It was part of the lingua franca of my grandparents and of my childhood. I find it unsettling to see Johnson appropriating it to describe someone whose wife is Jewish."

Johnson's article suggested that if Starmer were to become Prime Minister, he would undermine the UK's independence and make the country subservient to the EU. Peston questioned his followers on social media about whether he was overreacting, but many shared his discomfort with Johnson's Yiddish reference.

Jewish News and Sunday Times columnist Josh Glancy criticized Johnson's misuse of the term, stating: "Don’t bring the Yiddish unless you know what you are doing. Johnson misapplies the word 'schnorrer' here in an attempt to sound vivid and clever. 'Schnorrer' means someone who is stingy or a beggar. It does not mean a trickster or a liar. What a shmendrik."

Tory peer and commentator Danny Finkelstein also agreed with Peston, saying: "I agree with Robert. I can’t imagine what on earth persuaded either Boris Johnson or the Mail to think this was acceptable in any way."

Throughout his political career, Johnson has shown support for the Jewish community and Israel. He participated in a national demonstration against antisemitism in London last November and exploited claims that Jeremy Corbyn was lenient on antisemitism to win the 2019 general election.

In November 2022, Johnson spoke to congregants at the Ruislip Synagogue before resigning as an MP last June, accusing a Commons investigation into whether he misled Parliament over the partygate scandal of trying to "drive me out."

However, Johnson has a controversial past regarding his comments about Jewish people. As a Conservative shadow minister, he faced criticism for a book he wrote that described "Jewish oligarchs" controlling the media and rigging elections. The same book depicted a Jewish character, Sammy Katz, with a "proud nose and curly hair." As editor of the Spectator, Johnson published articles by notorious racist Taki Theodoracopulos, who boasted about being "an antisemite." Photo by GOV.UK, Wikimedia commons.

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