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Susan Hall: Tory London mayor hopeful accused of Sadiq Khan 'dog whistle' attack

Speaking at a Conservative Friends of Israel event, Susan Hall said Jewish communities were frightened under Khan's mayorship
Hall is running a tight race against Khan, who has served as mayor since 2016 (AFP)
Hall is running a tight race against Khan, who has served as mayor since 2016 (AFP)

The British Conservative Party is embroiled in controversy after its mayoral candidate for London, Susan Hall, claimed the city's Jews were "frightened" of rival Sadiq Khan's "divisive" attitudes.

Members of Khan's Labour Party described the comments on Monday as a "dog whistle" attack on the incumbent London mayor, who has been in the position since 2016 and is the first Muslim to assume the role.

Speaking at a Conservative Friends of Israel event at the Conservative Party Conference in the city of Manchester, Hall said, "I know how frightened some of the (Jewish) community are because of the divisive attitudes of Sadiq Khan."

She added: "One of the most important things we can do when I become mayor of London is make it safer for everybody, but particularly for our Jewish community."

The remarks caused uproar amongst Khan's colleagues in the Labour party, including Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting, who said: "Sadiq Khan has repeatedly stood by London’s Jewish communities in the fight against antisemitism. Susan Hall’s dog whistle politics have no place in London."

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"Will decent Conservatives ever call this out?" he added in the statement made on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The remarks were also condemned by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which said they were part of "a pattern of Islamophobia within Conservative London Mayoral candidate campaigns".

“It is unacceptable that someone with views as divisive as Susan Hall, and an affinity for Enoch Powell no less, be selected as the Conservative London mayoral candidate," said MCB secretary general Zara Mohammed.

"The Conservative Party leadership must now hold Susan Hall to account; reject Islamophobia and divisive campaigning, that serves only to pit communities against one another," she added.

Hall and Khan are running a close race according to opinion polls in the lead-up to 2024's London mayoral election.

Speaking to British broadcaster GB News on Tuesday, Hall doubled down on her comments and refused to apologise.

"The way that policing is in London, so many Jewish people do not feel safe. That's wrong and I will never apologise for defending the Jewish community," she said.

Commenting on Hall's speech, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, one of the most influential British Jewish organisations, defended Khan's record with the Jewish community, saying he had treated their community with "friendship and respect".

"We hope to co-host the key mayoral candidates at a 2024 Jewish hustings, where it will be clear that while London Jews may have varying political views, there is no fear present at all," the organisation said on X.

Previous controversies

Hall's comments are not the first time she's courted controversy personally nor is it the first time the Conservative Party has been accused of instrumentalising Khan's faith in an election campaign.

In 2020, Hall was accused of liking a social media post featuring a quote by Enoch Powell, a notorious figure in the British political establishment famous for his strident opposition to immigration into Britain.

His 1968 "rivers of blood" speech warned of a future of communal violence between white communities and those of colour.

When challenged about her online activity, Hall told broadcaster LBC: "If you're a serial tweeter, you tend to go through liking all sorts of things," adding: "If anybody is offended, then obviously I would apologise."

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Hall's predecessor as London mayoral candidate, Shaun Bailey, found himself in hot water in 2018 when an old pamphlet he had written in 2005 resurfaced.

In it, he warned that accommodating Muslims and Hindu cultures in the UK would lead to the country becoming a "crime-riddled cesspool". Bailey lost to Khan in the 2021 London mayoral election.

Khan's opponent in the 2016 race was also condemned for using anti-Muslim prejudice in his election campaign.

In an infamous Evening Standard interview illustrated with the image of a bus destroyed in the 2005 London bombings, Zac Goldsmith accused Khan of ties to extremists.

“I think he is playing with fire. The questions are genuine, they are serious. They are about his willingness to share platforms with people who want to ‘drown every Israeli Jew in the sea’," Goldsmith said.

The comments were condemned by other Conservative members and by his own sister, Jemima Goldsmith.

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