Tory mayoral hopeful Susan Hall has been accused of deploying “dog-whistle” politics in her bid to lead City Hall after claiming Jews are “frightened” under Labour’s Sadiq Khan.
Senior Labour MPs urged the Conservative candidate to retract the “divisive and disgusting” remarks as the Board of Deputies of British Jews said there is “no fear present at all”.
But Hall doubled down on her remarks, arguing that she has “many friends” who are considering not just leaving London because of their fears but leaving the country.
Khan is facing a challenge from Hall as he seeks a third term as London Mayor, a post he has held since 2016.
At a Conservative Friends of Israel event on the fringes of the Tory conference in Manchester, Hall said: “I live in north London and I know the wealth and joy of the (Jewish) community.
“But I tell you something else, I know how frightened some of the community is because of the divisive attitudes of Sadiq Khan.
“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.
“So I will ask for as much help as I can in London because we need to defeat him, particularly for our Jewish community.”
Margaret Hodge, who is Jewish and represents the east London constituency of Barking as an MP, said that “this dog-whistle politics is beneath us all”.
She said that Khan has “always called out antisemitism”, adding: “If she had any integrity, Susan Hall would immediately retract her remarks.”
Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary who represents London’s Ilford North, said Hall’s attack was “divisive and disgusting” and urged Tories to “call this out”.
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, in north London, said: “This is an ugly dog whistle, from a Tory politician who’s only strategy is to spread fear.
“Sadiq Khan stands for all Londoners and has repeatedly fought antisemitism. Susan Hall should withdraw her statement immediately and apologise unreservedly.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews said Khan has always “treated our community with friendship and respect” as London Mayor.
“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 group said.
Hall defended her remarks on GB News, arguing that the policing in London means that “many Jewish people do not feel safe”.
“And I will never apologise for defending the Jewish community,” she said.
“I’ve got so many (Jewish) friends that are literally talking of leaving the country because they don’t feel safe… going to Israel.”
She claimed attacks on Jewish people have “literally doubled” since Khan entered City Hall.
There were 542 antisemitic hate crimes in London in 2016/17 when Khan came to power, and 836 in 2021/22, according to parliamentary research of Scotland Yard figures.
This is not a doubling and the briefing note said of the increase, “in part this may be due to better recording methods”.
But the most recent year did see a much higher spike than in previous years. The researchers attributed this to “violence that occurred in the Middle East in May 2021”.
Press Association – Sam Blewett