Tory Mayoral Candidate smear of London Muslim Mayor described as ‘vile, ignorant, wrong’ and ‘beneath contempt’
In a speech delivered in a Conservative Friends of Israel event on the fringes of the Conservative Party Conference on Monday, The Conservative Party’s London Mayoral candidate, Susan Hall, caused controversy when she quite openly attempted to smear the Muslim London Mayor as having anti-Semitic credentials. She said:
‘I know how frightened some of the Jewish community is because of the divisive attitude of Sadiq Khan. One of the most important things that I will do when I become mayor of London is to make it safer for everyone, but particularly for our Jewish community.’
When asked to explain her comments to news reporters present she said:
I’ve got so many friends that are literally talking about leaving the country because they don’t feel safe. That is unacceptable in London.’
She was asked to clarify if she was referring specifically to Jewish friends and she replied:
‘Yes, Yes, going to Israel. It shouldn’t be in that state. Since Sadiq Khan has taken over, these sorts of attacks have doubled – literally doubled, over 1,000 or around 1,000 this year…but that’s not good enough’
Jewish Labour Movement and the Board of Deputies say Khan has treated Jewish community with friendship and respect
The Jewish Labour movement (JLM), were appalled by the insinuation that Khan had deliberately neglected or even been responsible for a rise in assaults on the Jewish community. They said that Hall was deliberately seeking ‘to use the Jewish community as political pawns’. The JLM Chair, Mike Katz, described Hall’s comments as:
‘vile, ignorant and wrong’ and added ‘Sadiq has consistently gone out of his way to work with the Jewish community. He stood with us [the Jewish Labour Movement] when we spoke out on anti-Semitism in Labour. For Susan Hall to try to use this as a dog whistle is beneath contempt. She should apologise.’
The Jewish Board of Deputies spokesperson, wasted no time in issuing a statement in response to the comments saying:
‘Sadiq Khan has always treated our community with friendship and respect’
'No fear present at all'
They suggested that at the hustings, which the board intended to host prior to the next mayoral election, ‘it will be clear that there is no ‘fear’ present at all’
LBC Presenter, James O’Brien described the comments as achieving ‘ a new low in British political discourse’
Dog whistling - an election trait
Susan Hall’s deliberate ‘dog whistling’ seems to be following a well trodden pattern of senior party colleagues, including most recently the Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who had to be corrected by her own records office, on statistics she quoted relating to small boat arrivals. According to the Jewish Community’s own anti-Semitism monitoring charity, The Community Support Trust (CST), there have been 447 incidents in London this year related to ant-Semitic incidents, not ‘over 1,000’ as cited by Hall. It is also a matter of record that the number of anti-Semitic incidents is down 4% on the same period in the previous year.
Hall received criticism from both Conservative party colleagues and Jewish groups. The Shadow Health Secretary, Labour MP Wes Streeting, said that her comments were both ‘divisive and disgusting’ and he added in a twitter comment that:
‘Sadiq Khan has repeatedly stood by London’s Jewish communities in the fight against ant-Semitism'
A pattern which echoed earlier attempted smears by senior cabinet ministers
A number of Hall’s critics, have related the remarks to similar smears made by senior Conservative politicians during Khan’s 2016 Election campaign. David Cameron, under parliamentary privilege, made an accusation at that time, that Khan was associated with and close to supporters of the Islamic Sate. This claim was echoed by the Conservative candidate for London Mayor at the time, Zak Goldsmith, who similarly attempted to link Sadiq Khan to alleged 'Islamic extremists'.
Mohammed Amin, the then chair of the Conservative Muslim Forum, joined other senior Tory figures in condemning the attacks on Khan by Goldsmith. He referred to the Goldsmith's remarks as:
‘a disgusting and risible attempt to smear Labour’s winning candidate, Sadiq Khan’
The context of ‘Fear and terrorism’ was also central to the then Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon’s support of Goldsmith, when Fallon described Khan as ‘unfit to be London Mayor’, saying that he was a:
'Labour lackey who speaks alongside extremists'
This consistent attempt by senior Conservative politicians to smear Khan, by attempting to link him to extremism and terrorism by virtue of his Muslim faith, appears to many, to have become a regular feature of the party’s election strategy.