Sadiq Khan and Susan Hall clash at eventful Jewish community mayoral election hustings

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Sadiq Khan and Susan Hall clash at eventful Jewish community mayoral election hustings

Fringe candidate Andreas Michli was ordered to leave the event, chaired by Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer at JW3, after repeatedly heckling from the audience

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Zoe Garbett, Sadiq Khan, Rob Blackie, Susan Hall and Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer at Jewish community hustings
Zoe Garbett, Sadiq Khan, Rob Blackie, Susan Hall and Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer at Jewish community hustings

Sadiq Khan and Susan Hall have appeared onstage together for the first time ahead of a next month’s London mayoral elections at an eventful Jewish community hustings staged at the JW3 community centre.

The Labour and Conservative candidates were joined by Liberal Democrat challenger Rob Blackie and the Greens Zoe Garbett at the sold out event, partnered by Jewish News, on Thursday evening, and chaired by editor Richard Ferrer.

But in an unfortunate incident, it was another fringe candidate in the mayoral race who attempted to steal the show, by repeatedly heckling from the audience alongside other supporters.

The London Jewish Forum hustings were interrupted for several minutes as stewards, JW3 chief executive Raymond Simonson and Ferrer initially attempted to make independent candidate Andreas Michli agree to watch the event in silence.

When he continued to shout out from the audience, Michli, was told he would have to leave the event, and that police were being called to intervene.

Eventually Michli, who previously made headlines after being fined for refusing to shut a north London gym he ran during the pandemic, was escorted out of the venue to the relief of all inside.

In the debate, which took place exactly three weeks before London elects its next mayor on 2 May, all four candidates accepted more needed to be done to tackle rising antisemitism in the capital, to make the community feel safer.

But Khan and Hall in particular clashed on issues around crime, transport, safety and policing.

The current mayor is vying to become the first to serve for three terms in the capital, and his eight years in charge of London, meant he was the obvious target of criticism, particularly from Hall and Blackie.

Given the chance by the chair to first outline the manifestos to the audience, the Lib Dem candidate revealed his own horrific experience of crime in the capital when he was the victim of an attack that broke his neck bone at the time.

“Too many people face the dark reality of crime in the capital,” said Blackie, of the attack which took place “some years ago” prior to Khan becoming mayor.

But Blackie vowed to “get more police back on the frontline” as he suggested the current mayor had failed to tackle crime effectively.

For the Greens Garbett said her experience as a councillor in Hackney had given her experience of listening to people, including the Jewish community.

Sadiq Khan, Rob Blackie, Susan Hall and Richard Ferrer

“I love London, it’s one of the best cities on earth, but some people are having some of the worst times imaginable here,” she said, promising to tackle “landlords getting rich off of people struggling to get by.”

Addressing the crowd next Khan stressed how he had developed close relations with the community over the past two terms adding:”I take particular pride in the relationship we have developed together over the past eight years.

“As a practicing Muslim I’m always humbled by the warmth you’ve shown to me, it means more to me than you will ever know,” he said.

Khan also spoke out about the continued awful plight of the 134 hostages captured by Hamas in Gaza, offering “heartfelt solidarity with Londoners” before then making a surprise pledge.Communal leaders welcome Sadiq Khan’s Golders Green to Stamford Hill 210 bus pledge

He said, to loud cheers:”I’m pleased to announce tonight that if I’m re-elected TFL will extend the 210 bus route, a single decker, from Finsbury Park, to Stamford Hill, to Golders Green.”

It was then Hall’s chance to impress. The Tory candidate revealed she had earlier been in Golders Green where she had met with the community who told her they wanted “better policing.”

Hall added:”Your concerns are my concerns too. I know that many in the Jewish community feel unsafe. The appalling rise in antisemitic hate crime we have seen since the 7th of October terrorist attack is horrifying and heartbreaking.”

JW3’s Raymond Simonson (left) introduces candidates Zoe Garbett, Sadiq Khan, Rob Blakie and Susan Hall, with chair Richard Ferrer, (right).

She also claimed crime had “soared over the past eight years” and said “Sadiq Khan’s war on the motorist has clogged up our roads.”

Hall added:”I am listening to your concerns, and the concerns of Londoners in every corner of our city.”

All four candidates answered some of the 100 questions submitted by Jewish News readers ahead of the event, which were put to them by chair Ferrer.

On policing, Hall repeated her pledge to bring back borough policing. While Khan expressed concern that Met Police officers had not moved to arrest anyone brandishing an image of a swastika on pro-Palestine demos.

Green candidate Zoe Garbett

The Lib Dem candidate noted that there were too many police serving on backroom posts, who could be moved to frontline positions.

Garbett said that she would “not personally” use the From The River To The Sea chant if she was at a pro-Palestine demo.

Surprisingly, several in the audience expressed their concern that a question about what the candidates would wish to see happening in order to make a two-state solution in the Middle East more viable, was not relevant to the night’s proceedings. Chair Ferrer agreed to move on to other topics.

On crime Hall said:”It’s amazing to hear Sadiq Khan try to defend his record. “We have had eight years when violent crime has risen 33% and knife crime is up 54%.”

Khan responded saying:”The idea of a Tory candidate talking about more police is like asking an arsonist to put out a fire.”

In one of the most fiery clashes of the night, Hall accused Khan of “resorting to pathetic personal attacks” after he referenced an incident in which the Conservative councillor had claimed to have been the victim of theft when her wallet was lost, but then found on a seat on the London underground.

The pair also clashed on Khan’s free school meals policy. Hall made the controversial comments including –

Hall claimed: “There is no such thing as a free school meal. People have to pay for it.

“And they are telling me also that they don’t think it’s fair that they are having to pay towards millionaires’ kids or people that can really afford it. And we have to look at this. But there has to be a better way of doing this.”

Khan said:”Delivering universal free school meals for state primary school children has been one of my proudest moments as Mayor.

“They were also lifeline for me personally growing up. With the continuing cost-of-living crisis, it means parents don’t have to worry about whether their children will get a healthy, nutritious meal every day.”

Khan also hit back at the criticism of his record on transport policies at one stage, listing improvements to the train services and cycle and walking routes, and his record of reducing strikes on the underground “by talking to hard-working workers and trade unions.”

At the end of the evening the London Jewish Forum’s Daniella Myers, Mitzvah Day founder Laura Marks and Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl all issued thanks to the candidates and to those who had organised the event.

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