Mayoral contenders clash during fiery LBC radio debate

Labour’s Sadiq Khan slams Tory Susan Hall as “dangerous” while Hall slams mayor’s “dreadful” safety record, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Susan Hall and Sadiq Khan on LBC
Susan Hall and Sadiq Khan on LBC

Sadiq Khan was accused by his Tory opponent Susan Hall of making an “outrageous” remark live on air, after he called her “the most dangerous candidate I’ve fought against”.

The Labour mayor made the comment in an LBC radio debate, after being asked by host Tom Swarbrick whether he would “feel safe in a London run by” Hall.

The question was raised after the Conservative candidate defended herself against criticism over her social media activity in recent years, including the fact that she ‘liked’ a post which called Khan a “traitor rat”, and shared another post which referred to him as the mayor of “Londonistan”.

The mayor said: “I’ve thought long and hard about this. I’ve fought three council elections. I’ve fought three parliamentary elections. This is my third mayoral election. The Tory candidate is the most dangerous candidate I’ve fought against.”

Hall hit back: “Well, I think that’s an outrageous comment, and he would feel safer in a Susan Hall mayoralty, because I will do things for the police force that will make Londoners safer – much, much safer.

“Look at your record on safety in London. It’s dreadful. This is the first time the Metropolitan Police has ever gone into special measures.”

In relation to her past social media activity, Hall said: “I’ve learnt that you have to be very, very careful when you just flick on things without thinking twice about it. But I’ve apologised for that, and I have learnt from my mistakes.”

The row continued as, later in the debate, Khan asked Hall whether she regrets “supporting Donald Trump who is a racist, sexist and homophobe” and “liking Enoch Powell”.

He added: “Do you promise to be a mayor, if you win, that unites communities, rather than your record of dividing them?”

He was referring to the fact that Hall during 2020’s US presidential election posted on social media: “Come on Donald Trump – make sure you win and wipe the smile of [sic] this man’s face”, while sharing a video of Khan. Earlier in 2020, she ‘liked’ a post which had an image of Enoch Powell and the words “It’s never too late to get London back”.

The Tory candidate responded: “I do not divide communities. I support all communities. I come from Harrow, where it’s the most diverse borough in London, I’d say. It’s incredible.”

Khan cut in: “Are you going to apologise or not?”

Hall continued: “If you look at all communities, we’ve all got the same values. We all believe in hard work, we all believe in family, and we all believe in fairness – and we should all look at people in that way.”

Swarbrick had earlier asked the Tory candidate: “If you were to win, and were Sadiq Khan to be in a position where he needed the security detail he’s currently got, would you provide it, would you pay for it?”

She replied: “Well, it’s not for the mayoralty, but absolutely. Absolutely, and the one thing he has got to admit is I have never commented on his personal security, because if Sadiq needs personal security, then he should have it, absolutely.”

Khan faced questions at the start of the debate over his record on housing, and whether he will bring in rent controls if he is elected.

Swarbrick pointed out that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said that he disagrees with the mayor on the need for rent controls.

In an interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service in March, Sir Keir said that while Khan “feels strongly” about the measure, it is “not our policy at the moment” to allow them to be introduced in London, if Labour were to form the next government.

Responding to this point, Khan said on LBC: “Look, unlike the Tory candidate, I will stand up to a Labour leader, and a Conservative leader. There are things that Keir and I disagree on, of course there are.

“What I’ve done in my manifesto is set out how we’re going to pay for 6,000 rent-controlled homes, but also support those tenants who are being let down by dodgy landlords.”

He added that Hall is “in the pocket of” the Conservative party’s leadership.

“Oh nonsense,” Hall replied. “He’ll always resort to personal attacks. The reason Keir Starmer doesn’t agree with rent controls is because he knows it doesn’t work.”

She said: “He’s [the mayor] had eight years and he’s really failed on housing. And of course rents will come down when there’s more properties being built, but Sadiq Khan has failed on this.”

On the topic of free school meals, Hall played down her remarks at last week’s ITV debate, where she explained why she believes a more “targeted” system would be better than the mayor’s current universal scheme, which is offering free lunches for all primary school children.

She confirmed on LBC that she would keep Mr Khan’s scheme going in its current form “for another year”. It is unclear whether or how she would alter the system after that point. The mayor accused her of performing “a u-turn live on air”, which she denied.

The debate also featured Green candidate Zoe Garbett and the Liberal Democrats’ Rob Blackie.

Garbett emphasised her plans to reduce the cost of public transport, introduce a new and “fairer” system of road user charging, and to expand free school meals to secondary schools.

Blackie stressed the need for drastic improvements in the police force, particularly in relation to the low ‘clear-up’ rate for sexual offences in the capital.

The Lib Dem also said he would address the city’s housing crisis by establishing a London-owned housing company. Khan made a similar promise at the last election, and said that while preparations have since got underway on one, he will only complete the establishment of such a developer if elected for a third term.

The London mayoral election is on Thursday, 2nd May, along with elections to the London Assembly.

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