Tory mayoral candidate Susan Hall was facing a growing storm on Tuesday after suggesting Jewish Londoners are frightened of Sadiq Khan.
During a Conservative Friends of Israel event at the party’s conference in Manchester on Monday, she said one of the “most important” things she would do if elected Mayor next May would be to make the city “safer” — particularly “for Jewish communities.”
“I know how frightened some of the community is because of the divisive attitude of Sadiq Khan,” she said.
“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.
“I will ask for as much help as I can get in London, because we need to defeat him.”
The comments drew immediate criticism from supporters of the Labour mayor, who is Muslim, and some Jewish groups, who branded the comments “disgusting” and a “dog whistle”.
The Jewish Labour Movement accused Ms Hall of seeking “to use the Jewish community as political pawns,” while its chair, Mike Katz, described the comments as “vile, ignorant and wrong”.
“Sadiq has consistently gone out of his way to work with the Jewish community. He stood with [the Jewish Labour Movement] when we spoke out on anti-Semitism in Labour,” Mr Katz said.
“For Susan Hall to try to use this as a dog whistle is beneath contempt. She should apologise.”
Green London Assembly member Sian Berry said: “I was in the 2016 Mayor campaign and saw the worst dog whistle politics against Sadiq Khan, which Londoners firmly rejected... it is not what London deserves.”
A Conservative Party source told the Standard that Ms Hall’s words got “mangled” and she would “clarify” her comments later on Tuesday.
At an earlier speech at Tory party conference on Sunday, Ms Hall appeared to make a gaffe by saying she hoped to be London’s “first female Labour” mayor.
She swiftly corrected the mistake, saying, “Never Labour. Your first female London Mayor.”
The London mayoral race appears to have narrowed in recent months, with a poll published last week suggesting that Ms Hall is just three points behind the Labour incumbent, who is also seeking another term.
The poll by JL Partners suggests a slim 35 per cent to 32 per cent majority of support for Mr Khan.
The Standard has contacted Ms Hall’s campaign team for comment.