Jewish community hustings 2024: London does democracy

Jewish community hustings 2024: London does democracy

Thursday evening’s Jewish community hustings held at the JW3 cultural centre on Finchley Road was the first such event at which the candidates of all four main political parties in London appeared. It might be the last.

It’s a shame there haven’t been more such occasions. As forums for debate, hustings have weaknesses as well as strengths, but it was good to see the quartet having a reasonable amount of time to set out their ideas and argue their cases.


Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer chaired the event, drawing on a large number of pre-submitted questions. The first, following each candidate’s short introductory speech, was about the policing of pro-Palestine marches in London, specifically the use of swastikas as a symbol critical of Israel and chants of “from the river to the sea”. The context, of course, the big rise in antisemitic incidents since the Hamas atrocities of 7 October.

All four candidates condemned swastika imagery and all said the “rivers” chant should not be used, with Hall alone declining to allow that it can mean different things to different people or in some cases be used naively.

Khan said it had been established that using it outside a synagogue “is breaking the law” but said the key point was not about legality or otherwise: “If you know that it causes distress, anxiety and upsets to your Jewish friends and neighbours, don’t chant it – it’s as simple as that.”

Crime and policing

Wider points were made about crime and policing at this point and again later in the evening. Hall repeated her promise to increase street patrols, restore “borough policing” – taken to be a reversion to the old borough operational command unit structure dismantled through mergers between 2017 and 2019 – and, a newer pledge, to ensure every borough has two “police bases”.

Khan said more than a £1 billion had been lost from police budgets due to Conservative government funding cuts and that he had doubled what the Met gets from City Hall in an attempt to make up for it. He likened Hall being in charge of Met funding to “asking an arsonist to put out a fire”.

Blackie, whose campaign slogan is “fix the Met”, accepted that the Tories have slashed budgets, citing Baroness Casey’s report to give examples of how thinly the service is stretched, but said the Mayor could have done more to make up for that. He advocated devoting less City Hall money to funding fares freezes and less police time being spent on stopping and searching people for cannabis.

Garbett, Blackie and Hall all said anxiety about crime has risen – a view supported by Redfield and Wilton’s poll for On London, which found that two-thirds of Londoners are more concerned that they might become victims of crime than they they were five years ago.

Hall spoke in particular about the fears of women. Blackie expressed concern about inefficient investigations of reported sexual offences. Garbett stressed the importance of prevention and argued that improvement was not a simple matter of putting more police on the streets. She wants better vetting of recruits, more responsiveness to community concerns and less “over policing” of young black Londoners.

Khan, defending his record, said violent offending had risen across the country, arguing that this was a reflection of under-resourcing, and that nonetheless, during his time as Mayor, there had been falls in the number of young people injured with knives, the number of homicides, in gun crime and in burglaries.

Housing and planning

At the end of the section about marches, Ferrer embarked on asking the candidates how they would secure a “viable Palestine and a secure Israel”, but heeded audience members urging him to stick to issues closer to home.

This brought us to housing. Hall said she would replace Khan’s “dreadful” London Plan, City Hall’s master blueprint for the city’s development, with something much slimmer, saying the current one “creates so much bureaucracy” it slows down planning permissions being granted.

Garbett said her mission was to bring down private sector rents, especially with young people in mind, and would set up a commission to identify the best form of rent control for London (though Mayors don’t currently have powers to introduce it). Hall, demonstrating her faith in market forces, said rents would come down if the supply of rented properties increased.

Khan banged familiar drums about more homes in London being completed since the 1930s and both starting and completing more council houses that at any time since the 1970s. He repeated his campaign launch event pledge see see 40,000 new council homes completed by 2030 in alliance with a Labour national government. “We are the builders, not the blockers,” he said.

Blackie, too, said bureaucracy in the planning system is a problem and mentioned Lib Dem-run Sutton Council’s wholly-owned housing development company Sutton Living as a model for a similar City Hall set up that could accelerate housebuilding. Blackie said this has fallen far short of the needs of a population that has risen fast in the past 15 years.


Garbett said “unfairness is built in” to London’s system, even though she’s quite proud of it. She wants to extend free public transport to all under-22s and restore it to round the clock for over 60s. As Mayor, she would conduct a review of ULEZ charges and investigate a pay-per-mile road user charging model “looking at how far people travel, the size of their car, the weight of their car” and so on, in close consultation with Londoners. She’d work more closely with councils on improving conditions for walking and cycling, she said.

Blackie was sharply critical of Khan, describing his policies throughout his eight years as “completely irresponsible”, saying that his fares freezes had “mainly helped tourists” and taken money out the system, which is why it “creaks” in the form of cuts to bus services and Tube trains breaking down. With a warning that a Labour government might not provide much financial help, he said financial stability at TfL would put it in a stronger position to secure loans and get a better deal from the government to pay for improved services and a good long term pay deal for the workforce.

Hall claimed that Low Traffic Neighbourhoods – which she accepted were the responsibility of boroughs – and 20 mph speed limits, such as on Finchley Road, were causing “gridlock” and denounced the ULEZ expansion as nothing but a tax. Khan hailed the Northern line extension, the introduction of the “hopper” bus fare and the completion of the Elizabeth line and accused Hall of talking down London, saying this was “unpatriotic”.

Free school meals

Blackie and Garbett applauded Khan’s policy – as do 70 per cent Londoners, according to Redfield and Wilton’s poll – and Garbett repeated her ambition to extend it beyond primary schools to secondary schools.

There were sharp exchanges between Khan and Hall, with the latter, although she has said she would retain it for a year, saying “there is no such thing as a free meal”, meaning that tax payers ultimately fund the scheme, with some who have little money and perhaps no children effectively buying lunch for young children whose parents could be very wealthy.

Khan responded with a defence of “universalism”, recalling the “stigma” of being a free school meals kid and equating Hall’s stance with saying “wealthy people shouldn’t have free health care” at point of use.

Rounding up

Khan had more supporters in the house than Hall. In his opening statement, he expressed his gratitude as “a practising Muslim” for the “warmth” he has always felt from Jewish Londoners which he said “sends a powerful message to the world about our city”. And he scored a big early hit by announcing TfL will be extending the 210 bus route to provide a direct, single-decker link between Stamford and Golders Green, home areas to London’s largest Orthodox Jewish communities, answering a long-standing request.

His supporters greatly enjoyed his jokes at Hall’s expense, especially when he brought up the strange case of the Tube pickpocketing that never was. Hall, in what felt like a schooled line, accused him making a personal attack – as if she and her party at national level haven’t been directing attacks on Khan as an individual for months on end.

Yet Hall, on the whole, came across as a less crudely Hard Right figure than she does from her perturbing social media back catalgue and censorious, ultra-negative campaign persona. Her view that the London Plan is too detailed is shared by sensible figures in the development sector, and you don’t have to be a Tory to accept that increasing the supply of private rented homes might be a better way to produce lower rents than rent controls, which can have unintended ill effects. And there are Labour people in London who share at least some of her scepticism about bike lanes and LTNs.

Blackie demonstrated a firm grasp of his arguments about priorities with transport budgets and how quite small and simple changes in police resource priorities might bring about larger benefits. He comes across as capable, detail-focused and practical. His views on housing supply and the need to step it up are relatively novel in a party often accused of Nimbyish parochialism.

Garbett confirmed that she’s a confident and articulate maker of the Green case, and also shrewdly alive to which sections of the electorate her party most appeals to – the young, the idealistic, climate change warriors, the leafier elements of the London Left.


All told, despite some tiresome heckling from a fringe mayoral candidate, it was an excellent event that left me with a fuller, clearer sense of what the four candidates are offering and where and how they differ. And it felt nice for me, not a Jewish person, to be admitted to a London Jewish institution and to be among Jewish and other fellow Londoners, all of us together, doing the thing we call democracy.

Watch the hustings in full HERE. Read the Jewish Manifesto for London via HERE

Support and its writers for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE. Threads: DaveHillOnLondon. X/Twitter: On London and Dave Hill.

Categories: News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *