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Susan Hall: ‘My message to Sadiq Khan? Move aside and let a woman take over’

Susan Hall: 'My message to Sadiq Khan? Move aside and let a woman take over'

In the first instalment of GLAMOUR's coverage of London's mayoral elections, we spoke to Sadiq Khan about his plan for Londoners. Next up? We sat down with his main rival, Susan Hall, to see if she's presenting a credible alternative. Who will earn your vote?

Like most women in London, Susan Hall knows what it's like to walk home with her keys clenched between her knuckles.

According to the Conservative candidate, who is running against Sadiq Khan in London's upcoming mayoral elections, women in the city are feeling “far less safe now than we did eight years ago [when Khan was first elected in 2016].”

In the first instalment of GLAMOUR's coverage of London's mayoral elections, we spoke to Sadiq Khan, who conceded that while women still don't feel safe in the capital, he's not short of measures to address the issue. But Hall is far from convinced. Her message for Khan? “Move over and let a woman take over.”

There's no love lost between Hall and Khan, who have been at each other's throats for the best part of eight years. Khan recently described the Tory candidate as “the most dangerous candidate I’ve fought against”, while Hall, during her interview with GLAMOUR, accuses Khan of being misogynist towards female political opponents. “He just dismisses you,” she says.

For the second part of GLAMOUR's coverage of the London mayoral elections, Purpose Editor Lucy Morgan caught up with Susan Hall, the Conservative candidate, to find out how she plans to tackle violence against women and girls in London, from restoring trust in the police to taking a harder stance on knife crime…

Susan Hall: 'My message to Sadiq Khan? Move aside and let a woman take over'

In her bid to replace Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London, Hall hopes to succeed where two men in the Conservative Party have previously failed (Zac Goldsmith in 2016; and Shaun Bailey in 2021). But this doesn't faze her, she tells me during our interview in Condé Nast's London office on a sunny Wednesday afternoon; she's “lived in a man's world forever.”

“I was the first female leader of Harrow council,” she tells me. “It shows that if women set out to do what they want to, they can do it. You've just got to be focused on it.” It's exactly the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps attitude you might expect from a politician with a favourite Margaret Thatcher quote – “If you want something said, ask a man. But if you want something done, ask a woman” – and who has photo ops in Barbie-pink, ULEZ-non-compliant taxi cabs.

But it's hard to argue with the fact that, as a woman, Hall necessarily has a personal insight into so-called ‘women’s issues' that no man – probably not even Sadiq Khan – can replicate. “My daughter feels safer with me just ringing her while she walks home,” Hall explains. “Now I pretend I want to hear about the grandchildren and all that, but we both know that I want to make sure she gets home.”

Hall's plans for improving women's safety rest largely on the following policies: introducing a dedicated Women's Commissioner, improving the TfL's response to sexual harassment, and restoring trust in the Met Police through an extra £200 million worth of funding, the return of borough-based policing, and recruiting 1500 more police officers.

“If you can't tell your daughters, your sisters, or your mothers, if you are in trouble, go and ask a policeman. Where are we as a society?”

Is it possible to reconcile these policies with the justifiable distrust women have for the police? “Oh god,” Hall begins. "You must have felt it as well when Sarah Everard was murdered. That absolute horror, having worked with the police for years, to find out it was one of their own.

“The fact that young women, in particular, now would be nervous about doing that, it's done so much damage, and we've got to get that trust and confidence back in the police. If you can't tell your daughters, your sisters, or your mothers, if you are in trouble, go and ask a policeman. Where are we as a society?”

According to Hall, bringing back borough-based policing will help people in the community see that police officers are “human beings like them.” She adds, “I will be asking police officers if you know you are working with somebody […] like that vile, ghastly man [in reference to Wayne Couzens, who kidnapped, raped, and murdered Sarah Everard in March 2021], you've got to report it because it's your profession that is getting absolutely hammered over this and quite rightfully so.”

I ask how she plans to change cultural attitudes within the Met itself. “One of the big things,” Hall starts, “is making this absolute plea to police officers.”

"They know who they're working with. The lads that were working with that vile pig [Couzens] knew, and I've forgotten what his nickname was…"

Here, I point out that one of Couzen's nicknames from fellow officers was ‘the rapist’.

“Yes, I think it was,” Hall continues. “If you've got that reputation, then we've got to take responsibility for our own actions. And if we see somebody who is what we would term unsavoury – to put it mildly – police officers, in particular, have got to call these people out, and we've got to make sure we remove them from the Metropolitan Police and every other police force as soon as possible.”

Not quite ready to drop it, I ask if Hall accepts that misogyny in the Met is institutional rather than exceptional, as per the findings of the Casey review. Does she see this as a ‘bad apple’ issue?

“We've got to remember that there are about 35,000 frontline officers and 10,000 staff. So we are looking at an organisation of 45,000 people. There are going to be rotten apples in that, and there are far too many. But I do believe we can address it. I do believe we must address it. So, I wouldn't term it as a few bad apples. There are far too many for that, I'm afraid. But I don't think it is unsolvable.”

Hall later adds that she's never liked the term “institutional”. She notes, "I think that puts a shadow over all of the officers, and the morale in the police is so low. We have all got to make sure that our officers are up and firing on all cylinders in order to keep us safe.

“So, I've never liked the term. I do accept unreservedly there are misogynists [in the Met]. There is, let's face it, there are misogynists everywhere – the way that Sadiq Khan treats us is appalling.”

I'm intrigued to learn more about Hall and Khan's dynamic. Who is she referring to when she says “the way Sadiq Khan treats us”? “Women,” she clarifies. “He talks down to us.”

Hall is one of the 25 elected members of the London Assembly, which scrutinises and votes on the mayor's policies and budgets. Hall claims that Khan shows a lack of respect to all the women on the Assembly, including Caroline Pigeon, a Liberal Democrat who is stepping down in the coming election. She further claims that Pigeon “once turned around to Khan and said, 'Don't talk over me. You talk over all the women on the assembly.'”

“And he does,” Hall continues. “We were a bit cheeky. We did a video just to prove it. He does. He just dismisses you. I've never had a meeting with him. He just dismisses you. He literally goes like that,” she motions her hand as if brushing someone away.

Hall's team later sent me an edited compilation YouTube video of Khan, which, amongst several out-of-context clips, indeed shows Pigeon saying to Khan, “Stop interrupting me. You interrupt all the women in this chamber when we speak.”

A spokesperson for the mayor said, “Thursday's election is a close two-horse race between Sadiq and a hard-right Tory candidate, who has herself said she is not a feminist and who has suggested police misconduct against women should be dealt with behind closed doors.

"The Tory government has imposed £1bn cuts on the Met with a devastating impact on the services that keep women safe."

"By contrast, Sadiq is a vocal feminist who has invested a record £163m on tackling violence against women and girls in London.”

A lengthy scroll down Hall's ‘X’ feed turns up plenty of evidence for the “hard-right” characterisation levelled her way. In November 2020, Hall tweeted, “Come on Donald Trump- make sure you win and wipe the smile of this man’s [Khan's] face [sic].” In 2023, she replied to one of Laurence Fox's tweets with “Oh Laurence”, followed by a facepalm emoji. The tweet in question contained an image of a pride flag cropped to resemble a swastika.

We start with the Donald Trump tweet. Does Hall regret aligning herself with the disgraced ex-President in this way? “I've apologised for my tweets and if they upset anybody, I'm truly sorry about that,” she replies. “But I think you do learn from your mistakes. I have made mistakes on Twitter, no doubt about it.”

Was it a mistake, then, to engage with Laurence Fox the way she did? "I did a hand palm [emoji], and it was because in my head I looked at [the tweet], and I thought, oh, for God's sake, that is terrible.

“So that was what it was meant. But this is typical of social media. I know what I thought and I put it down, my learnings are not everybody knows what you're thinking. Lots of people will twist things.

"I've learned from it, and I don't interact like I used to because people will twist my words. You will do things by accident. But I have learned from it and we have to move on because this job that I want to undertake, there's so much that I can make a difference on.”

Hall explains that one such area is tackling knife crime in the capital. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released last week, knife crime increased in London by 20% in the year to December. She (and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak) have laid the blame for this firmly on Khan's door, while the mayor points to the Conservative government's “legacy of cuts” to police and youth provision.

Khan has pledged to continue funding for mentoring to tackle crime, with £8m to extend the “MyEnds” scheme from eight to 19 London boroughs.

If elected as mayor of London, how would Hall stop knife crime? "I'm a massive supporter of stop and search, but very many Londoners don't like the physical fact of somebody putting their hands in their pockets.

“So every frontline officer I would equip with a knife wand to literally go over somebody's body to see if they've got metal. Then, of course, if it bleeps up, they would have to physically check to see if they're carrying a knife or a gun. That would cause less angst with Londoners being stopped.”

I ask how she would ensure this wasn't used disproportionately against Black people. “There should always be an assessment by the local police as to who may be carrying a knife, and there's far more intelligence out there,” she responds. “Wherever the police think there could be a knife, then they must go in.”

Does this all come back to our earlier discussion about attitudes within the police itself? “Black kids are four times more likely to be stabbed than white kids,” Hall says, referencing ONS statistics from 2023 that show Black people in England and Wales are four times as likely to be murdered (not necessarily stabbed, it's worth noting) than white people.

“We've got to address that,” Hall continues. “If you are a mother sending your kid out, I mean you'd be so worried about whether they're going to come back safely. And so we can't be frightened of looking at this. We have got to get the knives off the streets, whoever are carrying them for everybody's sake.”

While safety is an important aspect of Hall's mayoral campaign, dismantling the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) takes priority. And in her view, these issues are more connected than you might think.

Ulez is a transport scheme designed to reduce air pollution in London. Essentially, people who drive cars that don't meet clean emission rules (usually older cars) will have to pay a charge to drive into London. Khan's decision to expand the Ulez to the outer edges of Greater London has been welcomed by charities, including C40 Cities, Mums for Lungs, and Asthma + Lung UK. However, its detractors – Prime Minister Rishi Sunak included – argue that it disproportionately impacts people who are already struggling with the cost of living.

The Ulez battle has dominated London's mayoral elections, but where does women's safety fit into it? Hall is only too happy to tell me. “The Ulez expansion is really harmful, particularly for women,” she begins. “Young women who need their cars are very often doing shift work, who need to drive into London – and there isn't the transport like there is here in [Central] London. And they've now have got to pay £12.50 extra a day… young women just cannot afford that.”

“Young women that go out on an evening used to get back to the station and drive home. Now they're finding they have to walk from the station home […], and they feel it's dangerous […]; therefore, they're not going out as much.”

Is the Ulez a feminist issue, then? “No," Hall is firm. "It affects everybody that cannot afford to replace their car.” I get the sense that she's not too fond of the ‘F-word’.

According to a 2023 report by Global Black Maternal Health, women and children from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds experience a disproportionate burden of health impacts from air pollution in London. If elected as London's next mayor, how would Hall address this inequality?

“I can answer that straight away,” she begins. “Sadiq Kahn's own impact assessment of the Ulez expansion showed it would make virtually no difference whatsoever. So this is nothing but a tax, and it's a tax on poor Londoners.”

Hall is referring to a section in the Ulez impact assessment, carried out by consultants Jacobs in 2022, which notes that the expansion is “estimated to have a minor (NO2) to negligible (PM2.5) beneficial impact on exposure to air pollution and achieving WHO Interim Targets across Greater London.”

The same report notes that the Ulez expansion is “expected to contribute towards the improvement of health outcomes and reduction of health inequalities for all population groups.”

A spokesperson for the mayor said, “The evidence shows that ULEZ is working. 95% of vehicles seen driving on London’s roads are now compliant and don’t need to pay a penny. Thousands of drivers have now received money to scrap their dirty vehicles, helping clean up London’s air and protect Londoners’ health.”

After a slightly unconvincing foray into the Ulez debate, we return to the matter at hand: women's safety. What does Hall think about Khan's proposal to introduce women's safety audits, which, in his words, will “put the direct experiences of women and girls right at the centre of how we make decisions about safety in London?”

“Yeah,” Hall replies. “He's been in charge eight years, so you can imagine what I think about that.”

Does she think Khan should have introduced them earlier? "Yeah, because he's been told by all of us, we don't feel safe. Now, there's an election coming. Suddenly, you'll think of lots of different things that we all should need.

“Well eight years on, he should move over and let a woman take over here, which will make a difference for the lot of us because I know how a woman feels. I am a woman. I've gone through lots of misogyny in my life. Things, thank God, are changing. They really are from when I first went to work, and that's right. But we've still got a long way to go.”

Hall's right; we do have a long way to go before women truly feel safe in London. But can she cover the distance in time?

For more from Glamour UK's Lucy Morgan, follow her on Instagram @lucyalexxandra.