Jeremy Hunt says he agrees '150%' with Donald Trump's criticism of Sadiq Khan on knife crime

Alan McGuinness, political reporter

Tory leadership contender Jeremy Hunt has said he agrees "150%" with Donald Trump's criticism of Sadiq Khan on knife crime.

The US president and the London mayor have been engaged in a long-running feud over the issue.

And the war of words continued at the weekend, with Mr Trump sharing a post from political commentator Katie Hopkins.

Her original post referred to the capital as "Stab-City" and "Khan's Londonistan" alongside two screenshots of BBC News articles about the violence.

Quoting this post, Mr Trump wrote: "LONDON needs a new mayor ASAP. Khan is a disaster - will only get worse!"

Speaking at a Westminster hustings for Tory leadership hopefuls, Mr Hunt said the US president "has his own style" and he "would not use those words myself".

The foreign secretary added: "But the sentiment is enormous disappointment that we have a Mayor of London who has completely failed to tackle knife crime and has spent more time on politics than the actual business of making Londoners safer and in that I 150% agree with the president."

Leadership rival Sajid Javid, the home secretary, slammed Mr Trump, saying it was "unbecoming" for the US president to intervene in an ally's domestic politics.

He said: "I think President Trump should stick to domestic policies and I think it is unbecoming of a leader of such a great state to keep trying to interfere in other countries' domestic policies."

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Mr Javid added: "The president is right to be concerned about serious violence but he should be concerned about the serious violence in his own country, where it is more than 10 times higher than it is in the UK."

International Development Secretary Rory Stewart said in a response to Hopkins' tweet: "I 100% disagree with both the language and the sentiment of the last sentence of this tweet. Can all candidates please confirm the same."

Tory peer Baroness Warsi, the first Muslim woman to serve in cabinet, said she had spoken to Mr Hunt since his comments.

She said Mr Hunt had "assured me that he abhors Katie Hopkins, her disgusting views and everything she stands for".

Baroness Warsi, a former Conservative Party chairwoman, added: "He believes the term Londonistan is offensive and would never endorse sentiments that try and frame London's knife crime challenge as a racial or religious phenomenon.

"We should always call out racism but also important to allow people to clarify and judge them accordingly."

Labour's shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said: "Jeremy Hunt should be ashamed of himself for his comments today.

"Unworthy of him as an individual, and certainly not worthy of a potential prime minister."

Reacting to the president's latest attack, Mr Khan said: "It's for Donald Trump to explain his tweets, not for me, but it's remarkable that you've got the president of the USA amplifying the tweets of a far-right activist, amplifying a racist tweet.

"That's one of my concerns about Donald Trump - he's now seen as a poster boy for racists around the world, whether you're a racist in this country, whether you're a racist in Hungary, a racist in Italy, or a racist in France.

"He's now a poster boy for the far-right movement and that should cause us huge concern."

Mr Khan claimed the US president was "obsessed" with him and said that many cities were facing an increase in violent crime.

He added: "There are many good leaders in America facing massive increases in violent crime, they have my support to make sure we learn lessons from each other and that we work together to grapple the issue of violent crime taking place in many cities across the Western world."

The leadership hustings did not feature frontrunner Boris Johnson, who declined to take part.

The former foreign secretary also did not appear at a Channel 4 debate on Sunday, drawing criticism that he is avoiding scrutiny.

But supporters defended his decision not to participate.

Brexit minister James Cleverly told Sky News: "At this stage in the process, it's about winning support of parliamentary colleagues, which is what Boris Johnson is doing.

"He's been very successful in that and I hope he continues to be successful in that.

"When it comes down to the final two, that's the appropriate point in the process to have the wider debate with the membership of the Conservative party and the country as a whole."

Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group of eurosceptic Tory MPs, said Sunday night's contest was the "wrong stage for a debate" because it was "too early" and there were "too many candidates".

The second ballot of Conservative MPs will take place on Tuesday, with Mr Johnson again expected to easily come top.

Ahead of the vote, Mr Johnson was boosted by backing of Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who pulled out of the race last week.

All eyes will be on who finishes second and which candidates are eliminated from the race, with the support of 33 MPs required to progress.

Mr Javid, Mr Stewart and Dominic Raab - who all got under 30 votes in the first ballot - have all insisted they have enough supporters to make it through.