Tories urged to select grassroots candidate who can make Sadiq Khan ‘squirm’

Susan Hall has served as a London councillor for nearly two decades, including as leader of her borough
Susan Hall has served as a London councillor for nearly two decades, including as leader of her borough

The Tory Party is being urged to select Sadiq Khan’s former opposite number as its candidate for London mayor because she is the only one who knows him “through and through”.

Supporters of Susan Hall, who was until recently head of the City Hall Conservatives, claim Mr Khan is “scared of her” because she knows his weaknesses and can make him “squirm”.

The list of prospective Tory candidates has so far been whittled down to eight, and will be cut down to three on Sunday.

Paul Scully, London minister, is widely expected to make the shortlist, along with Daniel Korski, former Downing Street adviser turned tech entrepreneur.

Ms Hall is viewed as a champion for the grassroots, having served as a London councillor for nearly two decades, including as leader of her borough.

She has received the backing of Bob Blackman, a Conservative backbencher and secretary of the 1922 Committee, as well as senior Tory MP Mike Freer.

‘Robust choice’

Mr Blackman said she would be the “robust” choice as she has the “experience and credentials” to challenge Mr Khan.

“One of the problems of the mayoralty election is it ends up being more of a personality contest than anything else,” he said.

“That’s why you need someone who is robust, who is going to challenge Sadiq Khan effectively, which Susan has been doing for quite some time now.

“Susan has got the experience and credentials of challenging the mayor. She has been very effective in the assembly in challenging Sadiq Khan on a regular basis.”

Matthew Goodwin-Freeman, a Harrow councillor, said she is the “only candidate who knows Khan through and through”.

“When you are leader of the opposition, you have to know your enemy’s weaknesses. And she’s had years of understanding Sadiq Khan, asking those questions, making him squirm,” he said.

“She understands what London needs so I absolutely think it would be a loss if we didn’t select her.

“In my opinion, Khan is scared of her. If it’s not Susan, then you really ask who. Whenever Khan is confronted by Susan, he is knocked off of his pre-written script. If we select her, I think we’ve got the best chance.”

Enfield councillor Chris Dey said Ms Hall has been “living and breathing” London politics “for decades”.

“She’s clearly led the Conservative group very well, and been a strong opposition on the GLA. So she has the leadership skills, she has the political nous, I believe, and she has the knowledge,” he said.

Samuel Kasumu ‘does not have the numbers’

It comes as former Boris Johnson adviser Samuel Kasumu, widely considered a frontrunner for the nomination, revealed he had not made an internal Tory longlist for the role.

Mr Kasumu has received high-profile endorsements from Grant Shapps, the Energy Security and Net Zero secretary; Steve Baker, a senior Northern Ireland Office minister, and Priti Patel, the former home secretary.

But on Saturday he said he was told he “did not have the numbers”.

He urged the London Board and Downing Street to “not let this process end in this way”, adding it is “not too late to do the right thing”.

In a statement, he said: “I am a democrat. I am not arrogant enough to believe that I would have been selected by the members had they had the choice.

“But what I have done over the last few months is articulate a vision that many people wanted to hear more about. I urge the London Board and Downing Street as true democrats not to let this process end in this way.

“The future of the Conservative Party in London and the wider city itself needs us to put forward the best possible candidate, after due process. Too much is at stake. It is not too late to do the right thing.”