The row was sparked after each of the candidates — who also included Tory Zac Goldsmith, Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon, Green Sian Berry, Ukip’s Peter Whittle and the Women’s Equality Party’s Sophie Walker — were asked to talk about their party leader.
Mr Khan, who nominated Mr Corbyn but did not vote for him, has gone to great lengths to distance himself from the Labour leader, who is regarded by some as an electoral liability.
He told the audience: “The job of a politician is to appeal to everyone, not just to your own tribe. One of my criticisms of the leadership of the Labour party is that we are talking to ourselves. You don’t change people’s lives by losing elections and you don’t change people’s lives by talking to yourself.” But Respect candidate Mr Galloway countered: “Sadiq supports Corbyn like the rope supports the hanging man. He has never voted against a Labour leader in his entire time in Parliament.
Sadiq supports Corbyn like the rope supports the hanging man. He boasts that he’s the least rebellious of politicians and yet since the day and hour Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader he has stabbed him in the back.
“He boasts that he’s the least rebellious of politicians and yet since the day and hour Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader he has stabbed him in the back.”
Richmond Park MP Mr Goldsmith weighed in, describing Mr Khan as “too partisan” to work with the Government to be able to protect London’s police.
He told the audience: “The first line in the job description of a mayor is holding government to account but also getting a good deal from government. My record as a working MP shows that I can and I will.”
Mr Galloway said Britain’s involvement in conflicts in the Middle East and Islamophobia at home were the biggest multipliers of extremism. But Mr Khan, a Muslim, said responsibility for terrorist attacks lay with the terrorists alone and that the vast majority of British extremists were radicalised at home. He told a woman in the audience who called for mosques to be shut down to prevent extremism that her remarks were “extremely offensive”.
Mr Goldsmith “strongly” backed Mr Khan’s words but admitted the Government’s counter-extremism strategy had “failed to find the balance”. Housing, the key issue of the campaign, also dominated the debate. Ms Walker said she would give “first dibs” on housing to victims of domestic abuse. Ms Pidgeon, who has said City Hall should set up its own housing company, said the next Mayor should continue the Olympic precept on council tax to pay for a huge increase in affordable house-building.
Mr Whittle called for a “golden age” of social housing with Londoners getting priority over new homes, while Ms Berry, who rents, said: “There will be an infinite demand for our homes if you’re not controlling who buys them. They will be snapped up by investors and then they will still be charging us the same amount.”