British Conservative Ad About London Crime Used New York Footage

It was a typical political attack ad. “London: a city steeped in history,” a narrator says, as grim string music plays. “But tonight its ancient streets bear witness to a different tale. A tale not of kings and queens, but of crime and desperation.”

Accompanying the ad’s bleak, American-accented narration were dour black-and-white images, including a shadowy figure walking through an alley, a young girl looking sadly out a window and frightened commuters running through a train station.

But there was a problem. Those terrified people dashing to safety? They weren’t in London. They were in Penn Station in New York. In 2017.

The ad, originally posted Monday on social media, was designed to convince Londoners to vote for Susan Hall, the Conservative candidate for mayor, over the incumbent, Sadiq Khan of the Labour Party.

“I think it’s unpatriotic always slagging off the capital city,” Mr. Khan told a BBC News reporter. “But I’m afraid it’s another example of my fear materializing, which is this election from the Conservative Party will be one where there’s disinformation, where there’s lies, and in this case clearly video that wasn’t of our city but of New York.”

Ms. Hall did not respond to a request for comment.

The mistaken footage was identified as coming from a stampede that occurred at Penn Station in April 2017 amid mistaken reports of gunfire. No gunshots were fired, CNN reported at the time. People panicked at the sound of police officers using a stun gun.

Ms. Hall has hammered the crime issue in the campaign, which will end with the election on May 2. “Crime has gotten out of control under Sadiq Khan. This must change,” she said Monday.

While statistics show that crime has trended moderately upward in London since Mr. Khan was elected in 2016, someone in London is still less likely to be a crime victim than the average for Britain as a whole. (For that matter, despite that moment of panic at Penn Station and recent highly publicized cases, major crime is falling in New York as well, police data shows.)

The London-born Mr. Khan became the first Muslim and first person of color to become mayor of London when he was elected with 57 percent of the vote in 2016. He was re-elected in 2021 with 55 percent. He has comfortably led in polls this year as well.

In addition to crime, Ms. Hall has pushed hard against the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone, or Ulez, a plan by which drivers of vehicles that do not meet emissions standards must pay 12 pounds, 50 pence, or about $15.80, per day if they drive in London.

Some wardens doing enforcement work in the emissions zone have covered their faces with balaclavas after facing threats and harassment by activists who oppose the scheme.

The advertisement, both before and after the removal of the Penn Station scene, declares: “In the depths of these narrow passageways tread squads of Ulez enforcers, dressed in black, faces covered with masks, terrorizing communities at the beck and call of their Labour mayor master.”

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