By S Neeraj Krishna
SADIQ KHAN has accused Boris Johnson of displaying “ignorance and arrogance” in handling the pandemic as he urged the government to curb “social mixing of households” in the capital.
The mayor said he had been lobbying the prime minister to impose tougher restrictions in London even before it was placed on the government Covid-19 “watchlist” on Friday (25).
“When I spoke to the prime minister on Tuesday for the first time since May, he was surprised that I was saying there’s a problem in London, and that I was asking for additional measures,” Khan told the Guardian.
“If you go too late, we will already be in a north-east, north-west, Birmingham-type situation. You’ve got to go early, particularly in the absence of testing.”
He noted that the number of coronavirus tests in London had fallen by 43 per cent between mid-August and mid-September as “testing capacity was diverted away… to other national hot spots”.
“The lack of testing capacity is totally unacceptable,” Khan said, adding that London was at “a very worrying tipping point”.
“Minister should get a grip. It’s vital that testing capacity is increased immediately in London…. Any delay will mean letting the city down and will cost lives.”
He believed the government ignored the fact that numerous offices and educational institutions were reopening in London.
“It beggars belief. We all knew that in September there would be a greater need for testing,” he said. “I’m really angry. It’s another example of lessons not being learned. You can explain the delay, incompetence in March. There’s no excuse now.”
Khan had sought tougher measures as a City Hall analysis showed that London was “catching up” with virus hotspots.
“One of the things that I said to the prime minister is: I think we should be following what’s happening around the country and stopping social mixing of households, and I say that with a heavy heart,” he said.
Khan opined that Johnson had “got it wrong again” as he announced relatively softer national curbs on Tuesday.
“I just don’t think he’s understood what the scientific advisers are advising, or what others around the world are doing to try and control this virus,” he added.
Khan also slammed the prime minister’s view that “freedom-loving” Britons were less disciplined than people in other European nationals in following norms.
“We saw Boris Johnson demonstrating two traits this week that many of us know him for: ignorance and arrogance,” he said.
“For us to be told that we’re somehow responsible I think is offensive. You get the impression that the government likes using this phrase ‘individual responsibility’ so they can point the finger at individuals who have caught the virus, as if we’re somehow culpable when, in fact, many of us are doing the right thing.”
Amidst the broadside against the prime minister, Khan also sought to highlight “long-time friend” and Labour leader Keir Starmer’s recent ‘patriotic’ posturing.
“I think Keir’s doing this because this is what he believes,” the London mayor said. “Just to reassure those of your readers who may be thinking, this is not Labour. This is Labour. This is core Labour. We’re patriotic people who want to change our country for the good – and win the big battles, rather than have arguments about things people don’t care about.”