Sadiq Khan blasts Boris Johnson for London M25 lockdown speculations


Sadiq Khan today called on Boris Johnson to involve London’s leaders in future lockdown plans as the Mayor revealed he had not been invited to a meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee in 12 weeks. 

In a letter sent to the Prime Minister on Monday, Mr Khan wrote that the last time he was invited to Cobra meeting was in early May.

The message from the Mayor and chair of London Councils, Peter John, came following widespread reports over the weekend that the Government had discussed plans to use the M25 to seal off the capital if there is another spike in Covid-19 infections.

The Times reported that Mr Johnson held a “war game” session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday to run through possible options in the event of a second wave, and measures are said to include lockdown-like conditions for London, with the M25 acting as a barrier around the capital.

Mr Khan wrote that reports of the plans – since denied as “just speculation” by housing minister Robert Jenrick – had come as a “great surprise” to City Hall and warned against “riding roughshod over democratically elected representatives”.

The letter stated: “It is with great surprise that we read in the Sunday papers that Government held a critical exercise last week in which a significant resurgence in Covid-19 infections in London was a central scenario.

“According to media reports, the plans included using the M25 as a quarantine ring – effectively sealing off the city.

“Our surprise is that such far-reaching contingency plans have been discussed and tested without the involvement or awareness of London’s Government.

“This is clearly totally unacceptable and an affront to London and Londoners.”

It continued: “It is now 12 weeks since I, as Mayor, was last invited to COBR on behalf of London and its nine million citizens.

“Decisions continue to be taken without consultation with those who run and understand the country’s biggest city.

The chair of London councils also aired concerns (AFP via Getty Images)

“Some of these decisions – and the public messaging which flows from them – do not work for the unique nature of a major metropolitan area the size of London.

“The Government would better understand that if London’s government were treated properly and brought into decision making.”

At the height of the pandemic, several Cobra meetings included the leaders of the devolved nations and the London mayor. But last month Mr Khan accused Mr Johnson of not having spoken with him for months, despite substantial policy changes affecting the capital – on Transport for London, airports and mask-wearing.

In late July, he said: “The last time I spoke to him [Boris Johnson] was the last time there was a Cobra meeting, which was in early May.”

Back in mid-June the Prime Minister faced criticism after it emerged he had not held an emergency Cobra committee since May 10.

That meeting was held the day the “stay alert” message was launched, and the “Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives” lockdown message was abandoned. Since then, Mr Khan claims he has not been invited.

In a tweet, Mr Khan said: “Excluding local leaders in this way won’t help us control the virus and must stop now.”

Downing Street said the ability to impose travel restrictions had been set out in its strategy for preventing the spread of coronavirus but denied it was a plan specifically drawn up for the capital.

The “Contain” strategy sets out “the possibility of putting in place restrictions on travel if there is an area that is particularly badly affected”.

“One of the steps within that potentially includes closing down local transport networks,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“It’s there, it’s contained in the document, it’s not a new thing – we have informed the public and politicians of that being a potential action that we could take.

“But, to be clear, it’s not something that is specific to London or anywhere else.”