Khan – I shouldn’t judge my own mistakes during coronavirus

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Sadiq Khan has said it would be inappropriate for him to judge his own mistakes during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Mayor of London told the Local Democracy Service he  is “sure” there have been times when he would have acted differently with hindsight.

But he said others should judge his performance, and called for a public inquiry “as soon as possible”.

Asked to name his biggest regret during the pandemic, Mr Khan first spoke of being excluded from early COBRA meetings addressing the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Government’s high level emergency committee first met to discuss coronavirus on January 24.

But although the virus hit London harder than any British region, and despite repeated protests, the Mayor was not invited to attend until March 16.

“Had they allowed me to go earlier, I think we could have been proactive rather than responding [to the outbreak in London],” Mr Khan said.

“Us not being involved from the outset was I think the biggest mistake from the Government.”

The Cabinet Office said at the time it does not comment on the membership of COBRA.

But challenged to name something he wished he could have done differently within the scope of his Mayoral powers, Mr Khan said it was not for him to judge.

“I don’t think it’s for me to say how good or bad I’ve done,” he said.

“I’m asking and encouraging others to look at what we’ve done and see where I can learn in real time.

“There’s no point in it being in three or four years time – it needs to be now.”

The Mayor said in the meantime he is “happy to listen” to independent advice.

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“I asked, for example, UCL to mark my homework in relation to safety on public transport,” he said. “They’ve come back with a report that says we did everything we could.”

The first phase of a review by UCL’s Insititute of Health Equity said more bus drivers would have survived the virus if Britain had locked down earlier.

It said TfL should work more closely with contractor bus companies to ensure safety measures are applied across the board if there is a second spike.

The Local Democracy Service previously reported bus drivers’ fears that social distancing and other protections were not being put in place consistently across London at the height of the pandemic.

The Mayor said he was “paraphrasing” the findings of the report.

“We continue to learn,” he said. “I’ve got enough humility to try to learn every day things I could have done differently and I’ll continue to do so.”

Looking ahead to the possibility of a second lockdown, Mr Khan said London could learn “what not to do” from Leicester and Manchester.

Public Health England data allows local authorities to understand changes in infection rates not just at borough level but even more locally than a council ward, he said.

“So far we’re nowhere near the levels we’ve seen in Oldham or Birmingham or Manchester or Leicester,” he added.

The Mayor claimed London is ready for a very localised lockdown – a single building, workplace or school – but putting restrictions on a larger geographical area would be “more challenging”.

And Mr Khan said he “can’t envisage” a full M25 lockdown – after reports earlier this month that Boris Johnson was briefed on that scenario.

“Nobody has discussed with me the possibility of an M25 lockdown,” the Mayor said.

“Don’t forget there’s four airports that serve our city and the Eurostar, so the Government has got to be realistic.”

Good communication will be “the key ingredient” in dealing with any future lockdown because London leaders know the city better than “civil servants in Whitehall,” he added.

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