Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of London, has confirmed that he still isn’t being invited by 10 Downing Street to attend COBRA meetings despite the coronavirus pandemic affecting the capital.
When taking calls from Londoners on LBC on Thursday morning, Khan was asked whether it was normal for London mayors to be involved in COBRA discussions.
The mayor replied: “I’ve been to many COBRA meetings, and one of the things that impresses me when there is a national crisis – whether it’s a terror attack, or something else – is how governments put aside party politics.”
Khan added: “We’re a global city, so it is the normal practice for the mayor of London to be around the table… It is odd [that he has not been invited], but I’ve got to do my best as the mayor with the evidence that I’ve got.
“We’re in contact with No 10. Each time they’ve held a COBRA, today is the third one, and I’ve got wind of it through the media, I’ve said, ‘hold on a sec, shouldn’t the mayor of London be there?’.
“Not in a pompous way, but shouldn’t I be there, bearing in mind Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, City Airport, Eurostar serve our city? We’ve got a diverse population. And the answer is ‘no, you’re not invited’.”
It is understood that representatives of devolved administrations have been invited to the weekly COBRA meetings held in relation to the coronavirus outbreak that has now become a pandemic.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman gave the reason after the first meeting that Khan is not being invited because the COBRA discussions are designed to deliver a “national response”.
Boris Johnson is charing another meeting of the emergency COBRA committee this afternoon, and the Prime Minister is subsequently expected to confirm that Britain is now in the “delay” phase of the pandemic response.
In the LBC session, Khan also criticised the decision by President Trump to suspend flights from Schengen area countries, though not the UK. The mayor suggested the policy was made “on a whim rather than on evidence”.
The mayor said he had received advice form the Chief Medical Officer on whether the local elections in May, including the London mayoral contest, should be delayed due to the pandemic.
“His advice was quite clear. It stuck with me. He said there is no logical reason to postpone or cancel the elections,” Khan relayed during the LBC phone-in session.
“If somebody is worried about going to the polling station, it’s really important to make postal votes as easy as possible. If there is a very small risk, the way to make the risk even smaller in relation to the virus is wiping the pencils.”