The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was one of the many attendants who packed into the Royal Albert Hall in London for the world premiere of the new James Bond film, No Time to Die. A difference about Mr Khan’s appearance at this event in comparison to the last 18 months is that he did not wear a face covering, despite lobbying the Government last month to pass a bylaw to mandate masks on all London Transport. So, was this a one-off mistake, or was the Mayor of London using his elite status at such an exclusive event to excuse himself from the rules?
On 5th August 2021, The Telegraph published an article detailing Mr Khan’s request to the Government for a bylaw that would make it a criminal offence not to wear a face mask on the London Underground, London Overground and London buses. The proposed consequences for noncompliance included fixed penalties and the operator’s right to use the British Transport Police to enforce the law. During an interview for BBC Newscast, the Mayor said that his reasoning behind the proposed mask mandate was to give confidence for office workers in the city to travel without fear of being infected with COVID-19. This bylaw did not go through, but the current rules on TfL stand that you can be denied entry to or told to leave the public transport network.
So why is it that Mr Khan has proposed this bylaw and has now enforced regulations that would enforce the wearing of masks on public transport (which in London are very crowded places, especially for commuters coming into work), and then failed to wear a face covering to a very crowded and highly publicised event in the centre of London? Surely, he’d want to set an example of wearing a mask when going to see a film, so others who are perhaps more worried about being infected at the cinema could go with confidence? But there is a greater reason why Sadiq Khan didn’t wear a mask to the world premiere of the new James Bond film.
There has been an issue over the past 18 months with authority figures being inconsistent in following the guidelines and rules: Dominic Cummings driving to Barnard Castle last April; Matt Hancock having an affair with his aide this May; Stephen Kinnock, the son of former Labour Leader, Neil Kinnock, going to his father’s birthday celebration five days after lockdown came into effect; and Kevan Jones, the former Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces, attending a constituent’s 100th birthday party in May 2020.
There is no ‘mistake’ in any of these leaders breaking lockdown rules; people are responsible for their individual choices and, because these political figures are trusted with making decisions for the greater good of the country, they allow themselves to be held accountable by those they represent. Sadiq Khan is no exception. Though face masks were not mandatory at the event on Wednesday, it was hypocritical of Mr Khan not to wear a face mask whilst expecting Londoners on the commute to wear one, lest they be denied travel or told to leave the station or service. Sadiq Khan needs to be held accountable for who has to follow his rules in London regarding face coverings in order to show that he is following his own rules, but also to show that he is confident these rules will be for the greater good of the people of London.
Regardless of his status as London Mayor, and regardless of whether or not face coverings are required by law at the Royal Albert Hall, he should follow the rules that he sets for civilian commuters. If he wants to raise confidence about the situation in London, he should start by letting the people have confidence in his consistency.