Labour has criticised the Prime Minister for using a coronavirus press conference to make “another unprompted political attack” on London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Boris Johnson accused his successor at City Hall of “blowing” Transport for London’s (TfL) finances through an “irresponsible fares policy” after declaring that he had left them in “robust good order”.
But Mr Khan accused the Conservative Party leader of failing to tell the truth about the capital’s budget woes, tweeting that the coronavirus pandemic and the related drop in passenger numbers was the “sole cause of TfL’s challenges”.
Mr Johnson’s comments – made on Monday at a press conference held at Downing Street’s £2.6 million media briefing room – come with the London mayoral election only four weeks away, a contest that Mr Khan is heavily tipped to win.
The Prime Minister, asked about potential Government support for London’s post-pandemic recovery at the press briefing, said: “As for the finances of TfL, I must respectfully remind you that I left them in robust good order and it is not through any fault of my own that the current Labour Mayor decided to blow them on an irresponsible fares policy.
“We’re doing our best to help them out and will continue to do so. But I’m afraid you’ve got to look at some of the decisions that were taken by the current Labour Mayor as well.
“I hesitate to make a point like that but as you rightly draw attention to the fact that I’m a proud former mayor of London, I do think we should look at the way TfL has been run.”
Mr Khan tweeted a reply, saying: “The PM lied yet again from a £2.6m taxpayer-funded press conference.
“Covid-19 is the sole cause of TfL’s challenges.
“Before the pandemic I was fixing his mess at TfL – reducing the deficit by 71% compared to what he left.”
A spokesman for London Labour said: “It is depressingly predictable that the Prime Minister used a press conference that was supposed to be a vital Covid update to make yet another unprompted political attack.”
Alastair Campbell, a Labour spin doctor during Tony Blair’s premiership, said Cabinet Secretary Simon Case “needs to remind” the Prime Minister that “Government platforms cannot be used for political attack” following Mr Johnson’s outburst.
In related news, Mr Khan has vowed to establish a London drugs commission if he wins a second term on May 6.
He said the commission, which would be made up of independent experts from the fields of criminal justice, public health, politics, community relations and academia, would pull together the latest evidence on the effectiveness of UK drugs laws, police enforcement and support services for those with addictions before making policy recommendations.
“It’s time for fresh ideas about how to reduce the harms drugs and drug-related crimes cause to individuals, families and communities,” Mr Khan said.
“The commission will make recommendations focusing on the most effective laws to tackle crime, protect Londoners’ health and reduce the huge damage that illegal drugs, including cannabis, cause to our communities and society.”