Sadiq surrenders on face masks

Sadiq surrenders on face masks
Hollie Adams/Getty Images
Text settings

Throughout the pandemic, Sadiq Khan has been positively evangelical on face-coverings. The Mayor of London has waxed lyrical about their virtues throughout the pandemic, declaring that: 'my mask protects you, your mask protects me' that 'if we don’t wear masks, the virus will spread further' and calling such face-coverings 'the most unselfish thing you can do.' Ahead of Boris Johnson's July 19 unlocking, Khan attacked his decision to axe the legal requirement to wear a face covering on public transport.

Instead the Mayor insisted that wearing a mask remained 'a condition of carriage' for passengers using public transport in London, with some 500 enforcement officers patrolling the capital's trains and buses to eject the unmasked. But has the Mayor of London now effectively given up on enforcement of his rules? For figures unearthed by Steerpike suggest that your chances of being denied entry on the Tube for not wearing a mask are not even one a million – it's actually half as high as that.

A Freedom of Information request by Mr S to Transport for London (TfL), whose board is chaired by Khan, has revealed that just 121 people were refused entry on the Tube in four months between July and October 2021 – compared to a figure 100 times that for the previous 11 months.  TfL had previously boasted that between the introduction of face coverings on the Tube in June 2020 and the end of May 2021, some 12,176 were refused travel – the equivalent of more than 1,100 a month. 

But now that monthly figure of Tube refusals has dropped to just 30, meaning that on average only one passenger a day is refused entry despite the total of daily journeys on the underground network surpassing the two million mark. Last month just 13 passengers were refused entry in 31 days.

The lack of any kind of enforcement would suggest the tough talk on face coverings is merely another example of Covid pantomime. With the rhetoric being so very different from the reality, TfL risks putting the 'mask' into 'masquerade.'

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

Topics in this articlePoliticssadiq khanlondon