A week after Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour party, Sadiq Khan launched a blistering attack on the Marxist MP for Islington North over his refusal to sing the National Anthem.
“I’ll be my own man and work closely with a Tory Government if it is in London’s interest,” insisted the then Labour MP for Tooting in 2015 as he campaigned to become Boris Johnson’s successor as the capital’s Mayor.
A Brownite on the soft left of the party, the former lawyer took pride in presenting himself as the ‘everyman’ candidate - a Muslim bus driver’s son who vowed in his election speech in 2016: “I promise to always be a mayor for all Londoners.”
Yet Mr Khan’s approach to running London over the past four years has proved to be rather more politicised than he pledged.
First the staunch Remainer pitted himself against Downing Street over Brexit. Then he openly criticised President Donald Trump, causing a diplomatic row between the UK and the US. And now it seems his coronavirus strategy is putting him at odds with the Government once again.
Only this week, the 49-year-old politician was once again stoking controversy by attacking Number 10 for not implementing a mask policy - insisting that ‘non surgical’ face coverings should be used on public transport contrary to the official scientific advice.
Yet Mr Khan himself has resisted repeated calls by the unions to provide personal protective equipment for London’s transport workers. His reason? Government guidance stating that PPE should only be worn by carers.
As Shaun Bailey, his Tory rival for the London mayoralty, put it: “He’s taken Government advice when it’s suited him and briefed against it when it hasn’t.”
Yet in recent days, the war of words appears to have worsened, with Mr Khan reported to have praised Iran for their handling of the crisis, telling Mayor of Tehran Pirouz Hanachi he would lobby the British Government on their behalf to remove sanctions.
Little consideration appeared to have been given to the fact that Iran has experienced the worst Covid-19 outbreak in the Middle East - not to mention that the tyrannical regime is still holding British-Iranian mother of one Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe prisoner under seemingly false pretences.
A source close to the Mayor later claimed his words had been taken out of context, and rather than implying that Tehran was ‘ahead’ of London in terms of its response to the virus - he was in fact referring to the rate of infection.
“The Mayor also took the opportunity to raise the plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliffe,” said a spokesman, pointing out that the video conferencing call was set up by the Foreign Office.
It came after a report by the UK’s leading transport watchdogs blamed Mr Khan’s decision to cut Tube services on overcrowding during the lockdown, following a war of words over the issue with Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
While Mr Khan’s allies deny he has been playing party politics with Covid-19, he has been outspoken in his criticism of the Government’s response to the global pandemic ever since he was excluded from the original ‘Cobra’ line up as the crisis deepened in early March.
Described as “unhappy” not to be invited to be on the committee that responds to emergencies from the Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (COBR), Mr Khan convened his own pow wow at City Hall, before briefing the discussions to reporters.
Just a day later on March 3, the Mayor appeared on Good Morning Britain insisting that there was ‘no risk’ of catching the virus on public transport before ruling out an outright ban.
“I don’t foresee a situation where we’re advising people not to use the Tube or public transport, but we review this each day,” he said.
A week later, he unveiled an "enhanced cleaning regime" on rail and bus services - but still he insisted that people should not change their transport habits, despite the number of cases in the UK continuing to rise.
Of course hindsight is a wonderful thing, but by this time Mr Khan finally had a seat at COBR meetings so was witness to the mounting evidence leading to the unprecedented measures imposed by the Prime Minister on March 23.
Indeed, he even briefed the contents of one meeting to Radio 4’s Today programme - suggesting that schools might be shut before Easter.
The leak angered Department for Education chiefs who had not yet finalised the Government’s policy - let alone announced it.
Eager to be across the airwaves, the Mayor then left a COBR meeting on March 24 and promptly disclosed that he had argued construction workers should not be classified as key workers - only to be “overruled” by Mr Johnson.
Despite the confidential nature of the discussions, he complained to LBC host James O’Brien: “Every one of the government ministers who spoke overruled me.” Mr Khan’s spokesman insisted no confidences had been breached, saying: “Sadiq’s job is to stand up for Londoners’ interests. It is common knowledge and entirely unsurprising that the Mayor and some ministers have disagreed on some things.”
By March 30, Mr Khan was calling for a ‘“public enquiry” or “reckoning” into the Government’s handling of coronavirus in an interview with the Joe Politics website.
There was a similar whiff of partisanship to his demands for the Government to extend Universal Credit during the outbreak, despite Chancellor Rishi Sunak having announced an unprecedented set of measures to help unemployed and struggling workers and a dedicated task force to ensure vulnerable people received support. Critics pointed out that the Government had already announced such a scheme.
Last night, there were suggestions the Mayor's team is in talks with developers over making unsold homes in London available for extra tenures to meet extra housing need arising from the crisis
Yet while he has been making such public protestations, behind the scenes an almighty row was brewing between Mr Khan and Mr Bailey over PPE.
Mr Bailey went on Talk Radio on April 14 revealing he has sourced enough masks to keep transport workers protected for a month - but despite sending all the information to the Mayor’s office, he claims he never even received a reply.
“I went so far as finding him a supplier,” said Mr Bailey. “I had a supplier who could provide him with 600,000, K-95 masks immediately and then more in the future, and he didn't take us up on that.
“I was trying to say to him, ‘Look Sadiq this isn't about politics, you and I could argue about politics after Covid. This is about saving the lives of drivers.”
Mr Bailey - whose leadership contest against Mr Khan has been postponed until next year due to the virus, accused the Mayor of trying to deflect blame for his own failings.
Citing the example of Mr Khan furloughing 7,000 TfL staff and begging for more Government cash, he said: “The decision to close the Tube was nothing to do with Covid, it was about the financial state of TfL and the fact that he could then go to the Government for the bailout.” A spokesman for Mr Khan vehemently denied the claim.
Referring to the video call with the Mayor of Tehran, Mr Bailey added: “He’s now speaking to the UK’s enemies abroad and using them to attack our Government suggesting they have done a better job. What he really needs to look at is what job has he done? It’s a fig leaf to cover the fact that he had already destroyed TfL’s finances.”
Of course as the Tory’s candidate to replace Mr Khan, Bailey would say that.
But it is certainly a curious state of affairs for ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone’s outspoken successor stand accused of failing to do enough to protect the capital's transport workers.