Labour councillors express anger at ‘partygate’ scandal but local Tories remain loyal to Johnson, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
Enfield Council has passed a motion calling for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign over the ‘partygate’ scandal, despite Conservative councillors backing him to stay.
Local Tories said they did not condone behaviour that flouted Covid rules but backed the PM over the vaccine rollout and other actions taken by the government to tackle the pandemic.
The Labour group’s calls for Johnson to quit came after the Metropolitan Police launched an investigation this week into alleged parties held at Downing Street during pandemic lockdowns. Their call came in a motion tabled by leader Nesil Caliskan during a full council meeting on Wednesday.
Speaking during the meeting, Cllr Caliskan claimed the British public had “completely lost trust and confidence” in the PM “in the middle of a public health crisis and a cost of living crisis”.
Cllr Caliskan said: “Residents across this borough sacrificed a lot […] It was Enfield residents who were at home, sitting in their gardens alone, contemplating, maybe waiting for their relatives to die on their own in hospital, while the prime minister was breaking his own rules.”
She added: “More people died because he and people like him did not follow the rules when everyone else was making a sacrifice.”
Tory leader Joanne Laban said the Conservative group “does not condone whatsoever the alleged gatherings at Downing Street during the lockdown period”. But she added that the prime minister had apologised for the gatherings that had taken place.
Cllr Laban said her group preferred to discuss local issues. She added: “I do have faith in the Conservative Party, and that is what is being said on the doorsteps of Enfield. Despite what is in the news, [residents] still have faith in the Conservative Party. Why is that? It is because they want a Conservative-controlled council.”
But Labour councillors continued to criticise the former London mayor. Katherine Chibah said the partygate issue “could not be more local” because 800 Enfield residents had died from Covid-19.
Cllr Chibah accused the PM of lying over Downing Street gatherings and said he had “demonstrated nothing but contempt for the role of leadership that he is supposed to hold”.
Ayten Guzel said the Labour administration had “stood up for the residents of Enfield” during the pandemic, delivering food parcels, protecting care home residents and sourcing personal protective equipment.
Cllr Guzel added: “The residents in Enfield, on the doorstep […] all I hear is that they want the Tories out, and they do not want Boris Johnson in government.”
Conservative councillors defended the government’s record during the pandemic. Chris Dey said the prime minister had “got the big decisions right” on the pandemic and helped to deliver a “world-beating vaccine rollout” that had boosted employment and the economy.
Mike Rye said he did not support or condone the actions of those in Downing Street “who clearly broke the rules” but urged people to “take a balanced view” and wait for the report by senior civil servant Sue Gray, who has been investigating the party allegations.
Cllr Rye said: “In terms of the 800 people who died in Enfield, I would simply say there are many thousands of others who are actually alive and well because of the vaccine programme and the actions taken by the government.”
At the end of the debate, Labour councillors voted in favour of the motion calling on Boris Johnson to resign, which passed despite the Conservatives voting against.