Dino Lemonides tells James Cracknell about his reasons for joining new ‘Community First’ group of independent councillors
Another Enfield councillor has quit the Labour Party, describing its leadership regime as “authoritarian” and the council leader “a bully”.
Dino Lemonides, a former cabinet member who represents Chase ward, told the Dispatch he was joining the newly-formed ‘Community First’ group because the Labour group had become unwilling to debate policy with its own councillors.
Cllr Lemonides has become the fourth Labour councillor in Enfield to quit in as many months, and the second in the space of a week. He said: “I have been unhappy with the bullying and harassment of the Caliskan regime.
“You are not allowed to hold a contrary viewpoint without it being taken personally by the council leader. As far as I am concerned democracy should be a robust and open process.
“I think it [the Labour group] is authoritarian.”
Cllr Lemonides said there had been several policy areas where he had wanted to raise issues with the council leadership, most recently the controversy over the decision to raise special allowances for councillors by up to £36,000.
“I didn’t agree with them,” said Cllr Lemonides. “As soon as I suggested doing something different, I was accused of being a ‘troublemaker’. I thought this was just crazy. There wasn’t a discussion on it. We all know why she [Cllr Caliskan] is doing it.”
Cllr Caliskan has yet to make any comment to the Dispatch in response either to the decision of Cllr Lemonides to leave Labour or to the decisions of Derek Levy, Dinah Barry and Daniel Anderson to quit in similar circumstances. All four have been highly critical of Cllr Caliskan’s leadership style, although Cllr Anderson and Cllr Lemonides have also criticised the Labour Party itself in the way it has handled the ongoing division within the local group.
Cllr Anderson said last week there had been “hypocritical” double standards from the party’s national leadership, since Cllr Caliskan went unpunished when she was found last year to have breached the council’s code of conduct, in two separate cases, while Cllr Anderson was suspended after his own code of conduct breach, still subject to an appeal.
Cllr Lemonides said: “When Cllr Caliskan was found [last year] to have been bullying a colleague and interfering with the scrutiny committee, that to me was bringing the party into disrepute. It seems like the Labour Party doesn’t care as long as Enfield is red.
“It is double standards and it is not why I joined Labour. I have been a councillor for 14 years and I always thought it was about doing the right thing.”
Asked why he hadn’t quit Labour earlier, given his long-standing misgivings over Cllr Caliskan’s behaviour, Cllr Lemonides said: “Because I still thought the party would do something.”
The Labour Party has not responded to requests for comment.
Cllr Lemonides added: “I have joined Community First because I still hold Labour values, but I want to hold this administration to account.
“I haven’t taken this decision lightly, I have been a member of the Labour Party most of my life. I know there are about a dozen of us [councillors] who are opposed [to the Labour leadership] and I wouldn’t be surprised if more decided to leave.
“It is not an easy step to make but, now that I’ve done it, it feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”