Tory leader defends prime minister after party shame

Opposition challenges city boss on question of Johnson’s ‘integrity’

Friday, 21st January — By Tom Foot

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

THE leader of Westminster Council issued an im­passioned defence of prime minister Boris Johnson, insisting that des­pite his lockdown party shame he still had her support.

Cllr Rachael Robathan dismissed claims she had criticised the embattled PM in an off-the-record briefing, after being challenged by Labour opposition leader Adam Hug at Wednesday’s full council.

He had suggested she might be the unnamed Conservative council lead­er quoted anonymously in a national newspaper, and added: “Do you believe the PM has the integrity and ability to lead our country?”

Cllr Robathan said: “It was not me…”, adding: “What I can say is this. Two years ago our prime minister was elected with a stonking majority on an agenda to level up this country. He has delivered a vaccination programme which is the envy of Europe.”

There were jeers, to which she said: “Are you disagreeing? It’s the envy of Europe. He has fought against the Labour Party on plans to close down this country pre-Christmas. And today he has an­nounced an end to restrictions that will enable the West End to recover. He has launched a far-reaching review into allegations at Downing Street and I am not going to prejudge that. He’s quite rightly said he will act on that.”

Cllr Hug said after Mr Johnson’s recent apology to the Queen over Downing Street parties during lockdown, the Tory leader was “a PM who doesn’t follow his own laws” and that “voters are furious”.

Rachael Robathan

The meeting heard more rows about the Conservatives’ decision to increase council tax for Westminster residents. Cllr Robathan said most Labour-run boroughs had council tax that was “three times the level of ours”, adding: “Quite frankly our residents, our hard-pressed residents, should look at what Labour politicians are doing.”

There was criticism of the Mayor of London increasing tax precepts by 8.8 per cent.

There were some fare-well speeches from councillors who said they would not be standing again in the May election.

West End ward councillor Jonathan Glanz was among several members who said they would not be standing. He spoke about “drug dealing, rubbish dumping, and noisy late night parties” and the “exploitation of women sex workers in Mayfair and Soho”.

Labour’s longest-serving councillor, Paul Dimoldenberg, said he had not decided if he would continue after May.

But in what sounded like a farewell speech he said: “I’d like to thank all the officers, all my colleagues past and present, for all the good times and bad times. It has been a privilege to be a member of city council. I may or may not continue.

“I would like to know: will the Marble Arch Mound feature at the heart of the Conservatives’ election campaign, yes or no?” He added that the £6million mound will be featuring in the Labour Party’s.

Cllr Dimoldenberg faced heckles to “retire” as he said “£6million expenditure dem­onstrates that Westminster Conservatives are world class at wasting public money”, adding: “all that money much better spent on people who had youth clubs taken away from them. Will she not accept this money will not return to Westminster and is a huge scar on the reputation of this council?”

Cllr Robathan responded: “The mound is part of the many things we have done to ensure businesses did not go to the wall.

“We have accepted there were mistakes. But yes, we had the mound. Aside from the mound, we had the al-fresco dining scheme. We had pop-up schemes. All of these things are going to feature in our campaign. Not prepared to sit on our hands and let our city suffer.”

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