Council leader refuses to condemn Downing Street parties
- Credit: Gary Donnison Photography
A Norfolk council leader has broken his silence over allegations of lockdown parties at Downing Street - by refusing to condemn them.
Breckland leader Sam Chapman-Allen had previously declined to comment on the scandal, which has seen Boris Johnson face calls to resign after he admitted attending one such event.
But Mr Chapman-Allen was put on the spot at a Thursday council meeting when Labour opposition leader Terry Jermy asked him to condemn the PM.
He said: “Key workers on the frontline here in Breckland were working around the clock to keep us all safe and while the majority of the country had our freedoms limited to a daily walk, not in Downing Street it seems, with alcohol-fuelled parties too numerous to mention.
“Will you today as leader of our council condemn the prime minister and his actions?
“This contemptful behaviour needs calling out, regardless of political persuasion.
“I hope you’ll agree that is the least the general public, and the residents of our district, deserve.”
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Mr Chapman-Allen responded: “I think the prime minister has made a statement to the House, he’s offered his apology. There’s currently an investigation by the deputy civil servant... Sue [Gray], looking at all these issues which [are] pertaining [to that].
“I’m not going to comment and get involved in Westminster politics. Every member of this chamber and every resident across the district has the ability to write to their local MPs and raise their concerns [about things] which go on in Westminster."
He said he was “pleased that Breckland residents have continued to follow the rules” and that “those members of staff you alluded to have worked throughout the pandemic immensely hard”.
He added: “Breckland as a council is poised ready to ensure that we’re supporting residents and businesses and getting back from the pandemic.”
Prime minister Boris Johnson has admitted he attended one of the Whitehall parties known to have been held during lockdown.
Some 100 people were invited by his private secretary, on May 20, 2020, to the gathering in the Downing Street garden, having been told to "bring your own booze".
Mr Johnson told the House of Commons he was not aware he was at a party, but apologised for the impression given of rules not being followed.
Outrage over the party has seen the leader of the Scottish Conservatives call for the PM’s resignation, and another Conservative MP defect to the Labour party.
All of Norfolk’s Conservative council leaders were approached for comment on the allegations last week. Mr Chapman-Allen was among those who did not respond.