More than 400 residents at a public meeting hurled insults at Mr Portillo and urged him to block the development of the Drive-Thru burger bar.
The fast food chain has applied for planning permission to demolish the two-storey HQ building and replace it with a 50-seat Drive-Thru restaurant and 20 parking spaces. They have offered 325,000 pounds for the site, 100,000 pounds above the asking price, subject to planning permission. Residents say the extra cash is effectively a political donation to the Tory Party.
The residents urged Mr Portillo to persuade the local party to withdraw from the sale. They say their homes' values have already dropped by up to 20,000 pounds and that McDonald's will bring parking problems, traffic congestion, litter and crime. The Chairman of the Winchmore Hill Residents' Association said the proposed burger restaurant was "out of character with the environment". He said McDonald's was only interested in "making money out of our community".
The Defence Secretary, a regular diner at an existing McDonald's in Southgate, had earlier denied that he would support the fast-food chain because it practised the sort of low-wage, employment and training policies that he advocated.
Mr Portillo was booed as he repeatedly denied that he could take sides in the dispute. He insisted he could not express an opinion on the issue in case it brought him into conflict later with the Environment Secretary, John Gummer, who may be required to settle the planning dispute if it goes to appeal. But the residents demanded that Mr Portillo - christened Big Mike since the dispute started - should intervene to stop the sale. Accusing him of acting like 'Pontius Pilate' and 'sitting on the fence' over the issue, some Conservative voters threatened to withdraw their support at the next election. The Chairman of the Winchmore Hill Residents' Association said: "He has two choices: he can stop the sale and annoy local Tories, or he can do nothing and see a substantial part of his majority disappear.
" Residents have questioned the involvement of Mike Love, a former constituency press secretary to Margaret Thatcher and now head of public relations for McDonald's, but Mr Portillo refused to comment.
Mr Portillo did admit that if he was a local resident he would be worried about the development. But, as residents of Winchmore Hill never tire of pointing out, Michael and Carolyn Portillo live in Belgravia.
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