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I’ve no regrets says Silvester
Published 01/09/14

A HENLEY councillor who blamed flooding and storms on the legalisation of gay marriage says he is still not sorry after learning that no disciplinary action will be taken against him.

David Silvester said his only regret was the “aggro” for his wife caused by the controversy stirred up by his comments, made in a letter to the Henley Standard in January.

The 74-year-old councillor, then a member of UKIP, accused David Cameron of acting “arrogantly against the Gospel” and causing the nation to be “beset by serious storms and floods” by passing the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act.

On Friday, South Oxfordshire District Council revealed that, following a six-month investigation, no action would be taken against Councillor Silvester on 12 complaints made by members of the public. The council said the councillors’ code of conduct did not apply as he was not acting in his capacity as a member of Henley Town Council when he wrote the letter, even though he had signed it “Councillor David Silvester” and he was criticising the Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, which he used to represent.

Cllr Silvester told the Henley Standard that he felt vindicated by the decision and that he stood by the contents of the letter.

He said: “I’m very glad — I was confident that was going to be the outcome and I’m glad that it is. My only regret is the aggro it has created for my wife Irene and from my own point of view I don’t regret it.”

Cllr Silvester, who is a member of Henley Baptist Church, added: “As a Christian, I’m a man of prayer and I was given an assurance things were going to turn out okay. I was assured from my reading of God’s word.”

He said he could understand why people were offended by his comments but added: “Sometimes things have to be said that upset people and the floods turned out to be pretty vast — the worst in 250 years — and now another thing that comes across our bows is Iraq and Syria so trouble is stalking us.”

Cllr Silvester said there were “adverse consequences to how our nation behaves”.

“It is my position after many years as a Christian,” he said. “We’ll continue to speak out if we think things are badly wrong, as is every citizen’s right.” The politician was widely condemned following his comments and suspended and then expelled by UKIP. An online petition calling for his resignation was signed by more than 25,000 people.

His home in Luker Avenue, Henley, was targeted by vandals who threw eggs at the property and hung a gay pride banner on the wall.

He refused to resign or say sorry but at an extraordinary meeting of the town council in February he did apologise for upsetting the gay community.

Cllr Silvester said he wasn’t surprised at the public reaction and claimed that the petition organisers were “clearly bent on breaking” his and his wife’s spirit by notifying him of when another 500 people had added their support.

He said: “Frankly, it was like water off a duck’s back and I just blocked them out and we concentrated on getting on with our work and leaving the other stuff on the side.

“As far as the six months is concerned, we have just carried on with our lives as usual. We have had a lot to do in our various places of work so it hasn’t weighed heavily upon us but nevertheless it’s good to get it out of the way. We’re just happy that it’s finished.”

Cllr Silvester insisted that his letter to the Henley Standard was not written in his capacity as councillor and accused the paper of being “really mischievous” in adding the name of the political party and council he represented.

He said: “I just signed it ‘Councillor David Silvester’ and I did not put ‘Henley Town Council’ or ‘UKIP’.

He said: “Everybody has a private life as well as a public life and it’s one of the rules of our society that everybody has the privilege of free speech and I was simply exercising that.

“Having said that, one of the recommendations is that both I and other councillors are advised to be very careful about where they put ‘councillor’ and I think this is a change I’ll certainly have to make.

“I put Councillor David Silvester on a lot of things and I’m not speaking as Councillor David Silvester — I’m just saying I happen to be a councillor. Up until now I’ve thought that was quite all right.”

Cllr Silvester, who said he had received hundreds of letters of support, first publicly raised the issue of gay marriage when he wrote to Mr Cameron in 2012, threatening to resign from the Conservative Party. He advised the Prime Minister “most strongly” not to proceed with the same-sex marriage proposals.

Cllr Silvester said: “When it became obvious in November that he was going to do it I wrote again and put a different slant on it and warned him of the possible results if he did so.

“The only way I was going to get the message to him was to do a public letter through the Henley Standard and it so happened that it worked because it was referred to at Prime Minister’s Questions so at least the message got to him, even if he didn’t do anything about it.

“My intention was to change the Prime Minister’s mind, not offend people in Henley.”

He quite the Conservatives in 2013, when he joined UKIP.

Cllr Silvester, who now sits as an independent, said he had not yet decided whether to stand in next year’s local council elections.

The town council has no powers to take any disciplinary action against its own members but passed the 12 complaints about Cllr Silvester on to the district council, whose monitoring officer decided that an investigation was necessary.

Two of these complaints, from Vanessa Hoare and Sarah Butcher, were taken forward as part of the investigation.

Published 01/09/14

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