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David Silvester apologises for offence but won't resign
Published 05/02/14

HENLEY town councillor David Silvester has apologised for upsetting the gay community after blaming the recent storms and floods on the legalisation of same-sex marriages.

But he refused to resign at an extraordinary meeting of the town council last night that was called to discuss his comments.

To read Councillor Silvester’s speech in full, click here

Councillor Silvester, who was expelled by UKIP yesterday, said it had not been his intention to “embarrass” his council or party when he made his claims in a letter to the Henley Standard last month.

“Neither was it my intention to insult the gay community and I certainly apologise to them if personal insult has been their perception,” he said. “Indeed, a number of them have been my friends or acquaintances over the years.”

About 40 people attended the meeting and more than a dozen people spoke either in favour of Cllr Silvester or against him. His supporters included his wife Irene.

Sarah Butcher, 40, of Belle Vue Road, said she had collected nearly 25,000 signatures on an online petition demanding his resignation and believed this showed that the majority of people wanted him to step down.

Cllr Silvester, 73, of Luker Avenue, Henley, listed his voluntary roles in the community and added: “I reject this petition and I do so on the basis that I was elected for four years and I intend to stay for four years.”

The town council voted unanimously that Cllr Silvester’s comments were his personal views and not those of the council.

It has no powers to take any disciplinary action but it has passed 12 complaints on to South Oxfordshire District Council’s monitoring officer, who will decide whether he should be investigated for a possible breach of the councillors’ code of conduct.

Cllr Silvester, a member of Henley Baptist Church, was Conservative councillor but defected to UKIP a year ago in protest of the Government’s decision to pass the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act.

He will now stand as an independent councillor until next year’s council elections.

Councillor Silvester’s speech in full

‘Chairman, Your Worship, Fellow Councillors, and members of the public, for a number of years since my retirement I have sought to voluntarily serve the people of Henley. For 12 years I served in Henley’s Oxfam retail shops, for 9 years of this I also worked for the Henley Toy Library with disabled teenagers, together with 6 years with the Torch Trust for the Blind, and for 9 years I have run a weekly church group for mainly elderly people .For the last 3 and a half years I have been treasurer of the Phyllis Court Tennis Club.

Since becoming a Town Councillor in 2011 I have been faithful in attending and taking part in Council Meetings both of this Full Council, and of the Planning Committees and the Recreation and Amenities Meetings, as well as the Townlands Steering Group and Youth Management Committee when time has permitted. I founded, and am Co-ordinator of, the Abrahams Estate Neighbourhood Watch, I am now treasurer of the 60 plus club for elderly people, and have supported from the start the Makins Skating project, as well as helping a number of other local residents.

When I wrote my letter to the Henley Standard on 29th December – incidentally it was not published until 3 weeks later- I in no way wished to embarrass Henley Town Council or indeed UKIP. It was the Henley Standard who added beneath my name ‘Henley Town Council’ and ‘UKIP’.

Neither was it my intention to insult the Gay Community. Indeed, a number of them have been my friends or acquaintencies over the years. I certainly apologise to them if personal insult has been their perception.

My letter was directed rather at a Government who had sought to change the nature and definition of marriage from that recorded in the National Textbook, the Holy Bible, which has held sway in our Nation since King Alfred 1200 years ago, and probably longer. In doing so I considered that the Government had broken the Coronation Oath entered by Parliament at the 1953 Coronation of the Queen.

I have read that I am barmy to connect this breach with the weather. If so I am in good company, A few years back, after earlier flooding, some senior Anglican bishops were recorded by the Daily Mail as saying ‘The floods which claimed 7 lives and deluged thousands of homes, were the result of moral degradation.’ Whilst stressing those affected were innocent victims, they claimed ‘the devastation was the consequence of the West’s decision to ignore Biblical teaching, with an arrogant world reaping what it had sown.’

In reaching my conclusion that the current floods are connected to Mr Cameron’s change in the nature and definition of marriage, in breach of Biblical teaching, I am simply saying again in essence what these senior bishops of the National Church said.

Rt. Hon Maria Miller has recently championed free speech in relation to the gay presence at the Russian Winter Olympics. I believe in free speech too, and make my democratic protest by writing in the open forum of papers such as the Henley Standard.

I would add that I have had enormous support from all over the country, and from overseas. And I have the confidence to stand by every word I wrote in my letter of 29th December to the Henley Standard.

However, may I add that the Jesus Christ I serve, who died for the forgiveness of sins and rose to give new life, welcomes every possible type of person into his fold, whether straight or gay. All they have to do is to come to Him in repentance and faith.

Finally, without committing myself to a gagging order, I confirm I shall nevertheless be circumspect over anything I write in future, particularly if it may impinge on the well-being and effectiveness of this Town Council, to which I am proud to belong.’

Published 05/02/14

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