Monday, 23 November 2020

Gay row councillor to stand for re-election

A HENLEY town councillor who blamed last year’s floods on the legislation of gay marriage is stand for re-election in

A HENLEY town councillor who blamed last year’s floods on the legislation of gay marriage is stand for re-election in May.

David Silvester, who sits as an independent, believes he will be returned to the council which he has served for four years.

His announcement comes almost exactly a year after making his comments in a letter to the Henley Standard, which caused controversy nationally and led to a number of complaints.

He was thrown out of the UKIP, his then party, but South Oxfordshire District Council decided not to take disciplinary action against him following a six-month investigation.

Councillor Silvester, 74, said he had taken time to think about standing again but came to his decision “fairly easily”.

“I expect there will be some objectors but once the district council gave me clearance I felt that the ground was clear and that I had no reason not to put myself forward for election.”

He said his wife Irene was happy for him to stand again but he might have to cut down on some of his other activities, although not his commitment to Henley Baptist Church. Speaking about last year’s controversy, he said: “I have just put that behind me quite frankly.”

Cllr Silvester, who lives in Luker Avenue, said he was “fairly confident” of retaining his seat in Henley South ward.

“The main thing for a councillor is that he contributes to the people of the town and to the work of the town and I have done my best throughout the four years to do that,” he said.

“If, in fact, I’m not elected then I’ve got lots of other interests and I shall take that as it comes.

“I would hope that Henley people take me as I am — as someone who genuinely wants to improve the condition of the town and the running of the town.

“What’s more I made it quite clear that I apologised if I had hurt any of the gay community and made it quite clear my wife and I have friends in the gay community and we bear them no malice at all.

“I would simply say, ‘please judge me on my record’.”

Cllr Silvester said his letter was criticising the Government, not individuals, and added: “It was the Government who tried to change the law of God and it was that I was objecting to.”

Following his comments, the town council passed on 12 complaints about Cllr Silvester to the district council, whose monitoring officer decided that an investigation was necessary.

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

The district council ruled the councillors’ code of conduct did not apply, saying Cllr Silvester was not acting in his capacity as a member of the 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 party that he used to represent.

After being cleared, Cllr Silvester said his only regret was the “aggro” for his wife and that he felt vindicated.

In the letter, Cllr Silvester 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.

He was widely condemned and suspended and then expelled by UKIP.

An online petition calling for his resignation was signed by more than 25,000 people and his home was targeted by vandals who threw eggs at the property and hung a gay pride banner on the wall.

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. He quit the Conservatives in 2013 and he joined UKIP.

He is treasurer of the Henley over-60s club, a Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator and a member of the Chilterns Conservation Board and the Oxfordshire Association of Local Councils.

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