Wednesday, 02 December 2020

Women urge no vote for gay row councillor

TWO women who complained about comments made by a Henley town councillor about gay marriage say they will be “disappointed”

TWO women who complained about comments made by a Henley town councillor about gay marriage say they will be “disappointed” if he is re-elected.

Sarah Butcher and Vanessa Hoare were reacting to an announcement by David Silvester that he is to stand again as an independent at the local elections on May 7.

They were among 12 people who complained to the town council about the comments made by Cllr Silvester in a letter to the Henley Standard in January last year that the floods were caused by the legalisation of gay marriage.

Miss Hoare, 35, from Park Corner, near Nettlebed, said: “If people vote for him it will be seen as accepting some form of homophobia. I don’t hold anything against him for trying but if he gets in I think it’ll be hugely disappointing and very embarrassing as I don’t think people around here really think like that but they need to stand up and show it.”

Mrs Butcher, 40, of Belle Vue Road, Henley said: “I’m really disappointed but not surprised. This is our chance, outside of the whitewash that was the investigation, to make our feelings known. Just because you have done some really good things within the community does not mean you’re entitled to upset and hurt a large portion of that community, which is what he’s done.”

Last week, Cllr Silvester said he was “fairly confident” of being re-elected. He said: “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 last four years to do that.

“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.”

Following his comments last year, Cllr Silvester was thrown out of UKIP but South Oxfordshire District Council decided not to take disciplinary action against him, saying the councillors’ code of conduct did not apply.

It said he 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.

His letter 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. An online petition calling for his resignation was signed by more than 25,000 people and his home in Luker Avenue was targeted by vandals.

Cllr Silvester is currently a Henley South ward councillor as he used to live in Leaver Road but will stand in Henley North ward, which covers his current home.

• In last week’s Henley Standard we incorrectly reported that Cllr Silvester was a member of the Chilterns Conservation Board. In fact he is not a member and we are happy to set the record straight.

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