David SilvesterThe anti-immigration UK Independence Party (UKIP) on Sunday suspended a local councillor who blamed recent flooding across Britain on the government’s decision to legalise gay marriage.
David Silvester, a devout Christian who defected from Prime Minister
David Cameron’s Conservative party in protest at last year’s move to
allow same-s*x marriage, claimed Britain had been “beset by storms” in
recent weeks because the new law had angered God.
“It is (Cameron’s) fault that large swathes of the nation have been
afflicted by storms and floods,” Silvester, an elected member of the
town council in Henley-on-Thames, west of London, wrote in a letter to
his local newspaper.
UKIP initially supported Silvester’s right to express his opinions,
but the anti-EU party has now used emergency powers to suspend him.
“We cannot have any individual using the UKIP banner to promote their
controversial personal beliefs which are not shared by the party,” said
Roger Bird, the party’s chairman in southeast England.
Bird added that Silvester had defied party orders not to give any
more interviews, telling BBC radio on Sunday that homosexuality was a
disease that could be “healed”.
UKIP has struggled to shrug off a reputation for attracting
extremists — Cameron once derided them as a group of “fruitcakes,
loonies and closet racists”.
But the Conservatives are increasingly nervous about the threat posed
by the party, whose anti-EU and anti-immigration messages have steadily
gained support in recent years.
Votes for UKIP cost the Conservatives hundreds of seats at local
council elections last May and the smaller party is expected to do well
in this May’s European Parliament elections.
Silvester’s suspension came as UKIP leader Nigel Farage announced a
purge of “extremist, nasty or barmy” views from the party ahead of the
Farage told the Sun on Sunday newspaper that five candidates for the
upcoming elections were being forced not to stand because they could
potentially embarrass the party.
A ComRes poll published Sunday showed rising support for UKIP, with
19 percent backing them compared to 30 percent for the Conservatives and
35 percent for the opposition Labour party.
Civil partnerships for same-s*x couples have been legal in Britain
since 2005, giving them identical rights and responsibilities to
straight couples in a civil marriage.
But campaigners had pointed to differences, not least their inability to call their partnership a “marriage”.
Cameron pushed through the gay marriage law last year despite fierce
opposition within the Conservatives, and the first weddings are expected
to take place in March. [AFP]