East Herts Council chair Martin Butcher resigns in wake of complaints about ‘deplorable’ Israel-Hamas comments
The Green Party chairman of East Herts Council has resigned in the wake of objections to his social media comments on the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Cllr Martin Butcher, who works for Oxfam, told the Indie he had quit to concentrate on the humanitarian crisis for Palestinian people in Gaza.
Hertford and Stortford’s Conservative MP Julie Marson had complained formally to EHC about his “deplorable” posts on X (formerly Twitter) and on Friday (October 13) the council’s Labour group called for him to go, citing further content criticising Israel.
Cllr Butcher has worked for the charitable humanitarian organisation for more than 13 years and is currently a policy advisor on conflict, international humanitarian law and arms.
The Green Party member for Ware St Mary's, who is also a Ware town councillor and deputy mayor, said on Friday afternoon: “I have already resigned as chair of East Herts Council.
“My role in the emergency humanitarian response to the appalling tragedy unfolding in Gaza leaves me no time at all for the chair’s role at present and for the foreseeable future.
“It’s sad to see the Labour Party inflaming hatred and using a global crisis for narrow local political purposes. I had thought they were a party that supported universal human rights, but clearly not.”
On LinkedIn, he describes his role as: “Working on developing conflict-sensitive approaches to different areas of Oxfam's work. Also the environmental effects of conflict and analysis of the gendered impact of the use of arms in conflict. Also on the protection of civilians for explosive weapons, and advancing the Arms Trade Treaty to reduce the negative effects of the arms trade.”
He is a former primary and secondary school governor who also co-founded and chairs the Ware-based Herts Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Support Network.
Cllr Butcher was appointed East Herts Council chairman, a community figurehead role, in May after the Greens became the largest minority party, with 19 seats, and formed a power-sharing administration with the Liberal Democrats.
In the wake of his comments on X about the Israel-Hamas conflict, his Lib Dem and Conservative colleagues also criticised him and the council’s monitoring officer launched an investigation.
Mrs Marson said: “Cllr Butcher appears to promote and approve of Hamas’ actions (reposting a description that Hamas’ murderous rampage was ‘a bit wild’) while attempting to draw an equivalence with Israel and even attacking Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy for condemning the terrorism.”
In response, Cllr Butcher made clear: “I unequivocally support an immediate end to the violence in Israel and Palestine and want to be absolutely clear that the deliberate targeting of civilians is utterly unacceptable under any circumstances.
“What matters above all else is our collective commitment to forging a permanent and peaceful resolution, one that safeguards the lives of innocent civilians.”
Now he has relinquished his chairman’s chain of office, he said: “I shall continue to focus in East Herts on issues that concern the people of East Herts, like unrestricted building on Green Belt and greenfield sites, something Labour does now support.”
The Indie has invited the leaders of East Herts’ Green, Lib Dem, Conservative and Labour groups to comment on Cllr Butcher’s decision.