Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson protests to East Herts Council about its Green chairman’s ‘deplorable’ comments on Israel-Hamas conflict
Bishop’s Stortford’s MP Julie Marson has sparked a probe of East Herts Council chairman’s conduct after he made “deplorable” comments about Hamas and Israel on social media.
The district authority’s monitoring officer will review the content posted on X (formerly Twitter) by Cllr Martin Butcher, the Green Party member for Ware St Mary’s.
Conservative Mrs Marson, who has represented Hertford and Stortford since December 2019, wrote to EHC’s leader, Cllr Ben Crystall of the Green Party, and chief executive Richard Cassidy to protest.
She said: “The comments and repostings relate to the attacks on Israel launched by Hamas, a proscribed terrorist group, over the weekend which saw thousands of rockets fired, over 700 people, mainly civilians and including British citizens, killed and others kidnapped and taken to Gaza against their will.
“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.
“These comments are deplorable. At a time when we should be showing our solidarity with Israel, a councillor in a position of leadership at East Herts Council is seemingly validating the actions of a proscribed terror group.”
She asked Cllr Crystall if he endorsed Cllr Butcher’s views and, if he did not, what steps he would be taking to “censure him and prevent a recurrence of this behaviour”.
She told Mr Cassidy she believed the posts could bring the council into disrepute and asked what action would be taken to “investigate any potential breach of standards”.
On Wednesday (October 11) EHC said that the matter had been referred to the monitoring officer for review. The Indie understands Mrs Marson’s letter is the only complaint received to date.
Cllr Butcher responded: “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.”
Cllr Butcher, a former primary and secondary school governor, works for Oxfam, mitigating the effects of conflict on civilians. He also co-founded and chairs the Ware-based Herts Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Support Network.
He also serves as a Ware town councillor – he is deputy mayor – and was elected as EHC chair in May when the Greens became the district’s largest party after the local elections. With 19 seats, the Greens formed a power-sharing administration with the 10 Liberal Democrats, replacing the Conservatives.
Cllr Mione Goldspink (Lib Dem, Bishop’s Stortford North), the council’s deputy leader and executive member for neighbourhoods, said: “The Liberal Democrats consider that Cllr Butcher’s comments were totally unacceptable and are pleased that they have been referred to the council’s monitoring officer.”
After Mrs Marson lodged her complaint, Cllr Bob Deering (Hertford Rural), leader of EHC’s Conservative group, said: ”The Palestinian issue is complex, but Hamas have slaughtered hundreds of civilians and abducted scores of men, women, children and the elderly to be used as human shields.
“There can be no justification for this. Nor can it be endorsed or condoned in any way. Terrorism should always be called out and Cllr Butcher has conspicuously failed to do so.”
Labour's five EHC members are considering their response to Cllr Butcher's comments.
Earlier in the week both Cllr Crystall and the leader of Hertfordshire County Council, Conservative Cllr Richard Roberts, made statements expressing sympathy for the victims of the conflict.