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Simon Hart under pressure to explain swastikas on election sign

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THE RE-ELECTION campaign of south-county MP Simon Hart is mired in controversy, as the Tory flatly refuses to publicly respond to speculation over who daubed swastikas on his own campaign material whilst in his own possession.

Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire’s nine-year incumbent, hoping to retain his seat in next month’s election, is coming under increasing pressure to explain the appearance of the Nazi icons on a poster he had removed from public display two years ago.

During his successful campaign at the June 2017 snap general election, Mr Hart gained national press coverage after publicly sharing a photograph of written graffiti on one of his small roadside promotional billboards.

After Simon Hart’s name on the placard, a black marker pen had been used to daub in block-capitals the words: “WILL STARVE YOUR NAN AND STEAL HER HOUSE!”

The graffitiing episode generated some sympathy for Mr Hart, who has turned the affair into a campaigning platform since 2017.

He has revisited the matter numerous times, even in the House of Commons – during parliamentary debate on life in public service and the abuse of political candidates, after gaining a seat on the Standards in Public Life Committee as a result of his experience.

Criticising what he called the “criminal damage” in 2017, Mr Hart also claimed he had “Nazi swastikas daubed over [his] election boards in Carmarthenshire, between Pendine and Laugharne”.

No photographs of the alleged swastikas were publicly shared on social media by Mr Hart then, or since.

As part of his current campaign, Mr Hart posted, on his Facebook page, a new photograph of the “…will starve your nan…” defaced poster on November 3, stating that he is “determined that the tone and nature of this election should be a big improvement on 2017”.

In his emotive 650-word post accompanying the defaced poster image, Mr Hart says abuse in public life “is hard to hide from, can be anonymised, and can have a debilitating impact on work colleagues, family and friends”.

He also puts out the appeal: “I want to invite my challengers at this election, irrespective of their views or allegiances, to publicly endorse standards of behaviour that have been proposed by organisations such as the Committee for Standards in Public Life (of which I was a member) and the Jo Cox Foundation”.

Among the list of nine standards Mr Hart promotes, and pledges to abide by, is that: “Candidates and their supporters must set and protect a tone of public discourse which is not dehumanising or derogatory”.

But an eagle-eyed opponent of Mr Hart, Jim Scott, noticed that the “…will starve your nan…” poster has been crudely embellished since it was widely shared after being originally photographed by Mr Hart in June 2017.

For its 2019 outing, it is clear by comparison to earlier images of the ‘nan’ placard that two swastikas have been added, in blue marker pen, where not one appeared before.

Mr Scott, a strong critic of the Conservatives who has been chiefly involved in anti-austerity rallies as part of the Pembrokeshire People’s Assembly, says Mr Hart needs to explain how this could happen long after the already-defaced poster had been taken down from public display and kept in safe storage by Mr Hart over the last two years:

“You can tell by the handwriting that this is exactly the same placard being shared by Simon Hart, yet somehow in the intervening two years, two swastikas have been added to it. Who had the opportunity to do it? Who did it? And why?”

Our editor put Mr Scott’s views in writing to Mr Hart, along with a more serious theory that has been speculated online to account for the additions. Mr Hart gave the matter short shrift – responding only to dismiss the matter as mere election mischief from his political opponents.

Promoted by prime minister Boris Johnson to government minister at the Cabinet Office this summer, Simon Hart says he is REFUSING to give a public statement or explanation for the Nazi graffiti. We reproduce in full his brief written response:

“Really?! I have to say even by Corbynista standards arguing about this reaches new depths. I am not going to say anything public whatsoever. Totally outrageous and hope you treat it with suitable contempt!”

At the Herald we believe that the onus is on Mr Hart to end speculation. That, as a seasoned campaigner, senior political figure, and latterly government minister, he owes his prospective constituents a clear, credible, on-the-record explanation for the swastikas’ appearance LONG AFTER he had taken the poster down from public display.

This is a sentiment shared by Jim Scott, who describes Mr Hart’s repeated references to the defacing of his 2017 election material as “Simon Hart’s hobby horse”.

He says: “The question for Simon is: Who drew the swastikas between June 3, 2017 when he first published a photo of the ‘nan’ poster, and November 3, 2019 when he shared a photo of the same poster on Facebook, but this time with two swastikas added to it, when previously there wasn’t a single one?”

Mr Scott said: “Mr Hart’s use of the poster – however the swastikas got there – is a classic case of the big bully playing bullied which won’t wash with the people of Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire who need a credible explanation”.

Mr Scott shared his findings on Facebook, where many others said they, too, had noticed the unexplained addition of the shocking Nazi imagery.

“All very mysterious”, says one, whilst another speculates that Mr Hart could claim the offensive penmanship is the handiwork of “the Russians!”

As it was: The graffitied ‘nan’ placard, published by Mr Hart on June 3, 2017

As it is now: Two swastikas have been added to the ‘nan’ placard by November 3, 2019

THE SWASTIKA SAGA IN BRIEF

MR HART, who has served as parliamentarian for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire since defeating incumbent Labour MP Nick Ainger in 2010, is hoping to defend his slimmest majority yet.
In 2017 his majority was 3,110 over his Labour party rival Marc Tierney, a candidate he will be facing in two weeks’ time, along with the Lib Dems’ Alistair Cameron and Plaid Cymru’s Rhys Thomas.

– Mr Hart originally shared an image of the ‘nan’ placard on social media on June 3, 2017
– It says “SIMON HART WILL STARVE YOUR NAN AND STEAL HER HOUSE!”
– Although not photographed and shared by Mr Hart, he claimed he had swastikas daubed on his posters, too
– The story is picked up by the local and national press
– Then-PM Theresa May discusses Mr Hart’s case, and the issue of political abuse
– Mr Hart gains a seat on the parliamentary Standards in Public Life Committee as a result of his experience, exploiting the affair to bring attention to dirty campaigning tactics
– Mr Hart kickstarts his 2019 re-election campaign with an appeal for civility
– His 650-word emotive appeal uses the now-altered image of the ‘nan’ poster
– This image, dated November 3, 2019, is of the same ‘nan’ placard
– Eagle-eyes spot that the defaced poster now has TWO SWASTIKAS ADDED to it
– Questions mount: who had the opportunity to further deface the placard, once in Mr Hart’s possession, and who, in fact, added the offensive icons?
– Mr Hart REFUSES to make ANY public statement, says questions are “totally outrageous” and: “I am not going to say anything public whatsoever”.

This week’s cartoon in The Pembrokeshire Herald featured the Simon Hart story.

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Simon’s Hart to Hart with Pembroke constituent

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SIMON HART has got into a heated doorstep discussion with a Pembroke pensioner whilst canvasing for next week’s general election.

Michael Hart, 70, who is no relation to Simon Hart, contacted The Herald at lunchtime today (5 December) to say that he had been in a heated discussion with the Tory incumbent, who was out door-knocking on his street.

The argument was sparked by the swastika saga – as exclusively reported in last week’s Herald – in which Simon Hart REFUSES to account for the appearance of offensive Nazi graffiti on one of his election placards, two years after it was taken down from public display.

Simon Hart photographed the placard in question in 2017 – at which point the only evidence of graffiti it bore was written text. But he posted a new photograph of the same placard to kickstart his re-election campaign last month, in which two swastikas are visible where none appeared before.

The MP is still refusing to give any public explanation, and has threatened legal action against those speculating over what he says is “demonstrably untrue.”
Since being reported by his favourite local weekly, Michael Hart tells us that he noticed how Simon Hart was still keeping quiet on the swastikas’ appearance – despite being approached by journalists reporting on the matter for the Independent, Daily Mirror, iNews and Western Mail titles.

Earlier this week WalesOnline reported that, when approached, Simon Hart failed to offer “an explanation as to how the swastika signs ended up on the election board, or who might be responsible”, but he told them: “Any suggestion that I had anything to do with this is malicious, false and defamatory and lawyers have been instructed”.

Michael Hart tells the Herald that he became aware Simon Hart was out campaigning on Kingsbridge Drive at lunchtime, when the candidate’s poster landed on his doormat.

The retiree says that the swastika issue led to the disagreement – in which words were exchanged and threats of legal action were inferred made towards him by the government minister.

Michael Hart, a retired teacher and mechanical engineer, said that he tackled Simon Hart to explain how the swastikas came about. He says his prodding produced what he calls a “tentative explanation” from the Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire incumbent, which he finds “hard to believe”.

“I opened my door and went out to the drive, and politely said I did not want the poster. A few moments later, Simon Hart came up the road and onto my drive.

“I complained to him about two things – the Conservatives’ illegal proroguing of Parliament, and all that I’ve read about his publishing of the photo on his Facebook page of his defaced election board with the swastikas on.

“When I asked him about the signs, he got agitated, angry, and threatened me with legal action, and said he would pursue anybody who made out that he had anything to do with it”.

“On pushing him further, he told me how he thinks they got there. He says when his signs were in storage in a shed, that the shed was broken into, and a large number of placards including the swastika placard were ‘damaged or defaced’ for a second time!

“It really is quite some theory – and if it is true now, then it was true last week when the issue was first exposed. So why didn’t he mention this before now, when the Herald and other papers started asking him questions, or why didn’t he contact the police?

“Why was it when he put the poster on Facebook did he not then explain how the swastikas got there?

“I’m not sure why but he was recording our conversation on his phone. At the end of the visit no one from Mr Hart’s party would accept the poster back – so I threw it in the road and then it was picked up.”

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Jeremy Corbyn 100% confirmed to visit Pembrokeshire this weekend

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LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn will be visiting Pembrokeshire this weekend to shore up support for Labour candidates in the area.

Although the exact itinerary has not yet been confirmed, Labour HQ in Cardiff has confirmed to The Pembrokeshire Herald that Mr Corbyn will definitely be in attendance.

Mr Corbyn will be keen to rally votes for Philippa Thompson, who is standing in the Preseli Pembrokeshire seat – the second most marginal in the UK.

At the 2017 election she lost to Stephen Crabb by just 314 votes.

An email sent out to Labour members states: “Jeremy Corbyn will be in Haverfordwest to talk about how we win a better society, and we hope you can join him.

“This election is a once in a generation chance for us. Together we can reverse a decade of austerity. Take power from the billionaires, the bad bosses and the big polluters and give it to workers, young people, communities and everyone the Tories have failed for so long.

“We’re coming together to make our voices heard in Haverfordwest this weekend. This is about getting together, being inspired, and making a difference in the final week.”

The exact location will be sent out to those who register to attend, the email ads. The indoor rally is expected to start at 5.30pm.

Corbyn’s supporters said they hope that their leader will also attend an outdoor rally taking place in Haverfordwest town centre, at a location to be confirmed, the same afternoon.

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Haverfordwest boy caught taking drugs by officers thirty miles away

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A TEENAGE boy was arrested in Haverfordwest last week, after he was caught smoking cannabis on CCTV cameras which are monitored in Carmarthen (on Nov 28).

As part of the ongoing effort to crack down on anti-social behaviour in the town centre, known as Operation Spitfire, Haverfordwest Inspector, Reuben Palin, was at police headquarters, where the cameras are monitored, when he spotted the boy on-screen.

He saw a group of teenagers known to police, and the camera operator was able to zoom in for a closer look at their activities. After a call to local officers, they quickly arrived at the scene. The group was searched and one of the youths was arrested for possessing the class B drug.

Insp. Palin said: “We’re doing all we can to address community concerns about anti-social behaviour in Haverfordwest, and this includes putting the town’s new CCTV system to best use.

“Seeing the capability of the cameras in live-time has shown that CCTV is not just useful when an incident has occurred, but can also help us monitor what’s happening in town, and will hopefully deter bad behaviour.

“Obviously this can’t replace good old fashioned foot patrols, and we have a plan that sees CCTV complementing a visible police presence.”

The teenage boy arrested on suspicion of possessing the small amount of cannabis admitted the offence, and will be dealt with by the Youth Offending Team to ensure he gets support for his drug use.

He continued: “We are also working with other agencies, in particular the council, which has recently opened a drop-in centre for young people at No 2 Old Bridge, with the aim of offering a wide range of activities and opportunities that reflect their interests.

“While we have a strategy to minimise anti-social behaviour in this area, we would like to remind parents that the actions of their children are not the responsibility of the police. We urge you to be aware of what your children are doing, and where they are spending their time.

“No one should have to put up with anti-social behaviour and I would encourage the community to contact Haverfordwest Police to report any issues or concerns.”

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