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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.

News

Crabb takes up the reins as Wales Committee chair

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PRESELI MP Stephen Crabb has been elected as the new chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee in Parliament.

Stephen Crabb, who served as Secretary of State for Wales from 2014 to 2016, secured support from across the political divide to be elected unopposed, and is looking forward to taking on the new role.

He received nominations from MPs drawn from of all parties in Wales as well as being supported by numerous other MPs from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The committee examines the work of the Wales Office and other UK departments in Wales. It takes evidence from Ministers, experts and other witnesses in order to make recommendations that benefit Wales and its economy.

Following the announcement, Stephen Crabb said: “This is an exciting opportunity and I’m grateful to have received support from such a wide cross-section the House of Commons, including from Conservative, Labour and Plaid Cymru MPs. By drawing on the knowledge and passion of MPs from all parties, the committee can help to shape a positive and optimistic agenda for Wales at a time of enormous change.

“Post-Brexit trade deals, the Shared Prosperity Fund, infrastructure investment and the climate challenge will all have an impact on Wales in the years ahead. The Welsh Affairs Committee will provide an essential forum for examining Government action in these areas and ensuring that the unique circumstances of Wales are properly understood.”

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Business

Old barracks promised new lease of life

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THE COMPANY which has purchased the iconic defensible barracks in Pembroke Dock have promised to breathe new life into the historic building.

The grade II fort was built in the Victorian era to provide a military defence to the Royal Dockyard. It was recently sold for an undisclosed sum to VR1844 Ltd. The company directors are listed as Jonathan McDermott, Emma Jane Morby, Lai Hang Seto, and Iain Trevor Walker.

VR1844Ltd office manager Tanya McDermott said: “VR1844 believe people never truly own a building but are the buildings guardians for a period of time.

“Taking the view that it is only the right development for the right building at the right time it is our privilege to bring the building back into life, repair, nurture and give back to the local community, not to shut the main doors and lock the building away from people who are interested in it and its history.

“VR1844 Ltd who have brought this very under-loved and not looked after building, want to bring the buildings back into life with a mix of community uses, together with a number of dwellings that will breathe life back into the buildings.
“To do this VR1844 are already working hard with CADW, Pembrokeshire County Council and local councillors to bring forward a scheme that all parties can support, and the community can once again be proud of.”

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News

Town councillors object to hotel on health and safety grounds

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TOWN COUNCILLORS in Milford Haven have unanimously voted to object to a planning application my Milford Haven Port Authority to build a 100-bedroom hotel on Milford Docks.
Town Mayor Terry Davies said he had had numerous requests from members of the public to try to get it refused.
Several members of the public were at the meeting to watch, including Ian Bannister and his daughter and James Kershaw – whose homes were seriously flooded in 2018 causing tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage.
Cllr Lynne Turner told councillors: “We look forward to the development of the marina and the town desperately needs a hotel, but we have been contacted by a number of representatives from the Lower Priory and Havens Head area who are very concerned about the impact on flooding in their villages.
“The sewage waste from this development, and the change to water run-off, unless the Port Authority addresses the culverts in the area, then we have to assume that this must present a big risk to increased flooding.”
“We need to wait for the outcome of a report to see how the hotel will affect the villages”
“Then that report needs to be acted upon, if needs be.”
Cllr Rhys Sinnett said: “It is clear from the representation from the communities affected by the floods in 2018, they are still awaiting answers and actions from Pembrokeshire County Council to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.
“Whilst no action is being taken, I don’t see how we can support anything that might raise water levels and I suggest we need to delay this as long as possible.
“There is no reference in the report to the flooding in 2018 so how can we support an application that has faulty information.”
“We have to object to this application within the scope of planning rules, and I propose that we can object in terms of health and safety.
What happened in 2018 was a had a huge impact on the health and safety of those who were living in Lower Priory and in Havens Head.
Cllr Turner then formally that the town council object, as Cllr Sinnett suggested, to the application on health and safety grounds.
Cllr Sinnett added that because of the controversial nature of the application, he would be strongly suggesting the application go before the council’s planning committee.
“That would be best for local democracy” he said, adding “this application should not be decided by officers under their delegated powers.
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