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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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Mark Drakeford says: ‘Thank you Wales for going red’

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LABOUR is staying in power in Wales after matching its best-ever Senedd election result. It won exactly half of the 60 seats in the Welsh Parliament with all results now declared

Labour has 30 seats, with the Conservatives on 16, Plaid Cymru on 13 and the Liberal Democrats one.
Mark Drakeford thanked Wales for “going red” and has vowed to be “radical” and “ambitious” in government, as Labour looks to solidify its leadership in Wales.

Labour’s Vaughan Gething, health minister in the Welsh government, told the media that the party didn’t “have to look at a formal coalition” because they had done so well.

“We do, however, have to talk to other groups within the Senedd,” he said.

Mr Gething said Labour had a “strong mandate to govern” with 30 of the Senedd’s 60 seats.

The Wales Green Party failed to win a seat in the Senedd elections but they say they recorded their highest-ever result in Wales. Leader Anthony Slaughter said the “results demonstrate the appetite for change” across Wales.

A very happy Mark Drakeford on Saturday, May 8 (Photo Welsh Labour/Twitter)

Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party, said: “We seem to be getting votes from all of the parties and support on that regional list as people increase their knowledge of the voting system.”

Adam Price, who held Carmarthen East and Dinefwr with a reduced majority, said he would not stand down as Plaid Cymru leader.

Despite no gains, Mr Price said the party had increased its share of the vote and its stance on independence had been a “net positive”.

“I’m not walking away from anything, because this is the moment when Wales needs leadership,” he said.

“This is a historic challenge, because of the way that the politics is moving in this island, but it’s also a historic opportunity for us.

On the campaign trail, Plaid leader Adam Price (Pic Plaid Cymru)

“We can move our nation forward and I’m looking forward to playing my part, it’s not something that anyone can do on their own.

“I have a role to play, we all have a role to play and that’s what’s exciting about politics at the moment. Wales is on the move Wales is on the march. I’m going to be part of that.”

Later, on social media, Adam Price said: ” I extend my congratulations to Mark Drakeford on securing a mandate to lead the next government. Although disappointed not to be returning more Members to the Senedd, I am proud that we ran a positive campaign based on a transformational programme.

“Our Senedd group will bring renewed energy and fresh ideas and I look forward to working with all my colleagues as we continue to build the case for independence. We will be a constructive but forensic opposition as we enter a crucial period of pandemic recovery.

“However, the sixth Senedd will be poorer without one of Wales’s most remarkable politicians. No one has given more to the party or to her community than Leanne Wood – an inspiring role model for so many.

“Leanne’s commitment to the Rhondda is unparalleled and I know she will continue to make an important contribution to the future of our nation and the pursuit of social justice which always has and always will drive her politics.

“Westminster’s attack on devolution is only just beginning and Wales needs a plan – that plan must focus on taking our own future into our own hands so we can build a nation that is fair and free.

TORYS CLAIM BEST RESULT EVER

The Welsh Conservatives say that they have secured the party’s best ever result in a Senedd election, winning 16 seats in the Welsh Parliament.

In a statement to the press the party said: “Today’s final election results have seen the Welsh Conservatives secure two regional list seats in both South Wales Central and South Wales East.

“Welsh Conservatives polled 289,802 votes (share up 5.0) across 40 constituencies – 26.1% of the vote – winning eight seats including gains in both the Vale of Clwyd and Brecon and Radnorshire.

“On the five regional lists, Welsh Conservatives secured 278,560 votes (share up 6.3), winning eight seats. The result will see the Senedd return its first ever female from a BAME background, with Welsh Conservatives’ Natasha Asghar making history with election in South Wales East.

Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies with Joel Williams on election day (Pic RT Davies/Twitter)

Commenting, Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies said: “Firstly, I’d like to say a huge thank you to our outstanding set of Welsh Conservative candidates, activists and staff who’ve worked incredibly hard throughout this campaign and secured the party’s best ever Senedd result.

“The team has gone above and beyond and deserve great credit for the positive campaign we’ve run right across Wales, and I am thrilled to see Natasha Asghar make history in South Wales East by becoming the first female from a BAME background to be elected to the Senedd.

Newly elected Conservative member of Senedd, Sam Kurtz, talking to BBC reporter Aled Scourfield (Pic J Coles/Herald)

“As a party we are also delighted to have secured constituency seats in the Vale of Clwyd and Brecon and Radnorshire, and increased seats on the regional lists, resulting in our highest ever representation in the Senedd with 16 members.

“It’s been an unconventional campaign and it’s clear incumbency and continuity has played a significant part. To that end, I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to Mark Drakeford and Welsh Labour on a successful campaign.

“The election has been fought in good spirit by political parties in Wales and I would like to pay a final word of thanks to the many officials across the country who’ve allowed this election to take place in a safe and effective manner.”

IMPACT OF PANDEMIC

Ian Price, director of CBI Wales, congratulated Labour. He said: “This is a critical time for the Welsh economy and the new parliament must have a laser-like focus on rebuilding from the devastating impact of the pandemic,” he said.
“That means all parties pulling together and working with business to protect jobs, rebuild livelihoods and create a fair and sustainable recovery that addresses the longstanding structural challenges our economy faces.”

Royal Town Planning Institute, largest professional body for town planners in the UK and Europe, commented on the election result saying: “The Welsh Labour Manifesto meets many of the issues raised by the RTPI, including tackling climate action, investing in public transport and active travel, and the delivery of quality affordable homes, including a focus on strengthening Welsh language communities.

“The manifesto commits to strengthening the autonomy and effectiveness of local government to make them more successful in delivering services. We have highlighted the need to invest in planning services to enable the delivery of Welsh Labour’s priorities.”

LABOUR “RESILIENT”

Speaking to the BBC, political commentator Prof Roger Awan-Scully said: “I think it’s been an astonishingly resilient performance by the Welsh Labour Party, amidst disasters for Labour elsewhere in the UK.

“The Conservatives are also performing strongly, but not quite bringing it home in terms of the number of constituency victories that they might have expected.

“For Plaid Cymru I think this has to be said to be a deeply disappointing election.”

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Conservatives hold on to Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire seat

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THE CONSERVATIVES have held on to their Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire seat despite Labour closing the gap.

Sam Kurtz will take over the seat from the outgoing Angela Burns who held a majority of 3,400 at the last election.

This time, the gap was just 936 to Labour’s Hassan Riaz who picked up 10,304 votes.

Plaid Cymru’s Cefin Campbell picked up 6,615 votes.

The turnout in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire was slightly up to 52.12% from 51.2% in 2016.

However, with a larger electorate thanks to votes for 16/17-year-olds, the number of votes cast went up by almost 3,000.

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Paul Davies re-elected as Conservatives hold Preseli Pembrokeshire

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PAUL DAVIES has been re-elected to represent the Preseli Pembrokeshire constituency.

He won with 12,295 votes, while there were 10,895 votes for Labour’s Jackie Jones.

Plaid Cymru candidate Cris Tomos gained just over 6,000 votes and there were also 1,239 for Reform UK candidate Alan Dennison.

There were over 3000 more votes cast in 2016, down largely in part to the fact that 16 and 17 year olds were able to vote in this election.

Both the Conservatives and Labour received more votes than before while the gap to Labour closed to just 1,400.

After being elected, Paul Davies said he would continue to ‘fight for Pembrokeshire’ and thanked those who had been involved in his campaign.

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