A couple of reports in this week's Carmarthen Journal and a couple of hours of unexpected spare time have prompted Y Cneifiwr to lift a stone or two and take a closer look at local Tory boy Simon Hart, MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.
Simon Hart made it into the local press this week following the unfortunate discovery that his (apparently now former) party chairman, Stephen Crouch, was "granted a meeting with the arms sales minister Gerald Howarth, at the request of Mr Fox [Dr Liam Fox, disgraced former Defence Secretary, ed.], after secretly donating a reported £20,000 to fund the expenses of Mr Werritty [Dr Fox's lobbyist friend, ed.]."
Stephen Crouch was still named as constituency chairman on Mr Hart's website when the story broke, although it now seems that he has moved on to unknown new pastures, and was "not available for comment".
Although Mr Hart attempted to distance himself from Crouch, claiming that they had not been in touch for a "couple of years" and that it was not practical to ask volunteers to fill out "life history forms", we are informed, "Last year Mr Hart told the Evening Post a £5,000 donation to the association from Tony Buckingham, who was a partner of former South African mercenary army, Executive Outcomes, had come through Mr Crouch."
A bit odd that a Conservative MP who was elected as recently as May 2010 should not have spoken to his constituency chairman for a couple of years.
Strange also, given that there has been so little contact and that Mr Hart knew so little about his associate's background, that Mr Hart's website nevertheless informed us (until a few days ago) that, "A veteran of a number of Conservative Westminster campaigns around the UK, Stephen is currently working in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq as an advisor to governmental, non-governmental, and economic institutions."
Is it me, or is there a rather unpleasant smell? There's plenty more unsavoury stuff on Crouch and friends (see the Guardian and an interesting profile from Powerbase).
But Mr Hart has other interesting friends, as we can see from the House of Commons Register of Members' Interests. These include Mr M A R Galadari, who comes from one of the most influential families in Dubai and runs the emirate's English language newspaper the Khaleej Times. Mr Galadari generously gave Mr Hart tickets and hospitality to the value of £1,190 (+VAT) to watch a cricket match. Other generous benefactors include Lord Daresbury, a fox hunting lord and businessman, and a Mr Johan Christoffersen, who runs a New York-based hedge fund as well as the Isle of Wight Hunt.
Prior to becoming an MP, Mr Hart was chief executive of the Countryside Alliance in its militant huntin', shootin' and fishin' phase. He grew up in the Cotswolds, now the stomping ground of his boss and the likes of Jeremy Clarkson, before going on to public school at Radley, followed by the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester. It will come as no surprise to know that he was also a very enthusiastic member of the Territorial Army.
His voting record is what you would expect: in favour of raising university tuition fees, free schools, a Trident replacement and raising VAT. He is against proportional representation. He is quite active in parliament, and has asked quite a number of written questions, including several on squirrels.
The CV reads like a standard roll call from the pages of County Life (for which Mr Hart has been a contributor): Cotswolds, hunting and shooting, minor public school, Cirencester, Territorial Army. His friends appears to be rather more exotic, with their Middle Eastern, South African mercenary and arms dealership connections.
None of this screams Welsh, does it? Mr Hart's pronouncements on the future of S4C and his website's complete lack of any reference to the Welsh language show that the language spoken by many of his constituents is nowhere on his priority list.
The constituency of Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire is in fact a very odd creature indeed, taking in as it does anglophone seaside resorts such as Tenby and Saundersfoot and the rural west of Carmarthenshire, which in parts has a very strong Welsh identity.
Let's hope that the forthcoming boundary changes will persuade Mr Hart to take look for a seat in the shires of England, which is where he belongs.