Following the unexpected poor performance of Theresa’s May’s Conservative Party in the 2017 general election, many pointed to her hugely unpopular endorsement of fox hunting in the run up to the April vote as one of the reasons. May had said that she would be in favour of giving MPs a free vote on repeal of the Hunting Act, something that simultaneously titillated the rabid core of rural tory voters and repulsed the more balanced electorate.
The subsequent poor showing at the polls led May to abandon much of these early promises as parliamentary time became wholeheartedly swamped by endless Brexit debate. Nowadays, the parliamentary Conservative party has distanced itself from any suggestion of Hunting Act repeal, although within its ranks hide many hunters.
You would be forgiven for thinking that the party line would be ‘steer clear of absolutely anything to do with hunting’, however a closer look at the actions of a certain MP for South Pembrokeshire would suggest otherwise.
Meet Simon Hart, secretary of state for Wales; this Birmingham-born MP was chairman of the Countryside Alliance for seven years before getting into paid politics. Before that he was master of the Cresselly Hunt for a decade. These days he still keeps in touch with his foxhunting pals by showing up to hunt meets.
It has now been reported that Simon Hart has received at least £30,000 from a shadowy shell company known as the Landsker Business Club. While in itself not illegal, this is against the spirit of the MPs code which governs political donations, which have to be declared if over £1500. The use of a ‘Business Club’ completely disguises the origin of these donations.
Investigations into these donations however show that they are linked to a South Wales businessman, Adrian Lort-Phillips. The name is well known in Pembrokeshire, as Adrian’s family have historically both run and hosted the Pembrokeshire Hunt at their ancestral home, Lawrenny.
The Lort-Phillip family name is also a feature in Simon Harts own beloved Cresselly Hunt, as for a period the Cresselly Hunt and the Pembrokeshire Hunt were joined together at Lawrenny under the Lort-Phillips mastership.
Of course, political donations are nothing new, the cynics among you may say. What is to stop a wealthy landed businessman with deep ancestral links to fox hunting making huge donations to an MP who, out of all the MPs he could donate to, happens to be the ex-chairman of the Countryside Alliance and also a massive foxhunting fan?
Perhaps this leaked memo from the secret “Hunting Advisory Group” casts a less favourable light:
Can it really be that a serving member of parliament, in fact a senior member of Government, is using his position to influence legislation in a way which is favourable to hunting (fifteen years after it has already been banned) at the behest of wealthy anonymous donors?
Remember, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know…
Donations to Simon Hart unveiled:
Hunting Advisory Group