David Hart (UK political activist)

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David Hart (4 February 1944 – 5 January 2011) was a British writer, businessman, and adviser to Margaret Thatcher.[1] He also had a career in the 1960s as an avant-garde film maker. He was a controversial figure during the 1984–5 miners strike and played a leading role in organising and funding the anti-strike campaign in the coalfields.

Early life[edit]

David Hart was the elder of the two sons of Anglo-Jewish businessman Louis Albert Hart,[2] the chairman/principal shareholder of the Henry Ansbacher merchant bank, which had been founded by Henry Ainsley né Ansbacher.[3] Hart came from a prominent Anglo-Jewish family which has contributed to public life in the UK.

Hart was educated at Eton.[3] In the mid- to late 1960s, he made several avant garde films and was in the circle of Bruce Robinson (who made Withnail and I). On A Game Called Scruggs (1965) he worked with Raoul Coutard, regular cinematographer for Jean-Luc Godard, and was described by producer Michael Deeley as "the English Godard".[4]

By now, Hart had begun to work in property,[2] a field in which he became a millionaire by the late 1960s. Living extravagantly, he declared himself bankrupt in 1974,[5] owing £960,000 by the time of the 1975 hearing,[6] although this was discharged in 1978.[7] A later inheritance restored his fortunes.[2]

Political advisor[edit]

By the late 1970s he was involved in Conservative Party politics and the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank. He wrote speeches for Archie Hamilton MP, a friend from Eton.[2]

In the early 1980s Thatcher involved Hart in negotiations with the Ronald Reagan US administration regarding their "Star Wars" Strategic Defence Initiative.[2]

During the miners' strike of 1984–85 he was an unpaid advisor to Thatcher, the National Coal Board and its chair Ian MacGregor.[8] He was a controversial[8] figure during the 1984–5 miners strike and was instrumental in organising and funding the anti-strike campaign in the coalfields,[9] including funding a breakaway miners union, the Union of Democratic Mineworkers.[10] His involvement in aiding working miners extended to employing former members of the SAS to protect the families of working miners[11] and using the resources of 'the secret state'.[12] Hart's involvement was eventually a source of bitterness for the UDM's leader Roy Lynk.[10]

In 1987 he formed the Campaign for a Free Britain,[1] "an extreme right wing organization", funded by Rupert Murdoch which at one point called for "the legalization of all drugs",[13] and which used "anti-gay material during their anti-Labour campaign in 1987".[14]

Towards the end of Hungarian communism, David Hart channelled support from the West to a Hungarian political movement known as Fidesz, which at the time was a ragtag collection of students and activists. Within a year, Hungarian communism fell and members of Fidesz were part of the new government.[citation needed]

In the autumn of 1993 he was appointed as a personal advisor to Malcolm Rifkind, Secretary of State for Defence,[15] a position Hart retained when Michael Portillo succeeded Rifkind. Reportedly a long-standing Portillo contact, Hart is credited with writing the 'Who Dares Wins' conclusion to Portillo's 1995 Conservative Party Conference speech.[1][16] He was also involved in the 1995 plan to install 40 telephones and fax machines in a Lord Smith Street house for a Portillo leadership challenge to Prime Minister John Major which never emerged.[17]

In the 2000s he was involved in the international defence industry – including being a lobbyist for BAE and Boeing.[18] In 2004 an arrest warrant for Hart was issued concerning his alleged involvement in that year's coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea.[1] In 2007 The Guardian newspaper alleged Hart had received £13million in secret payments from BAE Systems,[19] via Defence Consultancy Ltd, an anonymously registered company based in the British Virgin Islands. While BAE was under investigation for corruption at the time, Hart himself was not thought to have done anything illegal.[19]

Cultural depictions[edit]

In 2004 the author David Peace published the novel GB84, a "fiction based on a fact" of the miners strike. The book's most controversial feature was Stephen Sweet, who is referred to throughout by his driver as "The Jew", a vain and obsessive character allegedly based on David Hart.[9]

However, in Francis Beckett and David Henckes' study on the miners' strike, Marching to the Fault Line, Hart features more as light relief.[20] Hart is also portrayed as a major protagonist on the Government's side in Beth Steel's 2014 play "Wonderland"

Hart himself wrote numerous plays including Victoriana, The Little Rabbi, The Ark & the Covenant,[2] and two novels, The Colonel and Come to the Edge.

Personal life[edit]

Hart lived in some style in Suffolk, first at Coldham Hall, near Stanningfield, Bury St Edmunds and then at nearby Chadacre Hall in Shimpling.[1]

Hart was the father of five children by four women; the four mothers were Christina Williams, Karen Weis, Hazel O'Leary, and Kate Agazarian.[1] In an article for The Daily Telegraph in June 2009, Hart revealed he had been living with primary lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neurone disease since 2003.[21] He died on 5 January 2011.[1]


  • Sitting Quietly, Doing Nothing, Spring Comes and the Grass Grows by Itself – short
  • A Game Called Scruggs (1965) – featurette starring Susannah York
  • The Other People (aka Sleep Is Lovely", 1968) – feature


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Obituary: David Hart, Daily Telegraph, 5 January 2011
  2. ^ a b c d e f David Thomas "Implausible but true", Daily Telegraph, 27 September 2003
  3. ^ a b Martin Childs "David Hart: Flamboyant banking heir who made his name as Thatcher’s political fixer during the 1980s miners’ strike". The Independent, 11 January 2011
  4. ^ Julian Grainger "Sleep Is Lovely (1968)", BFI Lost Films, accessed 23 May 2012
  5. ^ "No. 46437". The London Gazette. 19 December 1974. p. 13042.
  6. ^ Edward Pearce Obituary: David Hart, The Guardian, 9 January 2011
  7. ^ Martin Adeney and John Lloyd The Miners' Strike 1984-5: Loss Without Limit, London: Routledge, 1988, p.161
  8. ^ a b http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/article874802.ece
  9. ^ a b Mike Marqusee "David Peace: State of the union rights", The Independent, 5 March 2004
  10. ^ a b Barrie Clement "Government in crisis: UDM leader reflects on road to dole queue", The Independent, 21 October 1992
  11. ^ Richard Norton Taylor "MI5 agent 'spied on Labour MP'", The Guardian, i November 2002
  12. ^ "MP 'spied on by the state'", BBC News, 1 November 2002
  13. ^ Farrell, Michael 'News and Notes' British Journal of Addiction (1991) 86, p469
  14. ^ Hughes, Mike 'Western Goals (UK)' Lobster Magazine 21, (May 1991)
  15. ^ Tim Kelsey "Thatcher confidante returns to the spotlight", The Independent, 6 September 1994
  16. ^ "Mark Thatcher 'was planning Texas move'", The Guardian, 26 August 2004
  17. ^ "The friends of Michael Portillo", The Guardian, 10 September 1999
  18. ^ Chris Blackhurst "Mystery player suspected of swinging final deal", The Independent, 14 July 1995
  19. ^ a b David Leigh and Rob Evans "Questions over secret bank transfers", The Guardian, 11 June 2007
  20. ^ Boyd Tonkin "The Week in Books: Factional strife in an age of monsters", The Independent, 27 March 2009
  21. ^ David Hart "'Despite it all, I feel lucky to be alive'", Daily Telegraph, 15 June 2009

External links[edit]