David Hart (1944-2011) was a right-wing British political activist. He was a founder of the Committee for a Free Britain and a covert operator during the Miners' strike of 1984/5, advising Margaret Thatcher and Iain MacGregor of the National Coal Board.
According to an interview in The Spectator, Hart was the son of 'Boy' Hart, the Jewish founder of Henry Ansbacher, the bankers. He was regarded as an outsider who would like to be an insider. He always wore an old Etonian tie, yet he hated Eton. After Hart left Eton and went into avant-garde films, his father tired of paying for his extravagances and he moved into property, and by 1972 had made a great deal of money. In 1974 he lost even more and was declared bankrupt. He was discharged in 1978 but apparently stayed rich, with a Rolls Royce, a 'permanent suite' at Claridges, and a large country house, Coldham Hall, in Suffolk.
Trading in Politics
Hart long realised that politicians, journalists and 'advisers' will accept invitations to a good meal, and through such practices Hart built up a vast network of acquaintances. He was, for instance, a friend of William Casey when he was head of the CIA. He also became acquainted with Margaret Thatcher, whom Hart said was quite different from most politicians, whom he treated with contempt. Many at 10 Downing Street made strenuous efforts to keep Hart away from Mrs.Thatcher. Hart merely resorted to telephoning her, saying that he was trying to relay to Mrs. Thatcher 'what people are thinking'. Hart's friends within the American administration got him to advocate to Mrs.Thatcher the Strategic Defence Initiative.
- I provided some money to the National Working Miners at the beginning and then I found other sources of money and I made myself responsible for making sure that they had the money.
Bell and Hart provided the 'link' between the NCB and Downing Street. This led to strong complaints to the Prime Minister from Peter Walker, the Energy Secretary.
David Hart wrote a semi-autobiographical novel entitled "Close to the Edge" which was published in 1988.
According to Mikle Hughes:
- Copies were distributed to a strictly limited number of reliable recipients who were asked, if they made use of the information it contained, not to name it as the source. Although its existence eventually became known, and the source of finance behind it, copies are still almost impossible to obtain with probably no more than two, of which I have copies, in non- rightwing hands.
- "BB", as it was called by its recipients, was funded by the millionaire "libertarian" conservative David Hart. A flamboyant figure, whose belligerent preaching of fundamentalist conservative individualism probably terrifies more Conservatives than it has inspired, Hart is a close adviser and friend to Margaret Thatcher. During the miners strike he was given the role of Thatcherite minder and fixer for the dangerously liberal minded Peter Walker, the energy secretary and the last true "wet" in a Thatcher Cabinet. One of his roles had been to organise the financing of the working miners' groups which were a key part in Thatcher's objective of crushing the National Union of Mineworkers. On the eve of the 1987 General Election, Hart formed his own organisation "The Committee for a Free Britain" which ran a series of powerful and outrageous anti Labour newspaper adverts, for which the expression "scaremongering" seems somehow inadequate. (*16)
- Before Hart took it over, British Briefing had been called "Background Briefing on Subversion" and the implication I was given by Hart himself was that he inherited Elwell with the title. The name was said to have been changed to tie in with another of Hart's publications - "World Briefing" which was also distributed to key opinion formers on the right. Hart was not the only source of money, he raised some from Rupert Murdoch, but Hart controlled it. Articles in the two issues I have, refer back to previous issues and suggest that they are fairly representative in containing numerous allegations against Labour MPs for their "communist sympathies" and national and international charities for their "communist affiliations". In the issue for December 1986 it highlighted particularly War on Want, Shelter - "which have frequently been mentioned in BB" - and "Child Poverty Action" - "the subject of a major article in BB 6/86". It also carried an article heavily critical of the anti racist work of the British Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches, and less surprisingly about the "Anti-Economic League Campaign". The only Conservative MP to receive a critical mention was Richard Shepherd, who had just opposed the new official secrets act but was actually criticised for talking to a journalist from the "Morning Star".
- "British Briefing" is thus another revealing insight into the thinking of the Head of F Branch of MI5 during the 1970's, a key period which saw it increasingly in conflict with and operating against the leadership of all the main democratic political parties. It was not the sort of atmosphere in which this particular branch of the secret state was going to hold the Economic League at arms length, or view with healthy scepticism any of its alarmist reports. Ironically David Hart, the man who had financed British Briefing, could not even bring himself to wholeheartedly endorse Elwell's line in "British Briefing" and told me that his involvement had been primarily motivated by his regard and liking of Elwell personally. Hart told me that he thought that the Economic League were "Wankers".
- "Who's Afraid of Laissez Faire?" by David Hart, 1980. (Published & distributed by The Monday Club).
- End Compulsory Membership of the National Union of Students, Policy Paper for the Committee for a Free Britain, 1987.
- Czarnecki, Richard, The Democratic Opposition in Poland, published by the Committee for a Free Britain, 1988, (P/B).
- British Foreign Policy - The Case for Reform, Policy booklet produced especially for distribution at the Conservative Party (UK) Conference by the CFB, October, 1988, (P/B).
- Britain's National Health Service - Terminally Ill, Policy Paper for the Committee for a Free Britain, October 1988.
- Speaking to the People - Communicating the Conservative Message, Policy Paper for the Committee for a Free Britain, October 1988.
City Limits magazine, London, 20 October 1988.
- David Hart,, telegraph.co.uk, 6 January 2011.
- "Hart's Desire", interview in The Spectator, 15 October 1988.
- True Spies 2 “something better change”, BBC News, accessed 10 April 2008.
- Mike Hughes, Spies at Work, Ch 9. http://www.1in12.go-legend.net/publications/library/spies/chap9.htm