David Hart and the African coup plot

3rd September 2004 at 01:00
We took a second take, and then a third, and then closed the newspaper as calmly as we could before opening it again. No, our eyes were not deceiving us. David Hart, lawyerly head of the National Association of Head Teachers appeared to be involved in the failed conspiracy to topple Equatorial Guinea's dictator, Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

There, in Thursday's Independent, beside photos of a motley crew including Sir Mark Thatcher, was a mugshot of the smooth-talking NAHT head.

It seemed our David had been implicated in a letter from Old Etonian coup leader Simon Mann to his wife from jail. In it, Mann says: "What will get us out is MAJOR CLOUT. We need heavy influence of the sort that ...Smelly, Scratcher ... David Hart (can provide)." "Scratcher" appears to refer to Thatcher, who picked up the nickname (along with "Thickie Mork") at Harrow school due to a bad case of acne.

But, of course, if you want serious political clout, who better than the leader of our headteachers?

We telephoned Mr Hart to find out more about his extracurricular dealings but were met with an exasperated sigh. "I've been given an apology by the Independent. It was a mistake."

Rather disappointingly, it seems the "Hart" Mr Mann was directing his pleas at was not the colossus of the educational world but Hart's namesake, a Thatcherite millionaire and adviser to Margaret Thatcher during the miners'


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