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Badger knows best: Badger goes beyond The Pale

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PEMBROKESHIRE is a very pale county.

The fields are green. The beaches a sandy yellow. The sea is blue. The mountains are grey. The uplands bare and brown.

But Pembrokeshire’s people are pale.

Around 3% of the population belong to black and ethnic minority groups or are of mixed parentage. Out of a population of 125,000, that’s 3,750 individuals.

To put that in perspective, one-third of Pembrokeshire’s population wasn’t even born in Wales. That’s a pinch over 41,500 people.

Those figures might offer some explanation – but hardly an excuse – for some of the attitudes published on social media over the last few weeks about the Black Lives Matter campaign.

The people who have shouted the loudest and made the biggest arses of themselves online are those whose experience of other cultures and people of colour is received wisdom transmitted via right-wing tabloids. Either that, or their views are formed out of the outfall of filth spread online by neon-Nazi groups (for example, ‘Britain First’), racist thugs like ‘Tommy Robinson’, and propaganda and lies provided by sites and pages like ‘British Patriot News’.

How many people out there, how many of you – readers – have seen something online with a Union flag in the corner carrying a sentiment like ‘Our Troops are all Heroes’ carrying the message that ‘only my true friends will dare share this’. Most of those posts eventually link back to pages, groups or websites operated by the sort of vile racist scum who rampaged through London last weekend.

They are not run by patriots. Badger is pretty sure that most of the people running them are exactly the sort of arm-waving shits Badger’s granddad spent time shooting during the Second World War – or of a piece with those interned like Mosley or hanged like William Joyce.

The nature of experiencing racial politics at second or third hand, at least if you don’t live through the experience of sharing space with people of different ethnicities daily, is that it is impossible the casual racism of everyday language.

In Pembrokeshire, where 97% of people are white, the chances of getting exposure to other cultures are minuscule.

It is not that long ago that a noisy minority of those in Pembrokeshire who voted to leave the European Union did so to stop mosques being built in places like Hakin.

It’s not that long before that you couldn’t go into a pub without hearing abusive racial epithets flung around like confetti.

It follows, in Badger’s view, any surprise that more than a handful of people in Pembrokeshire cling to familiarity and fear difference and express that through repeating racist language and ideas – either knowingly or unknowingly – is just a pile of horse apples.

People – most of them – are not stupid. They are not thick, uneducated yokels.

SOME of the people repeating offensive racist and bigoted language are racist bigots who happen to be stupid. They are the sort of people who use Alf Garnett as a poster boy for their views without realising Alf Garnett satirised views like theirs.

SOME people are racists because they honestly and sincerely believe that they are members to a superior race or have a chip on their shoulder about the fact they’re not.

MOST of the remainder simply don’t see the issue.

That’s because the experience of living in Pale Pembrokeshire insulates them from the daily reality of living in a diverse society.

Many, in all of the groups identified above, are reasonable, intelligent human beings. Many of them are genuinely baffled about why their language offends.

It is the minority which pisses in the pool of public discussion and mean to pollute it.

Badger has phrased all of the above very carefully. He has studiously avoided tarring everyone out there with one brush. But there is not a grey area here.

It’s not a difference between black and white. It’s the difference between right and wrong.

Bigotry in any form makes Badger angry. He has sat and listened for too long to far too many people spout too much racist and bigoted bollocks not to express his view.

He will do so in his usual roundabout way.

On the eve of the NHS’ creation, battered and bruised by Conservative carping at the jewel in Labour’s legislative crown and attempts to derail it, Aneurin Bevan used the following words to describe his experience and the experience of millions under Conservative rule.

‘No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So, as far as I am concerned, they are lower than vermin’.

Badger knows plenty of Conservatives, both shy and vocal. They’re not lower than vermin. Badger may not agree with them on politics, but Badger doesn’t agree with other parties’ policies, too. Most politicians – at every level – are decent people trying their best to deliver the impossible to voters who are in a more or less continuous state of outrage about something.

However, those racists and bigots who know they’re racists and bigots, who wrap themselves in the flag to hide who they are, who despise democracy and the rule of law, who espouse racism and bigotry, and who encourage others to do the same… they aspire to be ‘lower than vermin’, readers. They have a long way to crawl out of their sewers to get to vermin’s underbelly.

Badger has looked at some of the comments on The Herald’s Facebook page on stories about the comments made by Cllr Paul Dowson. He has stared with horror and at some of the exchanges on social media about the row over other councillors’ conduct and at the responses those posts have attracted.

Reading those comments and some councillors’ social media has left Badger with this thought: it is better to be thought a fool and remain silent than to speak and dispel any doubt.

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Herald refreshes look after lockdown

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THIS WEEK, to mark our seventh anniversary, we’ve made some big changes to The Pembrokeshire Herald. Apart from it being an eighty-page bumper edition, that is.

We’d begun thinking about how we wanted The Herald to look before lockdown began and in the months since then, our design team kept plugging away at one key question:

How could we make reading The Herald a better experience for our readers?

It was more than the proverbial seven-year-itch. Our designers wanted to refresh our style to keep The Herald a relevant must-read weekly community newspaper. It’s been like waiting for the hairdresser to reopen for a much-needed haircut before you end up looking like the lead singer of a 1980s metal band.

After much head-scratching and soul-searching, our design team came up with a concept which we think will make The Pembrokeshire Herald more attractive to our readers.

We’ve changed our layout and masthead to reflect a new and dynamic style on the pages inside. The changes make the paper easier to read and allow us more scope to adapt our paper instead of relying on templates and inflexible layouts into which stories are placed willy-nilly ‘to fill the gap’.

We’ll still keep producing the biggest and best cross-section of Pembrokeshire news around and keep our commitment to providing Pembrokeshire’s readers with a local perspective on the news which affects our County.

Not all news which matters to Pembrokeshire happens in Pembrokeshire, so this week you’ll find analysis of the Chancellor’s summer statement with analysis of how it affects Wales and Pembrokeshire. You’ll also find out how a Pembrokeshire couple’s court battle with their landlord has changed the law in Wales about tenancies and evictions. And you can laugh at the story about how an online parody duped its unwary readers.
It’s the sort of news in the sort of depth you won’t find anywhere else.

We’ve kept our favourite columnists and are adding a few more into our mix to give you the widest choice of unique, challenging, and satirical commentary on what’s happening locally and in the wider world.

Our sections are now colour-coded to help you find the content which interests you most. Whether it’’s Politics, Farming, Entertainment, or Newyddion Cymraeg which tickle your fancy, each section has its own fresh look. In our Politics section this week, we have what one prominent Brexit supporter thinks about the UK’s negotiations with EU. In Entertainment, we have part one of a two-part piece about the future of our local arts sector.

Whatever you’re interested in, just look at the colour key and our page guide will lead you to what interests you most. As we begin to crawl collectively out of the lockdown, it’s time for a new start. A new look. And a new Herald. We hope you enjoy it. Once you’ve read it, let us know what you think by contacting editor@herald.email

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Education Minister announces ‘back to school’ plans for September

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DECISION backed with £29 million to recruit, recover and raise standards

The Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, has today confirmed that all pupils will be able to return to school in September.

“plan to open in September with 100% of pupils physically present on school sites, subject to a continuing, steady decline in the presence of COVID-19 in the community.”

The Minister announced that:

  • Schools will return to full capacity, with only limited social distancing within
    contact groups.
  • At full operations, a contact group should consist of around 30 children. Some direct or indirect mixing between children in different contact groups will also be unavoidable, such as on transport, receiving specialist teaching or due to staffing constraints.
  • Social distancing for adults should remain in line with regulations and guidance.
    Schools will be required to minimise the risk of transmission by taking other mitigating measures using the hierarchy of risk controls.
  • Every school should continue to be “Covid Protected” – having carried out risk assessments and mitigated them with a combination of controls such as hand and surface hygiene, one-way systems and so forth.
  • If early warning information shows a local incident or outbreak then nearby schools should implement appropriate restriction measures.
  • Each school will be provided with a supply of home testing kits.

The Minister confirmed that the autumn term will start on 1 st  September and schools that can accommodate all pupils from the start of the term should do so.

The Minister outlined plans just hours after confirming the Welsh Government would make £29m available to ‘recruit, recover and raise standards’ in Welsh schools in response to the impact still felt from the pandemic.

Commenting on the additional funding announced, the Minister added: “We will recruit, recover and continue to raise standards.”

It is thought that there will be around 800 newly qualified teachers in September and around 800 supply staff currently working within Wales.

“With this funding, we will recruit the equivalent of 600 extra teachers and 300 teaching assistants throughout the next school year.

“We will target extra support at Years 11, 12 and 13, as well as disadvantaged and vulnerable learners of all ages.

“The support package, provided at a school level, could include extra coaching support, personalised learning programmes and additional time and resources for exam year pupils.

“We must never lower our expectations for any of our young people, no matter their background.

“Together, we will continue to raise standards for all, reduce the attainment gap and ensure we have a system that is a source of pride and public confidence.”

Councillor Ian Roberts, WLGA Spokesperson for Education, said: “Since schools closed at the start of the crisis, many children and young people have felt anxious about loss of learning and not being able to see their friends.

The Minister’s plan today will enable schools to safely reopen classrooms from September. Local authorities will work closely with their schools to make sure that necessary arrangements are in place to abide by Welsh Government guidance.

“Our schools have been hit by severe disruption during this pandemic, and we welcome the £29m pledged by the Minister for targeted support to minimise the effects of the past few months on pupils.

We will continue to work together in partnership the safest and best possible learning experiences for our children and young people, especially in such challenging circumstances.”

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Latest ‘Life in Lockdown’ winner

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'Life in Lockdown' winner Jo Campbell

AN atmospheric black and white print of a padlocked gate and an inviting grassy area beyond is the latest winner in round five of the ‘Life in Lockdown’ photography competition.

The photograph was taken by Jo Campbell of Milford Haven who entitled it ‘Locked Out Lockdown’.

Submitting her portfolio, Jo observed: “These represent my lockdown and I hope people see theirs in these too.”

Jo was a runner-up in the last round.

Runner-up Albany Milton

The competition invites young people between the ages of 16 and 25 to submit pictures of life under the Covid-19 restrictions and is run by Pembrokeshire County Council’s Youth Outreach team.

The two runners-up were Albany Milton from Ludchurch – which showed her having a socially distanced catch-up with her gran – and Ethan Sky from Wiston who captured a peaceful countryside scene.

Ethan Sky also runner-up

Guest judge was youth worker, Fiona John.

For an application form contact either Chris Barrie at chris.barrie@pembrokeshire.gov.uk or phone 07717 345935 or Mel Lear at melissa.lear@pembrokeshire.gov.uk or 07818 012254.

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