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Badger sings the blues

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badgerbluesAS BADGER writes this week’s column, readers, he is able to say – like countless blues singers before him – ‘I woke up this morning…’ Unlike the poor troubadours of the Mississippi Delta, and up to the point he has written these words, nobody done left him and he has not had to pay a visit to the crossroads to sell his soul in the style of Robert Johnson – or Noelle Gordon, for that matter. In light of these facts readers, you might well wonder why it is that Badger feels the urge to sing the blues. Well, readers it’s sort of like this: Badger has become depressed by what appears to him to be the inexorable march towards a general election in May next year in which the two main parties vying for government are engaged in a headlong race to the bottom of the political sewer in the search for votes.

It seems to Badger that Labour and the Conservatives politicians have realised that the public have become wise to the way in which politicians play with semantics to make every pledge conditional and all promises nebulous non-binding ‘aspirations’. Now they are eager to tap into the ‘anti-politics’ that treats every issue individually with no ideological core and try to convert fear and bigotry into parliamentary seats. There is a dispiriting phrase for the approach the parties have adopted: it is called ‘dog-whistle’ politics. The idea is that the message one releases has a resonance to very specifi c groups of voters within the general population. It is most commonly used to appeal to racist and reactionary views by making the unacceptable (e.g. racism, discrimination) acceptable (‘strong border controls’, ‘traditional British values’).

Those tuned into the wavelength of those employing the dog whistle – for example, racists and bigots – understand the subtext of the message, while other voters might take the words at something like face value; or, as Badger suspects, choose to turn a blind eye to the obvious. The use of loaded language to convey an underlying negative message is not new: John Ehrlichman, who went to prison for his part in the Watergate cover-up, made no bones about the underlying racist message of successive American presidents – including the one for whom he campaigned in 1968, Richard Nixon.

The Republican Party in the USA went so far as to formulate a “Post- Southern Strategy”, that sought to polarize the white-black voters in the American south and drive white voters (the majority) towards them, whilst leaving the Democrats with the uphill task of winning with a minority of the electorate in those key electoral battlegrounds. In the last United States election, the Republicans’ own strategy was turned against them with great effect. Overwhelming numbers of ethnic minority voters, the majority in key states, backed the Democrat incumbent Barack Obama against his Republican challenger. Now, readers, all this may seem a long way from Pembrokeshire, but local politics is no less a crucible for the type of coded comments that are used like a dog whistle to help to divide the herd.

Cllr Adams repeatedly and remarkably echoes the rallying cries of the Conservative Party. In the world according to Adams it’s all the fault of ‘Welsh Labour in Cardiff’, never let it be said that a large part of Pembrokeshire’s problems are home-made. Jamie embraces outsourcing public services by backdoor privatisation. Jamie, let’s face it readers, is a Tory following Tory policies. He is just too cowardly to wear the blue rosette at election time. Readers: Let us go back a bit to September, when Jamie Adams faced a vote of no-confi dence. After delighting (sic) an agog Chamber (sick) with his dazzling wit and turn of phrase, on what basis did Huw George commend Jamie Adams’ leadership? “He’s a Keeston boy: He went to school in Ysgol Dewi Sant, played football for Solva, Keeston Young Farmers, and Pembrokeshire Young Farmers.

He’s Pembrokeshire through and through.” To Cllr George, of course, the twin attractions of offi ce are simple: He has it and he would lose it if Jamie went. Those twin attractions are quite enough for Reverend Huw on their own. He is able to excuse almost anything to retain them. But reading Cllr George’s comments in the knowledge that Cllr Adams sternest critic, Mike Stoddart, and his most likely replacement, David Simpson, are not from Pembrokeshire (no matter how long they have lived here) puts a rather different and divisive gloss on the reverend’s glowing encomium to his Leader. It’s a long journey from the Parliament’s sewer to County Hall, readers, but the resulting verbal output of some members is identifiably the same and smells like it, too.

Now, readers, in light of the above, think of the way the Conservative Party and its henchmen in the national press portray Ed Milliband. Ed is ‘odd’. In a pretty disgraceful way of alluding to his Jewish heritage, it is suggested Ed is not ‘one of us’. Now readers, Ed Milliband has a lot of problems with communicating policies (if we suppose he has some – or any), but what the Conservative press is doing is exactly of a species with the type of propaganda about the Jews that has a long and reprehensible history in this country and others.

The other side of the same coin is the relentless portrayal of the government front bench as the preserve of entitled, arrogant , public school oafs without a shred of compassion or decency between them. In that regard, the Conservatives get it in the neck from both the left (the Labour Party, who rather shamelessly forget where most of their front bench come from) and the right (the ‘Essex man’ membership, who have a rather more authoritarian and intolerant view of the world than the metropolitan front bench). One might almost feel sorry for those poor politicians, readers! Having fi shed for votes in the sewer, they fi nd themselves now caught between two stools.

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Education

Delight as foundation phase learners return to class

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PEMBROKESHIRE Headteachers have reported very positive returns to school for Foundation Phase Learners.

All Foundation Phase Learners returned to schools on Monday, March 1st and attendance has been reported at almost 90% since.

The Council’s Director for Education, Steven Richards-Downes, said: “A wide range of council services have worked together to ensure that Foundation Phase pupils have been able to return
safely to school.

“I am particularly grateful to all school staff and families for ensure that learning is now available for our youngest learners face to face.”

Headteachers remarked how schools have filled with smiles and laughter following the safe and phased return of Foundation Phase learners.

Cora O’Brien, Headteacher at Waldo Williams School in Haverfordwest emphasised how quickly learners have settled back in to a routine.

“It has been an absolute joy to hear their laughter in the playground and to observe their love of learning face to face once again. I thank everybody in the Waldo Williams School
community for working so hard to ensure that the transition went smoothly.”

Vicky Hart-Griffiths, Headteacher of Ysgol Hafan y Mor in Tenby, said: “It has been wonderful to welcome all our Foundation Phase learners back to school. They are thriving, being amongst
friends and back to a school routine.  

“All the pupils have spoken about how happy they are to have returned and it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome them back and we can’t wait until we have all our pupils back in school.

“The school feels alive again and there’s a positive buzz and laughter once again echoing throughout the school.”

Gareth Lewis, Headteacher at Broad Haven CP School said children had returned “with real enthusiasm, and have been very keen to meet up with their friends.”

Mr Lewis added: “Our parents have been very supportive and positive about the return, and those with older children are very much looking forward to a wider return to schooling.”

Mr Richards-Downes said plans were now turning to more learners returning to schools in the near future.

“We are looking to the next phases of the re-opening of schools on the 15th of March as long as the government guidelines allow.”

Further details will be released in due course.

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Pembrokeshire County Council: This week’s Leader’s coronavirus update

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL Leader, Councillor David Simpson, has provided a further coronavirus update for Friday, 5th March as follows:

‘Welcome everyone to my weekly update.

“It is with rather a heavy heart that I tell you that it’s almost 12 months since my first statement on the coronavirus pandemic.

“On 9th March 2020, I addressed our Cabinet meeting with the following words:

“Further to the news yesterday that two people in Pembrokeshire had tested as positive for the Covid 19 virus, I am sure you will join me in wishing them both a speedy and full recovery.

“I can reassure you that our services will continue as usual, and all our employees can continue to attend to their work, appointments, schools and services as they normally would.

“We should all help protect ourselves and our communities by following Public Health Wales advice, particularly around washing hands and using a tissue for symptoms associated with cold and flu and then safely disposing of it.

“I am grateful to the co-operation and hard work of all of our staff and we will provide further updates and information when we have them.

“In the meantime I can confirm that detailed planning arrangements, both internally, with partner agencies and through the Dyfed Powys Local Resilience Forum, are well underway to ensure that the Council and Pembrokeshire are as well placed as possible for whatever challenges we may face. Thank you.”

“I am sure you will join me while I take a moment now to remember all those people in Pembrokeshire and further afield, who, very sadly, passed away since I made that announcement.

“I continue to be incredibly grateful, as I’m sure you are, to everyone who is helping to beat this pandemic, working so very hard now for over a year.

“We are fortunate now to be in a position where the vaccine programme is protecting older members of our community and starting to roll out among one of the biggest groups – the over 65s and those with underlying health conditions.

“This time next week (12th March) the Welsh Government will have notified us of their plans for the next three weeks.

“In the meantime, we remain in Alert Level 4 and the stay at home message continues to be more important than ever as we reach the threshold of better times.

“I wish you all a good weekend and thank you once again to the vast majority of wonderful Pembrokeshire residents who are doing the right thing and waiting patiently at home for restrictions to lift.

“We do really appreciate your efforts and determination to help bring this pandemic to an end.”

 

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Sergeant Hillier ‘died doing the job he loved’, says his heartbroken father

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THE ARMY SERGEANT who died after being injured in a live firing exercise, has been named locally.

The incident occurred at Castlemartin Training Area, and led to the death of Sgt Gavin Hillier, who was in the Welsh Guards.

In a post on social media, his father wrote: “Absolutely devastated to be writing this post, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

“At 3.45am this morning I received a phone call that will forever change my life. My eldest son Gavin Mark Hillier was in a fatal accident yesterday in the army (the job he loved).

“Sleep tight & rest in peace son. I’m so proud of you. Goodnight and god bless, love your heartbroken dad.”

An Army spokesperson said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on March 4.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

It is understood that Sergeant Hillier, who served as part of the Welsh Guards’ motor transport platoon, was due to be deployed to Iraq and had previously been awarded a Long Service and Good Conduct medal by Prince Charles, the regiment’s Colonel in Chief, in 2019.

The tragic incident is the latest in a number of accidents at Castlemartin.

In 2017, The Herald reported that two soldiers died in a tank explosion, which a coroner ruled was due to a design flaw.

The following year, an Army captain was jailed in July 2018 after a 21-year-old soldier was killed by a stray bullet during an exercise at the range in 2012.

An investigation has been launched into the death of a soldier at Castlemartin RAC Range following a military exercise.

Police were called to the site at just before 10.45pm on March 4.

Sadly, a man was pronounced dead shortly after. Our thoughts are with his family, who have been informed of the incident and are being supported by specialist officers.

An investigation is underway led by Dyfed-Powys Police. Officers are liaising with the Health and Safety Executive and MoD.

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