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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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Ambulance terror response fears in Wales over hospital delays

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Liam Randall, Local Democracy Reporter

AMBULANCE chiefs in Wales say they may not be able to respond properly to terror attacks because of hospital handover delays.

It follows a report highlighting the risk of “catastrophic harm” to the public if crews are busy at A&E departments during major incidents – this includes concerns about the availability of ambulances following a fire on a ferry heading to Fishguard last year.

The Welsh Ambulance Service service raised concerns after a mass-casualty simulation found it would have failed to provide an adequate response three out of four times.

The Welsh government said it expected health boards to prioritise cutting handover delays.

The tests were conducted after the Manchester Arena bombing public inquiry.

That found a host of failings by emergency services in the attack’s aftermath.

The warning follows the service’s claims some medics could not to respond to an explosion at Treforest Industrial Estate, in Rhondda Cynon Taf, in December 2023 because they were stuck outside Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

A major incident was declared after the blast in which a woman died.

Next week a report will be given to the ambulance service board alleging hospital officials failed to release crews from the hospital site.

Swansea Bay University Health Board denied this, saying ambulances were freed.

The ambulance service has questioned the effectiveness of release procedures.

Chief executive Jason Killens has written to Welsh health boards for assurances.

It fears it may not be able to respond to them properly because of hospital handover delays
The ambulance service fears: It may not be able to respond properly because of hospital handover delays

The ambulance report said if a major incident was declared there was a risk an “effective, timely, or safe response” may not happen.

“(This would result in) catastrophic harm (death) and a breach of the trust’s legal obligation,” it said.

The main reason for this was “lost capacity due to hospital handover delays”, over which, it said, it had no control.

It added it was not assured hospitals had plans to release ambulances effectively.

Welsh Ambulance Service operations chief Lee Brooks said it had plans to deliver an effective response to major incidents.

He recognised handover delays were a problem.

“Our ability to send a large-scale response to an incident may be hindered if our people and vehicles are not immediately released by emergency departments,” Mr Brooks said.

The report also highlighted two other occasions where the service had been concerned about ambulances not being released.

These included the fire on the Fishguard in 2023 ferry as well as a gas explosion in Swansea the month after.

Swansea Bay health board said it took its responsibilities seriously and had major incident plans.

Jason Killens
Welsh Ambulance Service boss Jason Killens says as many as 30,000 hours are lost each month due to waits to transfer patients to hospital

“These include agreed protocols to enable the rapid release of ambulances from the emergency department in the event that a major incident is declared,” it said.

“We can confirm that on the evening of the Treforest Industrial Estate fire our major incident plan was invoked and that we did release ambulances.”

Handover delays were raised in the Senedd last week after the health committee was told ambulance crews often see only one patient a shift.

Mr Killens said as much as 30,000 hours were lost monthly in Wales due to waiting to transfer patients to hospital.

Patient safety was at risk, he said, with handover times averaging more than two hours. The target is 15 minutes.

Sam Rowlands MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister said: “It’s not good enough for the Labour Welsh Government to just ‘expect’ Health Boards to solve handover delays.

“We need substantial reform of the entire health system to clear the backlogs of getting patients out of hospital as well as in.

“Our Welsh Conservative plan of NHS reservists, along with care hospitals will deliver that immediate support needed to enable the Ambulance Service to save lives.”

The Welsh government said it expected health boards to cut patient handover delays as a priority over the next six months.

It said this year it was investing an extra £180m to help health boards and regional partnership boards manage more people in the community and avoid ambulances and hospital admission.

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Joy as St Davids Cathedral Music Festival gets into full swing

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THE ST DAVIDS Cathedral Festival is in full swing, offering a captivating array of performances that have enthralled audiences and celebrated the rich tradition of music in the historic setting of St Davids Cathedral. The event bring world-class musicians in Britain’s smallest city, running from 24th-29th May.

The programme of events kicked off on Friday, May 24, with The Children’s Chorus and Band, and Vox Angelica, Vicars Choral and Choral Scholars by Candlelight.

On Saturday night, May 25, festival-goers were treated to a truly stunning performance by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW) under the baton of renowned conductor Martyn Brabbins. The evening’s programme featured masterful renditions of works by Brahms, Sibelius, and Mathias, with the extraordinary violinist Inmo Yang delivering a particularly unforgettable performance.

Audience members and performers alike expressed their appreciation for the concert, with many calling it an evening to remember.

Photographer Chris Limbert captured the essence of the night, showcasing the cathedral’s breathtaking atmosphere and the musicians’ passion.

Earlier that same day, one of the festival’s most anticipated events took place: the ‘Choristers Unplugged’ concert.

This event, a favourite among the choristers, saw the young singers performing to a packed audience.

The concert featured a delightful and whimsical pink theme, with choristers donning costumes inspired by ‘Wonka’, ‘Barbie’, ‘Six’, and other popular themes.

The performance was a resounding success, demonstrating the choristers’ versatility and love for music of all genres. Special recognition was given to the Head Chorister, who was praised for expertly curating the programme.

Festival attendees Laurence and his companion expressed their joy at being part of the event, noting how the concert’s atmosphere allowed them to share in the choristers’ enthusiasm and appreciation for a wide variety of music.

The St Davids Cathedral Festival continues to be a highlight in the regional cultural calendar, bringing together talented musicians and appreciative audiences in one of the country’s most iconic and spiritually significant venues.

As the festival progresses, it promises more remarkable performances and memorable experiences for all who attend.

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Injured climber rescued from cliffs near St Govan’s Head

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AN INJURED climber was rescued from the cliffs near St Govan’s Head on Friday afternoon, May 24, in a dramatic operation involving multiple agencies. The climber found themselves stranded on the perilous rocks, prompting a swift response from coastguard rescue teams and an RNLI lifeboat.

At approximately 3.50pm, HM Coastguard Dale, St Govans, and Tenby teams, along with the Angle RNLI lifeboat, were paged to assist in the rescue. The lifeboat was the first to reach the climber, providing immediate casualty care. However, due to the climber’s precarious position, evacuation by boat was deemed impossible.

In a statement on their Facebook page, HM Coastguard Dale praised the collaboration, stating, “This was another great example of multiple agencies working together for a positive outcome.”

The coastguard teams then initiated a rope rescue operation. Using a rope rescue stretcher, they successfully extracted the injured climber to the top of the cliff. The climber’s partner, who was also on the cliffs, was safely recovered during the operation.

Once the casualty was safely at the top, paramedics took over, providing necessary medical care. The coastguard teams were subsequently stood down, concluding a successful multi-agency rescue effort.

The quick and efficient response highlights the vital role of coordinated efforts in emergency situations, ensuring the safety and well-being of those in perilous conditions.

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