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Badger and the pilot of the future

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Badger0MANY years ago, the older among you will remember there was a comic called The Eagle, the main star of which was chiseljawed English spaceman Dan Dare. Along with his faithful companion Digby, Dan Dare fl ew the good ship Anastasia around our solar system and beyond righting interplanetary wrongs with the aid of his trusty left hook.

Of course, readers, Frank Hampson’s optimistic take on the future of space exploration, and in particular the United Kingdom’s leading role in providing crack pilots to Space Fleet, has become hackneyed and kitsch in a way The Eagle’s young readers would not have believed. Badger is not inclined to nostalgia, readers: the here and now is just fi ne by him. Whenever people bang on about how much better the past was, he always reaches for a large pinch of salt. Whenever politicians bang on about the past or appeal to some sort of inchoate and misty common memory, Badger reaches for a shotgun.

Badger has written before about UKIP: The provisional wing of the Monster Raving Looney Party. Last week UKIP gained its first elected MP. A curious looking cove called Douglas Carswell, who for the previous nine years of his political life had brayed along with the best of them behind David Cameron, last month jumped ship to Nigel Farage’s Barmy Army and immediately sought a fresh mandate from his electors. The wonderfully-named Mark Reckless, the MP for Rochester and Strooooood (BBC pronunciation) who rather sounds like the type of character from Dan Dare who ends up trapped by the Mekon in the third story panel, decided subsequently that he would also joint a party whose appeal is not so much retro as a re-tread of all those fi lms in which upper lips were stiff and good old Blighty showed the way to world, or at least the fi endish foreigners who threatened Blighty’s right to rule it. Now, readers, apart from a passing resemblance to the Mekon, which is what started Badger off down this particular route, Douglas Carswell has not much to do with Dan Dare.

Well, not unless we look upon him as someone who demonstrates what someone should do if they change sides and join another party. Not so much a ‘pilot’ in the usual sense we understand then, but as someone who shows the way a politician should act if they ‘cross the fl oor’. Or in the case of members of Pembrokeshire County Council, surrender to the dark side. Of course, Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless say they have not acted out of anything other than principle in leaving one party and joining another. Badger can be – and is – cynical about many things, not least politicians who leave one party to join another, but having done so they both stepped down as MP’s and sought a fresh mandate. It is a tragic waste of their fine example that it was wasted on a group of saloon bar bores and dingbats like UKIP.

Imagine if Messrs Carswell’s and Reckless’ example applied to Pembrokeshire, readers. Sue Perkins defected, but did not put herself to a fresh electoral test. Perhaps 2012 was a close enough call for her and she did not trust her electorate’s good judgement to return her when she betrayed them after the election. The Pope of Neyland, Simon Hancock, did not have to put himself through an election in 2012. He simply played a word game after it. You have to wonder, however, how many of his constituents would vote for him in a contested election after he has presided over cuts in social care and local services and introduced charges for day centre use for the elderly on practically no empirical evidence. Stephen Joseph would have been back and forward to the polls a couple of times. Or perhaps just once.

Bob Kilmister, Jonathan Nutting and Peter Stock would have sought reelection, as would David Bryan. And now Alison Lee would be facing the voters seeking their endorsement for joining a group under the leadership of a person in whom she had no confi dence as recently as a few weeks ago. It is not a question of wrong and right. It is a question of the electorate not being swindled if a councillor changes their mind once through the doors of the gravy train. Badger does not criticise all the decisions councillors make. No. Badger wants to make it clear, readers, that the root of many of Pembrokeshire’s longer term problems stem from further afi eld in Cardiff Bay and Westminster. But the way in which the majority of county councillors have demonstrated the judgement of stunned cuttlefishes, the combined intelligence of a tin of tomato soup, and the spinelessness of a small rubber chickens on springs has caused him to despair. Readers: What confidence can we have in the majority of our elected members if they keep on behaving in such self-evidently self-serving ways?

And the worst thing is that, apart from Jamie’s spymaster, Rob Summons, none of the governing group stood as anything other than a pretended independent. Too gutless to stand on principle – or bereft of them – they collectively perpetrated the type of dishonesty one should only expect from merchant bankers. Which is how Badger thinks of many (not all) of them: A great big set of merchant bankers. Pembrokeshire now faces grave challenges, readers. Some want to do away with our political autonomy and destroy our local democracy. Leighton Andrews, who has refused to be interviewed by this newspaper about his moronic plan to gut Welsh local government like a fi sh, represents one challenge. The looming budget problems, represent another. So Badger would like to propose a radical solution to our county councillors.

Not just to the IPPG, but to all our councillors, even the ones Badger likes. Stand down. All of you. Then, present yourselves at the ballot box clearly setting out your programme to address Pembrokeshire’s problems and your constituent’s concerns. No generic partisan bollocks. Make your pledges personal and direct. Be prepared to be judged by how you perform against them. None of this hiding behind the label ‘independent’, no crappy, clever-clever word games: Tell people what you believe in, what you want to do, and how you intend to go about achieving it. Badger’s friend Old Grumpy is often fond of saying that turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. Well, Pembrokeshire’s electorate did not vote for the type of crass posturing we have seen from County Hall in the last couple of years. County Hall’s politics needs a proper realignment. So come on, councillors. Set a direction. Get a mandate. Follow it through. Or, instead of being turkeys voting for Christmas, are you just chicken?

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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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