2022 is here at last!
Things can only get better after the dreadfulness of 2020 and the awfulness of 2021.
Right?
Right?!
Please.


Whatever happens, Badger predicts one thing. We will have to learn to live with Covid like we have learned to live with influenza.


And if that means Bill Gates getting to know how much we pay for satsumas in Lidl or the New World Order taking control of the global supply of Angel Delight, so be it.


In Badger’s not very humble opinion, those who fear brain control will be a consequence of vaccination have very little to fear. Similarly, we can regard fears about its effects on Piers Corbyn’s fertility with restrained good humour.


Science suggests – the same science that those opposed to restrictions berate (the irony) – that the omicron variant is both less virulent and more infectious. Fewer people become seriously ill as a proportion of those infected, but more people get infected.


It’s a numbers game. If the same NUMBER of people get seriously ill, it doesn’t matter if that’s a smaller PERCENTAGE of those infected or not; at least not when considering the finite number of hospital beds needed to treat the seriously ill.


That prognosis ignores the number of people with unpleasant symptoms who do not need hospitalisation. Hospitalisation is always the last resort, not the first.


To help scientific dullards, we did not evolve natural immunity to smallpox or polio. There was no herd immunity; there were successful mass vaccinations.


In Pembrokeshire, smallpox still killed people late into the nineteenth century. Pembroke Dock, alone, had two isolation hospitals and – thanks to the former Pembrokeshire health boards’ resistance to the BCG vaccination – TB hospitals were still in use into the early 1950s.


Diseases against which we are routinely vaccinated, including diphtheria, scarlet fever, and typhus, still exist. Polio remains endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria – partly because extremist groups thwarted the vaccine’s rollout.


Vaccinations work. We’d best get used to them. Living with Covid means living with vaccinations.
One billion morons howling their stupidity at the Moon won’t change that one jot.


Badger is clear some things must change in the way governments respond to Covid. In this, the UK is an island but also – as the HSBC advert reminds us – part of something far greater.


We cannot continue in a cycle of lockdowns and stringent restrictions: well, not unless a new, deadlier, and more infectious version of the disease emerges.


Getting out of the cycle will take global cooperation and not one Government deciding to do things differently because of a misplaced sense of exceptionalism or entitlement.


There is no point to Government A lifting all restrictions if Governments B through Z don’t reciprocate.
The Johnsonian mix of tabloid stridency, bombastic rhetoric, and neurotic insecurity will not wash when tackling the challenge of rebuilding relationships, whether domestic or foreign.


Trade agreements are one thing. However, a full recovery will not happen until labour and capital flow freely to back one up.


There must be change or realignment based on where the economy and society find each other.


While all of the above is very “macro”, that does not mean big issues do not affect Pembrokeshire.


Despite its poor links to the wider world, Pembrokeshire is not immune from what happens outside its borders. If the economy outside Pembrokeshire tanks, so will Pembrokeshire’s.


Pembrokeshire’s links with the outside world are so poor that its economy is more fragile.


A high percentage of Pembrokeshire’s workforce is employed in the public sector (e.g. the NHS, schools, the local authority). A fall in those services’ funding will affect our county’s economy and society.


Pembrokeshire is particularly susceptible to changes in international markets for oil and agricultural products. The ferry ports at Pembroke Dock and Fishguard feed our economy. The commercial port at Milford Haven is no less essential. Tourism is vital for any semblance of prosperity. If the ferry ports don’t recover, Milford Haven declines, and high-value tourism falls away, we will be screwed.
If that sounds too grim to contemplate, fear not!


Opportunities exist.


The world of jobs for life, good wages, and steady and secure employment won’t come back any time soon for the overwhelming majority of us.


Instead, the chance has come to consider what sort of future we want for ourselves and future generations. The last couple of years might have been the pause that refreshes thinking and steers it away from old certainties and failed economic policies.


For example, the idea that money flows downwards from wealthy individuals to those less well-off is proven economic drivel.


As the late President George HW Bush observed, it’s “voodoo economics”.
It’s also the IPPG view of Council Tax writ large. The better-off need all the breaks going because they pay the tax.


Well, duh!


In IPPG-land, the half of Pembrokeshire that pays full Council Tax should have their burden reduced because the less well-off pay reduced or zero Council Tax. It blithely asserts public authorities should do the least they can get away with instead of the most they can deliver within a finite budget.


In short, the self-interest of those “with” outweighs wider obligations to those “without”.


It’s a disgraceful pose, especially as – while he was the leader – Jamie Adams acknowledged that years of shrinking the Council’s services budget left the county exposed when cuts in funding bit hardest.
With no fat to carve away, as there was in other local authorities, the muscle and bone of Pembrokeshire’s services met austerity’s saw.


And that is why Badger looks forward to councillors taking a long and hard look at the condition of Pembrokeshire now, its opportunities for the future, and considers both when they go through the Council’s budget for 2022/23.


We’ve had an exceptional last two years.
We now need a Council with an exceptional vision to help us into a world where we live alongside Covid.