Mayday! May holiday still under threat
I was saddened to read in the Guardian that some people within Government are still briefing in favour of moving the May Day bank holiday to October. It is strongly rumoured that this proposal will be in the new DCMS tourism strategy, which the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has scheduled for publication early this month.
Moving May Day would not help businesses or working people. However, it has long been the bête noir of the more rabid Conservative backbenchers, some of whom have criticised it as being a socialist holiday, so such a proposal would be purely driven by ideological considerations.
Although May Day was slotted into the modern bank holiday schema in 1978, it is actually one of the oldest days of celebration in the UK. Marking the return of spring is an important part of our Celtic tradition, whilst for some parts of the Christian church, the beginning of May marks Roodmas, which is said to be the date of the finding of the true cross in AD 355.
Of course, since 1891 the date has also represented International Workers Day, which is obviously an important day for the trade union movement, but it would take a rather bone-headed backbencher to ignore the rich complexity of the modern May Day celebrations.
It certainly would not be a very Conservative measure to try to overturn thousands of years of tradition. However, responsibility for public holidays actually sits in Vince Cable’s BIS department. I hope that he will stand firms against any attacks on May Day.
It seems as if the Government agrees bank holidays are good for tourism and the economy, so let’s stop talking about rearranging the deckchairs and simply create a new one. The TUC’s proposals for Community Day would have the additional benefits of bringing people closer together and generating more interest in voluntary and community activity.
It may be an unworthy thought, but one might begin to suspect that a Government that is trying to force through unpopular measures does not like the May Day public holiday because it allows people time to protest on a date that always falls just before the local elections.