“Give us your ideas for a new Bank Holiday” runs the heading on DCMS’ latest press release. I was pleasantly surprised to see that, as the TUC have been suggesting for quite some time that adding a new bank holiday to the UK’s calendar could help end our embarrassing honour of having the fewest public holidays in Europe.
However, on closer inspection, Tourism and Heritage Minister John Penrose’s latest wheeze is not actually a “new bank holiday” but rather a recycled old one – the tease! He’s running a “pre-consultation” on whether we should move the May Day bank holiday, and if so, where we should stick it.
I’m not entirely sure why we need a pre-consultation here. There’s a perfectly serviceable full-fat consultation on these issues coming up later this year – one that would be run by proper Cabinet Office guidelines on consultations.
It couldn’t possibly be that amidst some grim economic figures, John Penrose is desperate to be seen to be doing something – anything – for his sector of British industry (so long as it doesn’t actually cost any real cash of course) – could it? Plus as a bonus, getting in a quick dog-whistle toot to keep restless Tory backbenchers distracted?
Penrose’ stated rationale is that Britons would spend a lot more if we could extend the tourist season out to October. Not a bad idea that, but doing away with May Day bank holiday would likely lose us more economic activity than the October day gains. The Horticultural Trades Association got their shot in earlier this week to protect garden centres’ best trading days, with a Populus poll finding 78% of people wanted to keep May Day holiday.
I like May Day. As a good lefty, I’ve a dog-whistle of my own around the nearby International Workers’ Day, but it’s also a day that’s been celebrated for centuries, from Olde English Roodmas and Celtic Beltane, albeit with a short puritan break thanks to Cromwell. 1st May is even the date of the Act of Union – surely the kind of tradition that would appeal to a “Conservative and Unionist Party”?
So by way of pre-suggestion to the DCMS’ pre-consultation – How about a compromise? Don’t just shuffle the bank holiday deck chairs. Let’s keep May Day AND have an all-new October holiday.
If you’d like to see a new bank holiday give the country a boost, and break the four month slog between August and Christmas, go pre-tell John Penrose’s pre-consultation. And as he asks, send him a tweet (140 chars is always the most reliable to get views on your new legislation if you don’t really want to hear them I find…), using the hashtag #bankhol.
Though may I also humbly offer a second hashtag suggestion of #keepmayday?