From the TUC

May Day bank holiday “could be moved to Trafalgar Day in October to spare us autumn gloom”!

06 Dec 2010, by in Working Life

Today’s attack on May Day in the Daily Telegraph and Mail is likely to be an attempt to build a right-wing fantasy mountain out of a rather prosaic molehill that will most likely collapse under the weight of the garden roller of reason.

But enough of metaphor, the simple facts are that the Department for Culture is being lobbied by some parts of the tourist industry to move the May day holiday to the autumn, with All Saints Day (1 Nov) and Trafalgar Day (21 Oct) being touted in some quarters as possible new dates.

It is very hard to see how the abolition of the maypole and the morris dancer would benefit domestic tourism.  Rather than tinkering with tradition the Government should simply create a new bank holiday in the autumn.

Of course, the Mail and the Telegraph have consistently argued that we should drop May Day ever since it was re-introduced in 1977 by the Callaghan Government.

There is a certain amount of irony in conservative newspapers arguing against long-standing British traditions, since May Day has long been both an important holiday in the UK’s Celtic heritage, where it marks the return of spring, and has also been celebrated from AD 365 onwards as the auspicious Christian holiday of Roodmas (more commonly known as “Holy Cross Day”).

International Workers Day, which is obviously an auspicious day for the trade union movement, is a rather more recent arrival, as it was founded in 1891. It is currently a public holiday in 80 countries across the world. In contrast, attempts to launch National Boss Day in the UK and Canada have never really caught on.

Once we extinguish the pipe-dreams of the right-leaning press, the remaining fact is that the DCMS is committed to publishing a new domestic tourism strategy in January 2011. However, any proposals to move May Day will also need approval from DBIS, who lead on public holidays.

It is hard to see how Secretary of State Vince Cable could ever be convinced that shifting an existing bank holiday from May to October would lead to more people taking short breaks. At best, such a change would be likely to shift people’s vacations to a different point on the calendar.

Why not simply create an extra public holiday? The logic certainly stacks up; as such a move would be immensely popular amongst voters* and would provide an economic stimulus to the hospitality, retail and travel industries.

Furthermore, 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.

With the UK already committed to one-off bank holidays for the Royal Wedding in 2011 and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, it would certainly be hard for anybody to argue that we cannot afford an extra day on a permanent basis.

* Indeed, some polls show 99% approval for an extra bank holiday. Note that I shall not be accepting dinner invitations from anybody who is part of the 1%; because I imagine that they must be rather dour and dismal.