From the TUC

Tell DCMS: “Don’t mess with May Day”

12 May 2011, by in Working Life

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?

57 Responses to Tell DCMS: “Don’t mess with May Day”

  1. Chris Bartt
    May 12th 2011, 5:46 pm

    Nice one Jon! As chair of Glasgow Friends of MayDay can I point you to the great series of events we ran this year?

  2. John
    May 12th 2011, 11:51 pm

    “Don’t mess with May Day”
    – but if we’re to have another, let it not be a Bank Holiday, they already have more than enough, but a summer solstice ‘Peoples Energy Break’ pleb day without the ‘L’, having nothing but ‘absolutely essential’ services and transport, rather than another manic Consumption Fest Unholiday! :)

  3. John Hughes
    May 13th 2011, 7:28 am

    The only reason the Tories want to switch is because of the assosiation with the old soviet mayday parades in moscow. Mayday goes back long before that. Leave mayday alone and lets have another bank hliday in october as well.

  4. Fran Monahan
    May 13th 2011, 7:58 am

    I fully believe in a multi cultural society – and that should and must include our native culture. Yet, over the years, I have seen the English and British cultures eroded gradually. May Day, in our culture, in nothing to do with politics but is festival for ordinary people to celebrate the Spring and a feeling of the renewal of life. Lets carry on celebrating that great feeling – at the right time of the year. By all means lets have one in autumn in addition but not instead!

  5. maureen shepherd
    May 13th 2011, 8:09 am

    May Day is quintessentially British and goes back over 2000 years to the time of the Celts, the old festival of Beltain when people gave thanks to the Gods for surviving the winter and looked forward to the fruitfulness of summer. It is a festival of hope in a time of austerity, let’s not throw our heritage away. An extra (not replaced) holiday in autumn would be better – why not have it during half term to minimise disruption to education or take it on the other great Celtic feast day of Halloween (Samhain) when we remember our ancestors and give thanks for the wisdom and contribution of the older members of our community

  6. M Anslow BA, Tech IOSH
    May 13th 2011, 8:54 am

    Don’t mess with our past, have another one later in the year either at all saint’s eve (h’allow eve’n) or for scotland a much needed St Andrew’s day. Were currently the poor relation of europe regarding public holidays, and definately need more not less especially when H&S shows workers always work anew and refreshed after a holiday with less recorded accidents.

  7. valerie Burn
    May 13th 2011, 9:09 am

    There is talk about the “Big Society” Workers form the biggest part of the “Big Society . May Day is a day for celebrations . so leave well alone. Why not give another Day Holiday as well in October to Celebrate . The Workers contribution to our Great Country.

  8. Harry Hancox
    May 13th 2011, 9:26 am

    You will lose my vote if you change it, this tinkering with minor things only goes to affirm my growing view that the E.U. make our important decisions, not our elected MP’s, ergo you have nothing ‘real’ too do!. There are many more important & crucial things you should address, like creating an environment for real jobs for us – or have you lost sight of priorities too?

  9. Susan
    May 13th 2011, 9:32 am

    I say leave well alone it is looked forward to after the long cold winter, and it would be so nice to have an extra day towards the end of the year in October or around the harvest festival. after all this is not a political thing but a natural part of our english tradition.

  10. Miss Terry Williams
    May 13th 2011, 10:27 am

    We do not get enough bank Holiday’s leave may Day alone.

  11. caroline emery
    May 13th 2011, 10:49 am

    we dont get enough holidays anyway, how dare they mess with the mayday. we all know why the government dont agree with it. it just doesnt have the same meaning to it October Day? god knows what they will rip away from us next. they all want hanging.

  12. G Haigh
    May 13th 2011, 11:06 am

    Just thought I ought to mention that your link to “go pre-tell John Penrose’s pre-consultation” does not appear to work. The shortcut I think it is meant to link to is

    They cannot get rid of May Day, a day steeped in British Tradition since, well forever basically! Why do we have to sacrifice this just to extend the holiday season, surely if they were that bothered they’d just give us a new bank holiday. It’s always give with one hand and take with the other with these guys isn’t it! Take a leaf out of our European Friends books and at least bring us one step closer to matching their already extensive bank holiday calendar. Funny how we are only ever a full member of Europe when it suits us isn’t it!!??

  13. Leah Maltby
    May 13th 2011, 12:01 pm

    If Wills and Kate can invent a Bank Holiday – why can’t the working man/woman. I am sure I have recently seen that the recent spout of Bank Holidays were good for the economy – and I think we need all the boosts we can get!

  14. Sharon Howard
    May 13th 2011, 12:03 pm

    Slowly this country is getting rid of all English traditions I want Mayday to stay and if governments want us to embrace the European Union then lets have as many bank holidays as they get, this gov’t is good at bringing us into line with the EU when it suits them but when it would be an advantage to the working class there is always some sort of claw back or resistance. I with you lets keep May Day and have another day in October it would be good if it was around half term week so families could have a day together and help with child care arrangements. Not that I have any children but this I am sure would be popular.

  15. Mary Locke
    May 13th 2011, 12:05 pm

    This country has less public hiolidays than the rest of Europe. It is traditional. The Coalition government are destroying almost everything the NHS the welfare state, Public Services, The Post Office, thousands of people are under threat of losing their jobs. We are going back to the dark ages.
    The coalition also want to complete what Margaret Thatcher started leave May Day alone. Plus lets have another bank holiday in October

  16. Pete
    May 13th 2011, 12:47 pm

    If the Christians can have Easter, then the rest of us can have May Day. Back out Tories and get a life. While we are at it we can re-introduce Summer Solstice, Winter Solstice, Vernal Equinox and Autumnal Equinox celebrations. Also the Full and New Moons. There is far too little enjoyment in life at the moment and we could all do with our spirits lifting a bit.

  17. Jacki Ford
    May 13th 2011, 1:32 pm

    Lets have a bank holiday in October as well as our May bank holidays!
    Look at the number bank holidays of our european neighbours, lets bring Britain into line with these countries.
    Give us Brits an autumn break to enjoy the last of the sunshine and boost our batteries before the long cold winter days.
    Hands off our spring bank holidays please!!

  18. david crankshaw
    May 13th 2011, 3:02 pm

    leave at it is have they nothing better to do than keep on ruin this country

  19. Tim Elford
    May 13th 2011, 5:41 pm

    Our friendly tories love to shackle the working man attempting to abolish may day is just another way of keeping us all sub-serviant to their agenda. We have the least bank holidays in europe with the longest average working hours and least employment protection. What next? Shall we all go back to tipping our heads to the govenor everyday ??

  20. Norah
    May 13th 2011, 9:10 pm

    Leave it alpone! where I live we have the only maypole in Ireland and there is a May day fair every year! Don’t let the government cancel May day!

  21. John Wood

    John Wood
    May 13th 2011, 9:59 pm

    Ah but Norah – think of the fun everyone could have round the Octoberpole! :)

    Thanks for the comments everyone – that looks like a lot of very useful suggestions to the ‘pre-consultation’ I think – please do share them with DCMS if you can – here’s the link to the forms:

    Sorry to the others who’ve said they had problems with the link in the article – my fault – I’ve fixed it now.

  22. Jim Browne
    May 14th 2011, 9:20 am

    Typical tories, just want us as slaves to line their pockets with our well earned money, we work very hard, so we deserve the May bank holiday and another in October.

  23. Andy Kadir-Buxton
    May 14th 2011, 9:34 am

    It is nice to see the Conservative Party still frightened of a Socialist Holiday.

  24. Hazel Stevens
    May 14th 2011, 5:33 pm

    Hi why do we need to mess with May Day I think we should add the Winter Solstice as a bank holiday! no that’s 21st December to close to Christmas. Under the circumstances perhaps we should go for Guy Fawkes Day.
    When you see the bank holidays other countries have they are on days they are significant to that country so we should pick a day that means something to us.
    Don’t move a day find an extra day
    May day is inportant to us so leave it alone.

  25. Margaret Marriott
    May 15th 2011, 3:38 pm

    Leave the May Day BH alone and give us another one roundabout schools autumn half term. Half the country seems to be on holiday then, anyway.

  26. Malcolm Haynes
    May 16th 2011, 9:02 am

    I agree with Sharon, Mary and to Tim as well as almost everyone else. Typical Tory make the working person work and the rest can do what they want. We are way behind the rest of Europe regarding bank holidays so if there is need for another one later in the year (which I think there is) then give us another one.Do not take with one hand because you won’t give with the other as we learnt from Maggie Thatcher.

  27. Jim Cornelius
    May 16th 2011, 10:28 am

    An EXTRA Bank Hoilday would bring us more in line with the rest of the EU – keep Mayday and have another in October

  28. Robin Head
    May 16th 2011, 10:39 am

    What do they want to do next? Deny that anybody under the earning level of 50k actually exist!! Keep May Day and celebrate the value that ordinary working people of all classes, ethnic origin and gender bring to this country.

  29. Dave Thoburn
    May 16th 2011, 10:43 am

    we lag behind most of europe in sheer numbers of bank/public holidays, so leave may day alone, and give a new one to us – ideally last Monday in October, as schools are off, so workers withc hildren could benefit!

  30. Mary Myles
    May 16th 2011, 11:40 am

    I love the May Day bank holiday it’s the signal to Spring! But we need an new October one as the long haul from August to Christmas makes winter seem endless.

  31. Jane Brett
    May 16th 2011, 12:24 pm

    Keep May Day and please give us an extra day in October it is a long time to the Christmas break.

  32. Neal Hartley
    May 16th 2011, 12:31 pm

    Why should we accept the moving of the May Day holidy …….We should have more bank holidays given. It is Britain which is supposed to be one of the leading countries of the world yet most other european countries get more days off, retire younger and work less hours a week, we are still living in the 19th century where we do as the bosses say and not as they do.

  33. Anne Gregory
    May 16th 2011, 12:42 pm

    Let’s leave May Day where it is have an additional public holiday in October to mark the contribution millions of volunteers make every year for this country.

  34. Lynda
    May 16th 2011, 1:44 pm

    Leave May day alone. It’s the start of the summer feeling and not to be blamed for Easter being a moveable feast. There’s nothign amiss with granting a new Bank Holiday to get us through the long dark days between August BH and Christmas, when nights draw in and we just want to hibernate. Knowing there’s a single extra day off to lighten the burden would be great, boost morale and bring is more into line with the Europe who keeps demanding we follow their rules (the only country to do so!) but no-one wants to give workers parity in Bank Holidays!

  35. fiona owens
    May 16th 2011, 4:42 pm

    The May Day Bank Holiday stems from ancient tradition and should not be moved for convenience. An extra Bank Holiday in Scotalnd would boost natioanl morale, help combat presenteeism and of course, bring us more in line with the rest of Europe who work less hours. In addition we should also have our “national days”. Although not officially a bank holiday in Wales as yet St. DAvids Day, MArch 1st is given as a day off to workers in some organisations such as county councils. If the government gave a bit more, they may get more back.

  36. Simon
    May 17th 2011, 8:18 am

    Moving May Day to October is sheer luncay, whatever next?
    let’s have Christmas in February and New year in August, Spring bank holiday could be moved to August and let’s have easter in december so we can eat chocolate eggs during the long winter nights!

    This is just another example of those in power thinking they know what’s best for the workers, after all they can take as many holidays as they like, normally funded by us!

    Just for once, why couldn’t they Give rather than Shuffle, one extra day at home in the autumn would be a welcome break!

  37. Robert Crosby
    May 17th 2011, 9:10 am

    Leave May Day alone. It’s established, is at a good time of year and benefits working people and retailers alike. If it is/was such a problem for the Tories to have “so many” days off during April/May, then they could have moved the royal wedding back.

  38. Sarah Shahid
    May 17th 2011, 10:51 am

    I am in agreement with others about leaving the long-established traditional May Day alone. We definitely should have more Bank Holidays given to us to be in line with the rest of Europe.
    Last monday in October would go down a treat.

  39. Phil Johns
    May 17th 2011, 11:13 am

    Proposals to take away the Mayday Monday public holiday (albeit replacing it with a Monday holiday in October) are part of the Con-Dem government’s outright attack on the working class and our culture.

    If Mayday is stolen all workers should take strike action on the former Mayday holiday Monday. The government should be made aware that this course of action will happen.

    While on the topic of public holidays. I propose that every Monday becomes a public holiday and demand a referendum to test my proposal.

  40. Phil Sullivan
    May 17th 2011, 12:11 pm

    To say we are a country that is supposed to be a leader in most areas then why do we continue to make the working person spend more time at work and away from their respective families?
    I would like to see more bank holidays introduced around times when schools are on holidays so that its families that benefit as much as an individual

  41. Karen
    May 17th 2011, 12:22 pm

    I can not believe that the government is thinking of moving/or taking away the May Day Bank Holiday! Adding an extra Bank Hol is a great idea and will break the long dark months between August and December. There is so many current issues causing national ‘demoralization’ and the government seems to think of new ideas most weeks to add to the misery! The national poll on how happy we are will not be helped by removing our long standing May Holiday. Leave it alone – try giving rather than taking or changing for the sake of it!!

  42. soo roch
    May 17th 2011, 1:06 pm

    dont mess with May day, but oh yes lets have an extra Bank Holiday we retail workers certinly need it I can tell you.

  43. steve laird
    May 17th 2011, 1:12 pm

    leave the may holiday well alone, this is just another excuse to supress the working populace, I would rather have may day when the daylight is more drawn out and the feel good factor of summer approaching makes people feel better rather than shifting it to october when the days are shorter , colder, and generally more miserable, or maybe that is the governments intention to purposely place it there to add even more gloom to an already financally hard hit population, just to add salt to the wound, on the other hand adding an extra day would at least lift the working populaces spirits

  44. Aidy
    May 17th 2011, 2:39 pm

    leave may day as it is – moving the day to October would mean that the day might be spent in doors due to bad weather nad therefore we will loose the opertunity to have a reasonable day in summer time and enjoy it

  45. Miss Terry Williams
    May 17th 2011, 2:41 pm

    Leave May day as it is we need more Bank Holidays.

  46. Cevin Cornwall
    May 17th 2011, 7:30 pm

    Leave May Day alone —— Add St Georges day to the list and if we are to have a bank holiday in October — make it Trafalgar day [and on the actual day if midweek – as May day as May day should be —- but not at the expense of May Day.]
    Maybe the government lost their marbles jumping off a certain bridge in Oxford on May Day and have bad memories

  47. Tom Price
    May 17th 2011, 8:46 pm

    This move has nothing to do with re-ordering the holiday roster. It simply reflects Tory-toff arrogance, spite and cultural vandalism.

    They hate the working class symbolism attached to the organised workers’ May Day celebrations which originated in Australia and quickly spread worldwide, marking the struggle for a shorter working week.

    Apart from which, special communal homage to the merry month probably goes back thousands of years to pagan times.

  48. phil robinson
    May 17th 2011, 9:19 pm

    I am a 53 year old trade union representative – most of my members would have no idea of the significance of may day but enjoy the holiday (if they get it – in adult social care many do not)

    The most important T.U. educational courses should concentrate on the social/ecenomic history of this and other countries.
    To understand the reasons for joint collective action and support.

    I will lose my job due to local authority cuts – today I heard of a colleague (who won’t)who joined Unison since under threat and plans to leave again when the dispute is over…

    I have been urged to recruit new members – she may be one of them. In the face of such disgraceful ‘individualism’ I think that your campaign has an uphill task but wish you well.

    What about some ‘billboards’ comparing the cost to the public of
    a recent wedding in London vs the wages of how many local authority workers ?


    Phil Robinson

  49. Christine Kemble
    May 18th 2011, 10:33 am

    We should keep our May Day Bank Holiday – the clue is in the name – it just wouldn’t be the same in October!!

    At present we have enough to feel miserable about!!

  50. Richard Wass
    May 18th 2011, 3:14 pm

    If it’s not broken then don’t fix it………leave May Day where it is, then at least we can expect warmer weather at that time of the year rather than having to put a coat on it October.

    They have lost the plot

  51. David Barker
    May 18th 2011, 7:46 pm

    Why change this day off for the working people of this country. They are the people that pay the way for this country to afford the life we live. We have holidays for religions that give nothing in return. One day to return something for the people that pay for our life and freedoms is a small price for the nation to give them something back.

  52. Elaine Romney
    May 19th 2011, 12:06 pm

    Agreed but preferably on a Friday as I don’t work Mondays & therefore don’t benefit from them

  53. Susan Kavanagh
    May 20th 2011, 3:37 pm

    I’d be very happy to see a day off for Trafalgar Day IF we keep May Day as well!

  54. rob rooney
    May 23rd 2011, 7:39 pm

    My wife, daughter (aged 24) son (aged 16) and myself all wish to register our outrage and outright opposition to the proposal to abolish the May Day bank holiday. We know the Tories are on a mission to extinguish the fire that sustains the labour movement and that abolishing May Day is part of this ideological offensive.
    If the Tories want to institute another bank holiday IN ADDITION to May Day that’s fine with us. They won’t do that because we all know that would hurt their precious profits.
    Tory scum, here we come.

  55. Jo Hall
    May 31st 2011, 10:24 am

    I am all in favour of an extra day in October; it is far too long from Aug to Christmas without any break. If they DARE to get rid of our workers’ day in May, we should take to the streets & reclaim it!! How about we all take annual leave on May Day & organise fetes, etc? Or be ‘sick’ for the first time in our lives?? xxx

    What happens to these comments? Are you passing them on or do we have to do it directly as well?

  56. St George Unofficial Bank Holiday
    Jun 14th 2011, 8:20 pm

    We campaign for a bank holiday on St George’s Day, but we want it as an extra day – not a replacement for May Day. May Day has connections with English Spring festivals, Morris Dancing, Crowning the May Queen and Maypole Dancing.

    We believe that most people would prefer a bank holiday on St Georges Day, rather than the governments preferred option of Trafalgar Day or UK/Britain Day.

    Trafalgar Day is daft (Lord Nelson opposed the abolition of slavery) and so is UK/Britain Day (can’t imagine many Catholics in N.Ireland waving Union flags).

    It’s interesting that business owners and Directors seem to agree with us, we interviewed several and here are their comments

  57. Jo Hall
    Jun 16th 2011, 10:50 am

    St George’s Day won’t go down well with ANYONE in Wales, Scotland or N Ireland, so don’t YOU be daft!! We need an extra one between Aug & Dec; we have nearly all of them in the first half of the year & it’s such a drag from Aug BH till Xmas. How about UN Day Oct 24? Surely no-one can argue with that???