We're not allowed a new bank holiday. We'd all have to work less for the same money, and that would never do. So instead the government is considering Moving The First Bank Holiday In May, either back to St George's Day or on to October. Excellent idea, or partisan tinkering? Here are some pros and cons.
Moving The First Bank Holiday In May...
Pro We could extend the tourism season significantly if the first May Bank holiday was moved to create a new ‘landmark’ holiday celebration as well. (this is the Government's official reason) There are too many bank holidays in May, so let's space them out a bit better. Half of the year's bank holidays fall in late March, April and May. Of these the May Day bank holiday is the easiest to shift. The May Day bank holiday sometimes falls very close to Easter (eg 2011, where we have consecutive Bank Holiday Mondays) May Day is a biased socialist celebration foisted upon the nation by Harold Wilson's Labour Government, and for that reason alone it should be replaced.
Con The existing bank holiday at the start of May is well established so the disruption caused by moving it could be socially and economically significant. (this is the Government's official caveat) May is a great month for two bank holidays, especially if you're a DIY superstore or a gardener. The weather in May is usually better than in April or October. May Day is a traditional English celebration, dating back many centuries, and an ideal time for morris dancing. May Day is the anniversary of the Act of Union 1707, and is therefore already the perfect day to celebrate a nationwide patriotic "UK Day". Stop tinkering and leave our existing bank holidays alone!
...to St George's Day
Pro This would create a new ‘National Day’ holiday for England. It would give English people more opportunities to be patriotic than at present. (this is the Government's first official reason) It would create a new reason for collective celebration and community co-operation. This would not only boost the Big Society, but should also nudge people towards spending the new holiday celebrating in Britain rather than holidaying abroad. (this is the Government's second official reason) It's the perfect opportunity to reclaim the cross of St George from those nasty little racist parties. Luvverly jubberly, barbecue in the garden, red facepaint smeared on Junior's cheeks, parade in the street with dragons and knights, makes you right proud to be English. Sales of flags would go through the roof. Scotland has a day off for St Andrew's Day, Ireland has a day off for St Patrick's Day, so why can't England have a day off for St George's Day? Wales could have a day off for St David's Day instead, so everybody'll be happy.
Con It'd be a nasty jingoistic day which would fly in the face of pluralism and diversity. It'd play straight into the hands of those nasty little racist parties. Bank holidays aren't supposed to be for "collective celebration and community co-operation," they're for partying, sleeping in late and going shopping. Moving the May Day bank holiday to late April doesn't help spread out the year's bank holidays any better - arguably it makes it even worse. St George's Day is often very close to Easter (in fact it was Easter Day in 2000) - so this would clog up our bank holidays even more than May Day does. On average, the weather on St George's Day is eight days cooler than the weather on May Day, so we'd be swapping a possibly decent bank holiday weekend for a less good one. Wales would get to ditch a bank holiday in the first week of May for a bank holiday in the first week of March, which would do nothing to boost tourism.
But hang on. Is this a bank holiday on St George's Day itself, or is this a bank holiday on the Monday nearest to St George's Day? Because it makes a difference.
A bank holiday on St George's Day itself April 23rd only falls on a Monday one year out of seven, so the bank holiday would move around in the week. Three years out of seven the bank holiday would fall midweek (Tue, Wed, Thu), so you wouldn't get a long weekend any more, which would be a worse situation than we have now. And two years out of seven April 23rd would fall at the weekend, so you couldn't hold the bank holiday on the right day anyway.
A bank holiday on the Monday nearest to St George's Day This would match the way the May Day holiday works, with the St George's bank holiday only on the "correct" day one year out of seven. Three years out of seven we'd get a long bank holiday weekend containing St George's Day somewhere, which might be appropriate. But four years out of seven we'd be coerced into celebrating on a day that wasn't April 23rd, and that might not feel right.
...to the October half term
Pro This could create a new ‘national day’ for the country as a whole or it could commemorate military victories such as Trafalgar Day instead. It would give us an opportunity to be patriotic where none exists at present, help to strengthen the Union and underpin the Big Society too. (this is the Government's first official reason) From the tourism industry’s perspective it would prolong the season effectively, complement recent moves to build up Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night into larger and more serious national celebrations, and create stronger incentives to celebrate within the UK as well. (this is the Government's second official reason) As an extra bonus, celebrating UK Day in late October should stop retailers from putting up their Christmas decorations until after it’s finished. (this is the Government's third official reason) It'd space out our annual bank holiday allocation a lot better than the huge gap between August and Christmas we have now. We'd all have something to look forward to before winter kicks in.
Con Please, the last thing Britain needs is an imposed military celebration or a self-righteous citizenship day. This was initially Gordon Brown's idea, for heaven's sake (although at least he proposed it as an extra). Trafalgar Day? It's not going to have French tourists rushing over here, is it? And anyway, Trafalgar Day is 21 October, which at the moment always falls before half term. Are the government genuinely serious about "building up Hallowe'en into a larger and more serious national celebration"? Wait until the archbishops hear about this one! On average it's a couple of degrees cooler in the last week of October than in the first week of May, and the sun comes out for only half as long. A late October bank holiday wouldn't extend the tourist season, it'd just create a small extra mid-autumn hump. If we all had a day off at the end of October we wouldn't go to the seaside or to a theme park, we'd just start our Christmas shopping early.
Go on, let's have a vote to see what you think. To make it fair, residents of the UK only, please.
Any more pros and cons, let me know in the comments box.