May Day plan needs to be re-thought

IF the Government wishes to provide a boost for the tourism industry, it needs to come up with something rather better than its half-baked idea of moving the May Day Bank Holiday.

Given the historical association of May Day with workers’ rights, Ministers are picking an unnecessary fight with the Trades Union movement at a time when there are much more important battles to be won in relation to the reorganisation of public services stemming from the Government’s deficit reduction plans.

More to the point, it is hard to see what the proposed change will achieve.

One suggestion is that moving the holiday to coincide with St George’s Day on April 23 would result in an earlier start to the tourism season but, since Easter rather than May Day is regarded by many as the start of the season, this would hardly be the case.

Besides, given the unreliable nature of our weather at any time, let alone in April, it is questionable whether such an earlier start (if that is how one chooses to regard it) would be beneficial in terms of the volume of trade generated.

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In addition, there is the complicating factor that, whereas the gap between Easter and the May Day holiday weekend is never less than a week, and is usually rather longer, there are occasions – this year being a case in point – where St George’s Day and Easter weekend coincide. One long Bank Holiday weekend is unlikely to be as profitable for the tourist industry as two shorter ones, and it would also cause problems for businesses in other sectors, in terms of work rotas and cash flow.

There is also the question of whether the holiday would be held on St George’s Day itself, even when it falls in the middle of the week, or whether it would move to the nearest Monday, as is the case with the May Day holiday at present.

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If the former, it would do still less for trade; if the latter, it would (in six years out of seven, on average) make a nonsense of calling it a St George’s Day holiday.

The Government’s alternative is to seek to extend the tourism season at the other end by shifting the Bank Holiday to Trafalgar Day, October 21.

This date is convenient in that it falls just before the clocks go back at the end of British Summer Time and, unlike May Day, it could easily be accommodated within schools’ half-term breaks.

However, compared with May Day, the weather in the second half of October is substantially less likely to be conducive to having a day out.

And then there is the question of why, more than 200 years after the event, we should start to celebrate a victory over the French who, whether Francophobes like it or not, were at least on our side in rather more recent conflicts, no least those known as World Wars I and II.

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