Opponents of GMT forget King Canute

WHEN King Canute instructed the tide not to come in he did so not in a vain attempt to convince sceptics that the sea would obey him but in order to prove to sycophants that it would not.

This point seems to be lost on the opponents of the UK’s return to Greenwich Mean Time for winter who talk grandly about their alternative proposal as offering “extra daylight”.

As they well know (don’t they?) no Act of Parliament can change this any more than a royal decree can rule the waves. Not that other benefits claimed for the proposed change hold much water either.

Most advocates of reform favour a system of GMT plus one hour in winter and GMT plus two in summer. This is, essentially, Central European Time, although they mostly prefer not to use this term as it serves to highlight the geographic absurdity of their proposal.

What it would mean, if applied in the UK, is that anyone starting their journey to work at, or before, about 8am would have to set out in near, if not full, darkness for four months of the year, even in southern Britain.


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Since road conditions are much worse in the early morning, even once it is light, than in the early evening, even when it is dark, the claim that abandoning GMT would reduce the accident rate makes little sense.

Besides, those working anything like standard office hours would still find themselves travelling home in the dark for a few weeks in the depths of winter, so resulting in the worst of both worlds.

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It is true that the present system does cause some danger for pupils returning home from school but, as some schools have demonstrated, it is quite feasible to restructure the school day so that a full curriculum can be delivered in six-and-a-half-hours, say between 8.30am and 3pm.

This allows students to travel in the light at both ends of the day without forcing change on everyone else.

It is also claimed that synchronising clocks with Europe will help businesses but, in the era of the global economy, different time zones are a fact of life.

Claims that workers are less productive once darkness falls also have to be set against the still more demotivating effect of having to get up in the dark in order to get to work in the first place.

Most ludicrously of all, it has even been suggested by some that “lighter” evenings in summer will allow holidaymakers to spend more time on the beach. Perhaps they really think they can stop the tide coming in.

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