Martin Horwood MP
Holidays are a hot topic right now. May has more than its fair share of bank holidays anyway and, coming soon after a late Easter break and then another one for Kate and Wills, there hardly seemed any time back at work at times. Now government is consulting on the early May bank holiday. Should we shift it to St. George’s Day on 23 April? Or off to October? The Welsh would obviously fancy St. David’s Day on 1 March instead and true Cornishmen might prefer St. Piran’s on 5 March. Or maybe we should have one of these and May Day? The Scots have already added St. Andrew’s Day on 30 November without deducting any of the others, giving them ten bank holidays to our nine.
The Northern Irish have eleven. They have to be sensitive to two national traditions and take St. Patrick’s Day off on 17 March and then the traditional protestant holiday on 12 July as well, still celebrating King Billy’s victory over the catholics in 1691. I somehow doubt if even hardline republicans and loyalists actually refuse each other’s holidays. Competing cultural traditions have their advantages.
That probably explains why proudly multicultural nations like India and Malaysia rack up even more public holidays, between them observing Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Sikh and traditional Chinese holidays. But even they don’t top the international league table. That privilege belongs to the otherwise industrious Chinese with 16, along with Egypt.
Although many of these countries don’t convert weekend festivals into Monday holidays as we do, there’s no denying that workhouse England is a bit deprived on the holiday front. The CBI and others warn the economy will suffer if we add another one. Personally I think we might find giving people another break – especially at a traditionally drizzly time of year - might just bump up productivity. After all the Chinese economy is booming, extra holidays and all.
Many Tory MPs in Westminster want to shift to the patriotically English St. George’s Day and abandon May Day and its socialistic associations with revolutions and organised labour. They’re forgetting, of course, that St. George was Turkish and that May Day is also a traditional English holiday, strongly associated with maypoles and folk dancing half-reinvented and half-remembered from our pre-Christian past. Downing a pint while watching painted Mummers cavort around outside some scenic Cotswold pub is surely one of the joys of Gloucestershire in springtime. Being a sucker for tradition, I’d happily observe both May Day and St. George’s Day.
Mind you, I should beware the headline ‘MP demands more holiday’! MPs (rather like teachers) are routinely accused of getting lavish holidays whenever Parliament isn’t sitting. In practice, the parliamentary ‘recess’ provides time to catch up on constituency work. I recently sat in a meeting discussing the state of Gloucestershire’s criminal justice system with an official who shall remain nameless. ‘I suppose you’re off on holiday now’ he said. I had to reply: ‘If I was, I wouldn’t be sitting here with you!’
Martin Horwood MP
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