Friday, 22 May 2020
Bank Holiday capers
The government is apparently considering creating a new Bank Holiday "sometime in October." It's not clear whether this is to be a permanent one, or just for this year to compensate us for the ones we've had but have not been able to enjoy to the full because of the lockdown.
Neither is it clear whether this is to be an additional holiday, or to replace one of those that occur at this time of the year, when there are three: Easter Monday, the May Bank Holiday, and the Spring Bank Holiday.
The Spring bank Holiday was originally a religious festival, Whitsuntide, coming forty days after Easter. As Easter, and therefore Whitsun, moves backward and forwards according to the phases of the moon, and the churches were and still are unable to agree on a fixed date for Easter, the Labour government under Harold Wilson decided to "fix" the Whitsun holiday to the last weekend in May and call it Spring Bank.
For a while lots of wags called it Wilsontide. That's what we're having this weekend.
The UK's May Bank Holiday was introduced by a later Labour government to coincide with the international celebration of the 1st May as Labour Day, or Workers' Day, though they adopted the custom of celebrating it on the Monday following the nearest weekend rather than on the actual day itself.
The hard right has always been suspicious of the "workers' day celebration", particularly as it was introduced here on the initiative of Michael Foot, then Employment Secretary, whom the right have always painted as a "dangerous lefty."
It is entirely possible that the motive for introducing an October Bank Holiday is a Tory ruse to abolish the one that has a connection with Mayday. Worse, I shouldn't be in the least bit surprised if some advocate that it should be 21st October, the anniversary of Nelson's victory over the French at Trafalgar. (A petition in favour of this was launched during the 2010-15 government, was open for six months, and gained all of 48 signatures - but that was pre-Brexit)
Whether as replacement or a new one , I do hope we get a Bank Holiday in the autumn, and that we hold it on the 24th October, United Nations Day. If there is a new mood in the country once the coronavirus is past its worst, then a day to celebrate the UN would be a positive signal that we have put surly chauvinism behind us and now recognise the importance of co-operation with others in building a better world.