The main trouble with bank holidays is that you spend them sitting in the same traffic jam as everyone else. Why can’t we stagger our holidays and take them when we choose, instead of when politicians deem fit? Legally, UK workers don’t have an automatic right to paid leave on public holidays, but they do have a right to 28 days’ paid annual leave: so why preserve the barbarous relic of fixed holiday dates? Of course, politicians since the age of Caesar have loved dishing out holidays. Religious holidays were always days of rest, but in 1871 the Liberal government added four more (five in Scotland), and in 1978 the Labour administration added May Day to charm the unions. Today, each one (plus the 2012 Jubilee holiday), costs the economy £2.3bn in lost output. It’s time to denationalise Britain’s holidaymaking.
Eamonn Butler is director of the Adam Smith Institute.
Feast days and holidays are a key part of everyday life, because all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. In his magnificent 17th century self-help guide, The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton recommended “merriment” as a stress-reliever. Religions all recommend a day of rest, and before the Reformation in 1535, the Christian church gave us a right royal knees up every three or four weeks. Life is just too monotone without them. But now the puritanical Bank of England governor Mervyn King reckons that this year’s Jubilee celebrations will have a negative effect on GDP. This is small-minded. Quality of life is more important than output levels. We need more holidays and more leisure, not less. Bring on the bunting.
Tom Hodgkinson is editor of the the Idler magazine and has recently started the Idler Academy.