I get the feeling that ‘bread and circuses’ Boris, who loves a party, reportedly (and a grand announcement), would like nothing more than the opportunity to proclaim that he’s making the additional bank holiday for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee a permanent fixture on the calendar.
However, the mood music – clearly not the National Anthem – coming from Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street where perhaps the word ‘party’ or indeed ‘gathering’ are hugely weaponised, is that Rishi says no.
It’s sad really, that the great British public’s right to clog up the A64 on the way to our glorious Yorkshire coast, light barbecues to annoy the neighbours and spend half the day in B&Q buying fence paint appears to have been curtailed by yet more political fandangling.
However, it’s probably far sadder for the Prime Minister, who’s been known to enjoy the odd wildlife boat safari – spotted on a Sunday in April at a wetlands centre in West Sussex, improbably dressed in a business suit, but with Carrie and the kids in tow – in his down-time.
For all his faults and nonsense, he’s the only politician I can think of who has ever publicly admitted to visiting Peppa Pig World in Hampshire. Finding something to do on a bank holiday to suit all family members might be a battle, but every opportunity to celebrate the myriad tourist attractions stuffed into our tiny island should be grasped, especially as many are struggling to recover since the pandemic.
And Yorkshire has some of the best. From peerless historic houses to amusement parks such as Lightwater Valley, with museums, art galleries, parkland and open farms in between, even in these straitened times, if you’re bored in Yorkshire on a bank holiday, there’s always something free going on.
With the local elections upon us, announcing a day off for workers, as a thank you for service during the pandemic, would have been a welcome boost to Tory party fortunes.
However, whilst pointing out that the notion would be kept under review, a government spokesperson said that a new bank holiday was estimated to cost the economy £2bn. Interestingly though, the Government’s official impact assessment suggested there could be a boost for the hospitality, tourism and retail sectors, while also recognising that there are benefits for mental health and wellbeing.
It is about more than money, we should remind ourselves. Being self-employed, bank holidays tend to bring me out in a mixture of relief and anxiety. I can rest easy that most of the people I work for won’t be in their offices so I won’t suddenly be called upon to do something difficult with an urgent deadline, or answer a load of tricky queries.
However, I’m also riddled with guilt; if I don’t work, I don’t earn. I could be using all that lovely free time to get ahead of my deadlines, sort out invoices and start this year’s tax return. In theory.
Or clean things, tidy out cupboards and make household management plans. For this reason, and with respect to Her Majesty, I’ve long held that if we were ever to be granted an extra bank holiday I would plump for October or November every time.
This would give busy folk a much-needed day off to masterplan the festive season before November drops on us like a heavy boulder rolling off the cliff called ‘Christmas’. It’s an idea that’s been mooted before, dressed up as ‘Trafalgar Day’ to commemorate Nelson’s historic victory over the Napoleonic fleet in 1805.
However, despite that decisive Brexit vote showing the French what’s what, it’s never gained that much traction with the general public. A petition to Parliament in 2012 boasted the grand total of 48 signatures.
I recognise it’s quite a niche thing. And not very nice to our neighbours. Of course, despite its general usefulness, a bank holiday when the clocks go back is no good for the hospitality trade, which relies heavily on light nights and decent weather to encourage punters to eat, drink and be merry on a Monday.
Campaigners for the real ale group CAMRA put their not inconsiderable muscle behind the call for the Jubilee holiday to stay, joining forces with the Confederation of British Industry, UK Hospitality and the TUC, backed by business leaders including ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall and Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden.
And rightly so, on balance. Compared to other European countries, including France, with 11 and the USA with the same number, except in an Inauguration Year, when they have 12 to celebrate the new President, our quota seems pretty mean. There’s still time to make us happy, if not this year, then next, when a General Election will be upon us. Put a question mark on the 2023 calendar and watch this space, I’d say.