Monday, 7 February 2011

SOS For May Day

Dave 'I hate Morris Dancers' Cameron
‘Oy, Dave – leave our day alone!


THERE’S something rather curious about David Cameron’s desire to abolish the May Day bank holiday.

Out of all the possible public holidays, why did he choose this one?



It is unlikely that the Prime Minister suffers some aversion to this traditional holiday, caused perhaps by a traumatic childhood encounter with a roving band of Morris Dancers (though, to be fair, they can give anyone the shudders), but you never know.

Reality often throws up some weird things, but that’s enough of rustic folk ways, or indeed speculations around the Prime Minister's acquired aversions.

On a more serious note, consider the fact that this ancient festival date has in more recent years been adopted as International Workers Day then we might be a little closer to understanding why Cameron has got his axeman's eyes on May Day.

It's not the Maypole he's looking to fell – but quite possibly the day's celebration and focus on expressions of international labour solidarity.

For many of a certain age, May Day does indeed conjure up images of said Maypoles and Morris Dancers, slapping thighs and whacking sticks, and shaking their rattling adornments of beer bottle caps, according to some ancient call of fertility rites and a celebration of Spring (go figure), but in Britain's more urban centres at least May Day has come to mean something entirely different.

It's a day of celebration, all true, but as mentioned above, it's a time to roll out the banners, sing a few hearty songs of international solidarity, and make a public display of togetherness, to cheer the workers – where ever they are, what ever they do.

It's a day of giving a jubilant two-fingered salute to injustice, not to mention a relaxed demonstration that we're not all atomised, self-centred consumerbots programmed to repeat the mantra (in a Dalek voice): “We. Are. Middle. Class. We. Are. ALL. Middle. Class. You. Will. Be. Indoctrinated!”

No wonder The Prime Minister doesn't like May Day, then, what with it's inherent reminder of all things class. As if it's bad enough that too many people are decrying the 'we're all middle class' line and demonstrating their unadulterated proletarian sentiments, it risks somebody drawing attention to Cameron's less than credible middle class credentials. The man's an utter toff, somebody might say – and that's enough to ruin anybody's day.

So, what has Dave got to offer against his dislike of May Day?

Well, he wants to help the tourism industry. There's just too many bank holidays all bunched in around the middle of the year and not enough in the Autumnal months when people really could do with an extra day off to cope with the drawing in of those dark and dismal British nights.

We could call it, perhaps, Dave said in his best enthusiastic 'we're all in this together' tone – Trafalgar Day, as one suggestion had it, or a more generic UK Day.

There it is, then, some singular momentous occasion out of Britain's long-ago past to bring us all together, or some more vapid 'everyman' attempt at creating some kind of national feel good for a brief moment kind of celebration, either way you can tell that old Dave was once a marketing man.

Whatever, forget 'workers of the world unite', throw away that ridiculous Morris Dancing garb: we can bring out the bunting, sing patriotic songs, and celebrate the glories that made Britain an imperial power to reckon with. Gawd bless you ma'am, we can say to portraits of the Queen.

There we have it, then, the Prime Minister thinks it would be a jolly good wheeze to abolish May Day, with its unfortunate coincidence with an international expression of working class solidarity, an expression of human togetherness, in favour of a narrow celebration of a one nation vision well-past its sell-buy date.

One nation, above all others; a message fit for a time of national strife, when ordinary working people are beginning to rumble in discontent, united in their anger against a government of millionaires, whose cost-cutting austerity measures are throwing people out of work, cutting services, unravelling the social fabric, and set on widening and reinforcing the divide between rich and poor.

What a conundrum that is for Dave Cameron's 'man of the people' façade: no wonder he wants us doffing our caps to Nelson, rather than singing the Internationale.

Sleight of hand attempts to inculcate some patriotic sentiments in to the minds of we Brits aside, however, it's worth mentioning that Britain is rather lacking on public holidays, so it comes as no real surprise to hear that Cameron wants to shift a bank holiday until later in the year rather than create an extra one to add to the meagre list. An extra day off for the hired help -- why, these ingrates will be wanting the world next!

However it all pans out, Cameron's suggestion has brought a cautious frown from the Trades Union Congress, and a quiet dissing of the idea. The low-key response is understandable, one supposes, given that rumblings of discontent are already causing battle-lines to be drawn, and protest plansare already being prepared against the government's cuts: there'll be plenty of wars of the words to come, so save them up for later.

"There is strong support for an extra public holiday as the UK has the stingiest allocation in Europe," Brendan Barber, general secretary, said. "A few Tory backwoodsmen have a bee in their bonnet about the May Day bank holiday because of its association with international labour day. In fact May Day is a traditional British celebration dating back to the fourth century. The government would do well to rise above this backbench grudge, put the needs of employers and their staff first, and scrap the idea altogether."

So, by all means let the Prime Minister and his fellow Eton toffs have their Trafalgar Day, or their UK Day, or whatever they want to call it – but leave our May Day alone!

MC

Category: COMMENT, POLITICS

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