A bank holiday bid

FANCY an extra bank holiday just for being British? Sounds too good to be true but it may just happen this year - if we can only agree on a date. SHAUN LOWTHORPE asks whether we need another bank holiday.

FANCY an extra bank holiday just for being British? Sounds too good to be true but it may just happe this year - if we can only agree on a date. SHAUN LOWTHORPE asks whether we need another bank holiday.

GORDON Brown wants us to have a day off to celebrate Britishness.

His preferred date appears to be November 11 to coincide with Armistace Day.

But a poll by BBC History Magazine has come up with a surprising favourite - June 15, to celebrate the anniversary of Magna Carta.

Yet the production of 60 odd documents by English barons in 1215 to put King John straight on feudal law sounds a bit of a dry excuse for a holiday.

Other contenders included VE Day (May 8), Nelson's victory at Trafalgar (October 21), the abolition of the Slave Trade (March 27) and the birth of Sir Winston Churchill (November 30).

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David Musgrove, editor of BBC History Magazine, said he was surprised that Magna Carta came out on top, but felt it may reflect current concerns about civil liberties. “It's a medieval date and a lot of people have a vague idea that it is to do with liberty but very few people know much more about it than that,” he said.

“But it does show a close association with liberty and democracy, which is part of the political times we live in.

“We have a real hang up with the Second World War and I was surprised that one of those days didn't come through. But I think it's quite gratifying and shows a bit of a move forward in the national psyche.”

But do we really need another bank holiday? This year the diary shows there are nine public holidays in England and Scotland - including four bank holidays.

While in Northern Ireland, they've got 11 days off - five bank holidays and March 17 for St Patrick's Day. That compares with 11 in France, 15 in Germany and 18 in Spain.

The chancellor first raised the issue at a Fabian conference on Britishness in January.

So don't bank on a day off to celebrate St George's Day or St Andrew's.

Sunder Katwala, general secretary of the Fabian Society, said yesterday he would like a national vote similar to the BBC Great Briton's series which saw viewers vote for Churchill.

“We've got to give it to the public - it shouldn't be a decision for a committee,” he said. “This is only the view of the history market. What I would like to see is different people championing different days in a very public process involving millions of people.

And he said there was a good case for an extra day off.

“We are already about four behind the European average,” he added. “With the whole issue of work/life balance becoming increasingly prominent on the political agenda, I think there will be a growing case for it. You can do it affordably and people do work productively in those weeks.

“It feels increasingly to me like the day is going to happen. They wouldn't be talking about it just to put in a speech.

“Britishness is one of the big ideas of a future Gordon Brown government and it brings together a lot of areas such as what is our place in the world, how do we deal with the global economy and politics.

“He wants us to have a shared sense of what we would do together as a nation.”

And why not have a long weekend every month? Surely that would make us more productive?

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Which day do you think should be a bank holiday? Write to Your Letters, the Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, Ip4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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