Nov 112008

Of course speaking strictly they should be called “public holidays” or in the case of Easter, “common law holidays”, but whatever they are called, where are they ? The UK as a whole has just 8 days of public holidays which is decidedly stingy when compared to the European average of 10.8. What is especially irritating is that the part of the UK that has been the least well behaved over the last hundred years gets 10 days public holiday (NI).

But why limit ourselves to raising it to the European average ? That is somewhat unambitious, and we should think of actually increasing the average somewhat. Lets go for 12 days.

First of all we should add each country’s national day – St. George’s Day (in England), and St. David’s day (in Wales). Both Scotland and Northern Ireland already celebrate their national days, and Scotland needs the day it “swapped” to celebrate St. Andrew’s day restored. Frankly a country that cannot celebrate its own national day does not deserve to be called a country!

Secondly (and with good timing), we should be commemorating Remembrance Day as a bank holiday. Frankly not having this day as a national holiday is a complete disgrace and an insult to those who died in WWI. It could also serve a dual purpose as a sort of “Britain” day.

That leaves two left to distribute, and I would suggest having both in the summer – perhaps one on midsummer’s day and another in July.

Next all public holidays need to be properly protected. Many do not realise that there is no statutory duty for an employer to recognise “bank holidays”; we simply rely on them behaving properly. Employees need to be protected by being given the day off, or if it is necessary to work to be given double-time pay. And public holidays should not count against the yealy leave entitlement – as implemented in most of Europe.

Undoubtedly businesses will complain about the cost to business of all this extra loafing around. Well tough. You guys get it your own way far too much. Besides you might be surprised. Not only is there the surge of productivity that an employee gets when he or she has had a good break, but many also feel the need to “clear the desk” before a day or two off. It is possible that more work would get done with more public holidays than the current state.

Nov 092008

Today is Remembrance Sunday; a day to remember those killed in war. It should perhaps be on the 11th November (this year on a Tuesday), but the British government is too cheap to give us all a day off for remembrance.

As this is the 90th anniversary of the armistance of world war i, it is perhaps understandable that some concentrate on the dead of that war. As a general rule one of the things we remember when we remember the dead of the wars, is that they died for our freedom. For the wars since that is definitely on the true side, but perhaps not for WWI …

After all WWI started when the Austrian-Hungarian “dual monarchy” declared war on Serbia after Serbian military intelligence had been involved in assisting the assassination of a Grand-Duke. Russia was pulled in to support Serbia, and the rest of the European ‘powers’ were similarly pulled into the war.

But that is over simplistic – historians are still arguing over the causes of WWI. But what is clear is that there was initially no great villain that needed bringing down although many of the men who volunteered to fight were led to believe (in the case of Britain) that Germany was some sort of great villain.

To those who survived WWI, Rememberance Day was less a day for remembering those who died for our freedom, than just remembering the dead. It is difficult to appreciate the level of casualties today, but one clue is on the lists of the dead given on memorials in almost every little village. Probably just about everyone living in Britain in the 1920s would have been close to someone who had died in WWI.

To put it into statistical terms, Britain lost 2.1% of its population in WWI compared to 0.93% in WWII.

Some of the blame for the horrendous level of casualties can be placed at the door at the incompetant military leadership who took far too long to adjust to 20th century warfare from their 19th century mindsets. Or in the words of more than a few, the British army were “Lions led by donkeys”.

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