One Nation policies – changing things without a spending commitment

28th January, 2013 5:50 pm

The cost and availability of child care and child benefit are regular news items as politicians from all sides struggle to get to grips with the right balance of incentives and benefits for families while encouraging both mums and dads to remain in work.

The other side of the coin of childcare is the question of time – recently Paul Waugh tweeted about the dire impact inset days have on the lives of working parents, saying that getting rid of them would be one dramatic way to radically improve childcare for a great many parents.

Of course that is just the tip of a powerful iceberg of policy that is hugely under explored by all parties – policies that affect everyone’s lives year in, year out – policies that affect how we spend our time.

A few years ago while studying the family tree with my Dad I wondered why two brothers had each been married on Christmas Day, in the 1830’s and 1840’s. Turns out that was their only day off…

Meanwhile in today’s world we have a vastly more productive economy where even the full time worker typically gets 50+ weekends, as many as eight bank holidays and annual leave of four weeks.  Many of these achievements are directly attributable to the Labour Party and the Labour movement.

And are we happier? Do we live longer? Enjoy time with family and friends? And are we wealthier…Of course we are, contrary to the usual nay saying of the IoD when the idea of a new Bank Holiday drifts into newsprint.

In times of austerity in public funding now’s the perfect time to think about the ‘national calendar’ and consider the best way to influence how we collectively spend our time with the public good in mind.  Here are three starters for ten:

  • We should consider a standardised school year with longer half terms (and potentially cheaper holidays for families) and more balanced terms, with inset days judiciously placed with or even in those holidays. Legislation is already in place to fix Easter if that helps benefit the many.
  • We should consider an autumn bank holiday, linked to a longer autumn half term – with the 21st October, Apple Day (amongst other celebrations) as a one good option.
  • And we should consider how the planned commemoration of the significant events of the Great War between late 2014 to November 2018 could best affect the nation.  A case surely could be made for public days of commemoration of at least the start (4 Aug 2014), Gallipoli (April 2015), Jutland (31 May 2016), the Somme (1st July 2016), and conclusion (11 Nov 2018) of the War, or of each Remembrance Day given they will all fall on a week day (e.g. Nov 11th 2013 is a Monday).

And we should remember our forebears who once worked a seven day week, how wealthy we now are with our own time to share with family and friends; and that some of these moments, be they Olympic moments, Royal moments, or lasting moments of the people, will of course become One Nation moments.

Hywel Lloyd is a Founder member of Labour Coast & Country and was previously a Ministerial Advisor in DCLG and Defra

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  • AlanGiles

    Leaving aside the fact the writer has dragged the abysmal “one nation” cobblers into his headline (do they get extra points for doing that Mark?), this writer seems to be utterly confused as he contradicts himself at least twice. On the one hand he talks about the cost of childcare, then talks about extending half term holidays (they already last a full week where I live, the autumn one nicely timed the week before Guy Fawkes night so the little darlings can set off fireworks at 2.00 in the afternoon).

    Then he says ” Enjoy time with family and friends? And are we wealthier…Of course we are, contrary to the usual nay saying”

    Well, try telling that to people who live in areas where fifty people are going after one vacancy. they might have more time to spend with family and friends (probably getting on each others nerves) , but wealthier?. On JSA? – coping with the patronising and insulting bilge of politicians who try to paint such people as workshy. Or try telling that to people who have to juggle several part-time jobs, some of them on zero hour contracts so they never know when they will get the call, and some of hem forced to work 6/7 days a week because of it.

    What planet is Mr. Lloyd living on?.

    And public holidays to commemorate the Great War – the “war to end all wars” which destroyed so many lives and yet only ended world for twenty years. Production is at an all time low in this country the economy is flat-lining (or worse) and you want MORE public holidays?. The mind boggles. I tell you what, Mr Lloyd, lets have national holidays to celebrate apple pie and motherhood. A Monday of course. Perhaps we could make Ed Miliband’s birthday “One Nation Day”?

    Each time I read a LL article that is banal or ridiculous (usually penned by PR, RM or LA) I don’t think things can get any worse, but this one is the nadir.
    But full marks for dragging the favourite catchprase in – and a blast for the past: ” Legislation is already in place to fix Easter if that helps benefit the many.”. He just forgot to add “not the few” then he would have taken us back to Blairland

    • Reading your reply was more informative and rational than reading the article itself.

      Judging by some of the nonsense has written Hywel Lloyd gives the impression that he is a professional policy wonk with no connection to real people who’s votes he is attempting to harvest.
      And what about this for Soviet style central planning:

      ” now is the perfect time to think about the ‘national calender’ and consider the best way to influence how we collectively spend out time with the public good in mind”
      Happy Apple Day to you and yours.

  • JoeDM

    Typical metropolitan attitude

    Farmers still have to work a 24 x 7 week the whole year. Stock still have to be fed, watered and looked after even on Xmas day !!!!

  • Redshift1

    I wish we’d stop going on about ‘Britain days’ etc. How about making sure we protect May Day, the one workers day in the calender! It’s all a bit gimmicky. Let’s just guarantee statutory holiday days and ensure its properly enforced.

    The childcare element is massive though. It is so expensive. It leaves families with a really hard dilemma between a second working adult (and paying for childcare) or going without the 2nd income. As it stands you get a mere 15 hours free after the child’s 3rd birthday (introduced by Labour I should add).

  • uglyfatbloke

    We night want to consider making child benefit genuinely available to the very poorest people. Traditionally it is means tested out of any other benefit they receive. If – as Gordon Brown told me – we can’t afford it for the poorest, I don’t see how we can afford it for anybody else.

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