Mayday, Mayday?

The early May Bank holiday in 2020 could be moved to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, according to The Times. Ministers hope to cancel the traditional May Day bank holiday on 4 May and instead allow workers a day off on the slightly later date of 8 May. A number of countries across Europe, such as France and Russia, celebrate the defeat of Nazi Germany with a public holiday every year.

Resistance

Traditionally in the UK, the early May bank holiday is used to celebrate workers’ rights. An exception was made in 1995 when the Government moved the May bank holiday to 8 May to mark the 50th anniversary of VE Day. Then a quarter of a million people gathered on the Mall in London to wave Union Flags, listen to Dame Vera Lynn sing and see the Queen, Queen Mother and Princess Margaret appear on the Buckingham Palace balcony. The proposed move could encounter resistance from the trade union movement.

Tragedy

Frances O’Grady, the Secretary-General of the Trade Union Congress, told The Times: “May Day and the 75th VE Day anniversary are both special days and celebrating them should not come at the expense of each other. The government should give people time off for both.” According to The Times, writing to Chancellor Philip Hammond, the Business Secretary Greg Clark said:   “I believe that the country should be allowed to take time to commemorate this great occasion and to recall those who sacrificed their lives in the Second World War on behalf of us all. “Although the date of Armistice Day is well known across the country because of the events on Remembrance Sunday, I believe the day of VE Day may be less well known. “It would be a tragedy if this date slipped from the minds of the general public.”

Tribute

Mr Clark added that the change would also allow the nation to pay tribute to members of the Armed Forces:

“As well as marking the Allies’ great victory in 1945, the bank holiday would also be an occasion to pay tribute to members of the UK Armed Forces who have served and continue to serve our country since then.”

In 2020 VE Day is due to fall on a Friday, meaning the commemorations will likely continue through the weekend.