The attack on May day is an act of cultural and class vandalism

by Darrell Goodliffe

The Labour movement has many factions – but it also has many common themes which unite it. The parties widespread fidelity to its cultural traditions often bring the left and the right of the party together. It is not uncommon to see comrades, who I regard as being on the right-wing, defending the link between Labour and the trade unions, for example. It gives you that warm feeling inside which says “I belong to something that is both political and bigger than politics.” Hopefully comrades from all wings of the Labour family and beyond will come together to defend May day.

The celebration of May day as a public holiday pre-dates the Haymarket massacre in Chicago in 1886, and it was incorporated into the labour movement’s calendar by the Second International as a day of protest. As well as its links with labour and the working class movement it incorporates other traditional threads. There are rural celebrations marking the arrival of Spring and Christian celebrations for the Feast of St Philip & St James (who just happen to be the patron saints of workers).

What is most worrying about the Tory-led government’s proposals to move May day is the sheer pettiness and pointlessness of it all. I can’t think of any other motivation than childish, class-driven, spite. TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, nailed the government’s motivation when he said it’s:

“all about satisfying Tory backwoodsmen who have a bee in their bonnet because of May day’s association with international labour day”.

If it’s shifted to St Georges day, then how can moving it by a month radically help the tourist trade? A day in October makes even less sense. Not many tourists in their right mind will spend an extra day shivering in the cold away from home because the government makes it a public holiday. The Acts of Union also happened to take effect on May 1st 1707 – so if this government is keen to celebrate the creation of the United Kingdom then October seems an odd time to schedule ‘United Kingdom day’. In fact, the first of May is the logical and natural choice.

Even if there were a practical benefit then why not just add an extra bank holiday? It seems to have been managed for the royal wedding, so why can’t it be managed on an annual basis too?  All of these excuses just look to conceal the government’s real agenda. The attack on May day is an act of cultural and class vandalism, and one that we should unite to stop.

Darrell Goodliffe writes the Moments of Clarity blog.

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13 Responses to “The attack on May day is an act of cultural and class vandalism”

  1. theProle says:

    No. The Government should abolish this, and all the other bank holidays.

    That way I would get to chose when I take off work myself, rather than the government choosing for me…

  2. les says:

    “class driven, spite”

    The irony is priceless!

  3. Tim Sewell says:

    All very well for you maybe, Prole, but there are a lot of people for whom Bank Holidays represent a rare chance to take time off without guilt and without their employers making it difficult for them to do so.

  4. Darrell says:


    Yes because I am sure your employer will let you take as much time off whenever you want. I’m being sarcastic just for reference.

  5. doreen ogden says:

    I agree Darrell – all our traditions are disappearing. My May day in days gone by consisted of parades , maypoles and morris dancers and hey yes was part of the community – big society even. Hopefully this will be another idea that gets binned.

  6. Julian says:

    “The celebration of May day as a public holiday pre-dates the Haymarket massacre in Chicago in 1886”

    Actually, it was made a public holiday in 1978. I remember it. See

  7. Dave Levy says:

    You’re not wrong and others share an affinity with May Day

  8. Chris says:

    This is a stupid plan that they’ll drop soon. Who really wants a bank holiday in cold, wet, grey October instead of sunny May.


    You take time off work? From your previous descriptions of your workplace, I’d have thought it would have gone down the toilet if you weren’t there every waking second. And your working life has obviously been far too easy as you haven’t experienced the joy of having some shit munching manager go bonkers because you have the temerity to actually make use of your holiday entitlement. Or the fun of finding out your boss has just booked your holiday time for you.

  9. Tacitus says:

    I suspect the attack on aour May Day celebration is another attempt by the Tories to enforce this clear division they are trying to create between bosses and workers.

    Maggie started it and Citizen Dave, the people’s toff is intent on taking it further. Some choose to join their brothers and sisters on May Day and march as a gesture of worker solidarity – others prefer to amble around garden centres – even more sit at home just simply enjoying a day off work.

    Whatever your choice, we cannot allow the Tories to inflict themselves on us.

  10. Darrell says:

    In reverse order…


    Agreed, we can’t.


    It is and I hope so.




    What I was getting at – and this was probably slightly badly expressed – was that it was celebrated for differing reasons, well before this time.


    Thanks for the comment. Indeed, lets hope it does…


    Too right in your reply to @theProle, thanks for the comment.

  11. Mark Vernon says:

    I think the october day off makes sense as April/May is full of days of where from August Bank Holiday until Christmas day is one straight slog.

    Think of the poor sods who actually do work stressing our backsides off from August to December, though I’m sure whilst supping your champagne may makes more sense.

  12. theProle says:

    Cheers for the sarcasm guys.

    FWIW, where I work is seasonal. That means I can forget asking for time off between October and March except in dire emergency. Off season, I’m doing stuff that is less demand driven, so provided my requests don’t clash with other supervisors, I can usually get time off. Bank holidays are a pain in the proverbial as the weeks either side of them get fully booked months in advance; should you manage to get one of the surrounding weeks off, they also distort the cost of holiday accommodation, make travel to holiday destinations very congested. If I don’t go away, and instead try and do DIY, MOT the car, etc, usually you end up hitting a dead end as no-where is open because it’s a bank holiday…

    As a result I usually find I ‘waste’ my bank holidays compared to the use I would make of them if I was to get to chose when to take them.

    @Tim – are you really telling me there are people who only take bank holidays off work, and don’t take any of their other leave entitlement? In my experience, those sort of people are usually the sort who are in work 7 days a week anyway, and they don’t make an exception for BH’s either.

    I really don’t see the problem for those who want to celebrate May day/Easter/August BH (what exactly is that one in honour of, apart from distorting the holiday market further?) if bank holidays were all abolished – you could chose to take them all off anyway if you wanted by using your stat min holiday entitlement which is currently used against bank holidays.

  13. John Peers says:

    If they succeed I would push for a major TUC/Labour event and march to happen on the new date and clearly establish the link as being Labour Day. In reality people are fed up with all the BHs bunched up, the Tories are being quite spiteful using this particular holiday, its not perfect but we start to create our own history based on our current fights with this rabid bunch of right wing nuts.

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