Belfast Telegraph

Sunday opening isn't economic boost, it's just bigotry

By Gail Walker

If anyone wondered what the price paid for having the Lib Dems in coalition is, they need only look at the move now to weaken further the special status of Sunday.

It's exactly the sort of sop a Conservative Chancellor throws to a minority party in government when he doesn't want to concede ground anywhere else, like taxing the rich. So George Osborne plans to relax Sunday trading laws for a couple of months during the summer, with a view to longer opening hours for large shops being permanent.

This, he claims, will help kickstart the economy.

Of course, what that means is allowing massive chains to rip the last fiver out of our sweaty hands. It isn't enough to be open for 60-plus hours a week or to be operating 24/7 via the internet. Watch out Christmas Day and Easter Sunday.

But what the 'consumer' gains, the shop assistant loses - the freedom to spend some time with their family, not to be bullied by their employers, to be off when friends are. The freedom, even, to practice religious belief.

Religious or not, we all need a day when the main purpose isn't the relentless acquisition (for some) of wealth.

The point isn't the economy; it's to dilute the character of the culture we live in. That's what drove the campaign for Sunday opening some years ago and it's what's driving this latest move under cover of the Olympics and the recession. It's a policy in keeping with the core open-toed secularism of the Lib Dems, the minority party to which the Tories are shackled for the foreseeable future.

It's Sunday and its strange religious associations that is the target for the reformers. No one has suggested abolishing the practice of not working weekends as a whole. It might be possible to take seriously Osborne's claim about the benefit of working Sundays to the economy if he was prepared to let civil servants work a seven-day week, teachers included - and be paid accordingly.

Not a chance. And that's when the obsessive dislike the sun-dried tomato munchers have for Christianity becomes clearly visible. And shame on the Tories for encouraging them in their bigotry.

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