Belfast Telegraph

Give me a break from the drones who hate holidays

By Terence Blacker

The drones are moving in. Week by week, their dreary, work-centred view of the way we live becomes more pronounced and influential.

Most sensible people know that what really matters is not to be found on a financial balance-sheet yet, weirdly, it is the life-hating grey people, with their numbing talk of productivity, who are being allowed to win the argument.

Examples of drone-think are to be found somewhere in the news on most days. This week, it was most strikingly represented by a series of pronouncements from the Centre for Economic and Business Research.

The British bank holiday, according to the CEBR, has become a financial liability. On average, Britain has eight bank holidays every year, each of which costs the economy £2.3bn.

Awkwardly for this argument, the British work longer hours than almost any other European nation and so the CEBR has turned to Asia to find data to make us all look like slackers.

The average South Korean, it points out, works 2,191 hours a year; shockingly, his British equivalent manages a paltry 1,647 hours. The loss to our output caused by holidays, according to the CEBR's Daniel Solomon, "puts a downward pressure on productivity and hence GDP".

In a saner society, these remarks would be kicked out of the door with a sharp upward pressure to the seat of Mr Solomon's pants, but they will no doubt be taken seriously.

His comrade in gloom, Douglas McWilliams, has suggested that, even if we do not reduce bank holidays, they should be at least spread throughout the year in a more economically viable way.

The influence of this kind of thinking should not be under-estimated. It has a powerful voice in the Government, droning under the name of Osborne, Alexander, or Pickles.

Its assumption - that we are put on this earth primarily to exert upward pressure on productivity and GDP - is increasingly accepted as reasonable and responsible.

Before the CEBR starts re-organising the calendar, it is worth pointing out that the whole point of bank holidays is to loosen the grip of work - and work-junkies - on our lives. Briefly, we can celebrate the change in the seasons, or a religious or royal anniversary. To allow the apostles of drone-think to decide when we can take a day off, based on the effect on GDP, would be a final admission that we live essentially as economic units in service to the national economy. Not so long ago Good Friday was a moment for quiet and reflection, even for the non-religious.

Now, with every year, it becomes more normalised as a day of productivity.

Similarly, the idea that supermarkets and large shops should close on holidays, like Easter Sunday, is increasingly under attack as outmoded.

In the world of drones, it is an offence against nature if there is any kind of interruption to the making and spending of money.

It is time to speak up for the parts of life which really matter.

The drones may live in a miserable, money-obsessed world.

They should be discouraged from imposing it on the rest of us.

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