Saturday, October 30, 2010
Why in God's Name do we keep putting the clocks back?
[Last year, about this time, and all the years before that since 2005, I expressed my indignation at the absurd putting back of clocks every year by that precious hour. I have not heard one single person in favour of this measure which continues to shroud in gloom a period of the year which does not need any more more gloom than it already has. So I'm republishing my post of last October and intend to do so until this ridiculous outdated practice is done away with(I know, I know).]
No doubt most people in this country have felt the first chill of autumn as recent unseasonably warm temperatures begin to give way. This reminder that winter is at hand is bad enough but what astonishes me is our government's insistence on putting the clocks back by an hour; this year it's on 29th October.
The case against this joyless annual donning of a temporal hair shirt is as follows:
i) studies show that while there might be more accidents in the mornings these would be more than compensated for by fewer in the evenings; The Guardian some time ago, quoted studies predicting a net saving of 140 lives.
ii) 80 per cent of the population want to keep summer time throughout the year.
iii) Many influential pressure groups favour it, including the CBI, the Police and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
iv) the experiment of maintaining BST through the winter 1968-71 was, as far as I recall, a substantial success.
v) It would extend the tourist season, the sporting season and..., perhaps most important of all it would make us all feel a damn sight better about the miserable imminence of winter.
The case against reversing the measure is summed up in the two words: Scottish farmers. They would face much darker mornings as the sun would not rise until 10.0am. However, against this it can be adduced:
i) The rate of decline in accidents would actually be greater in Central Scotland(5.5%) than in the south of England(2.5%).
ii)When I used to visit Northern Sweden regularly, farmers up there did not see daylight until much later than 10.0am and accepted it as part of their cost for living in that latitude.
iii) Now Scotland has its own parliament, why doesn't it set its own regional time and do us all a big favour?
iv) is it fair that a nation of 60 million should suffer merely because a few hundred farmers should be able to see their cows more clearly on a winter's morning?
In the war we had a clocks turned forward two hours- Double Summer Time!- why not return to those good old days? Brown might even find his recently flagging popularity recovering immensely if he introduced this simple yet highly popular measure.
Postscript: Well, I was kind of hoping this year the clocks would not go back as articles had appeared in the spring suggesting the Coalition government would change the practice. Well, they haven't but it could just be this is the last year we'll do it. The Policy Studies Institute has produced a report recommending a permanent shift of our clocks forward. Moreover there is now a campaign to achieve this reform and I wish it all good speed.
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