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Summertime and the living is easy...

Cometh the hour, cometh the new time zone | Anatole Kaletsky - Times Online

Last weekend Britain was hit by a disaster. This disaster will cost between 100 and 160 lives, double the toll from the July 7 bombings. It will raise Britain's carbon emissions by up to 3 per cent, equivalent to almost half of all aircraft pollution. It will weaken London's position as the capital of European business and finance. And it will bring misery to families up and down Britain, probably aggravating the biggest crisis in the country's public health. Why has this disaster not dominated the media headlines since Sunday, when it suddenly struck the country? Because supine British voters have suffered it so often that they now accept it as an inevitable act of life....

The outrage I have in mind is the changing of the clocks....

....But if the case for harmonising British time with Western Europe's is so compelling, why hasn't it happened? The answer is clear. Government and opposition parties have all been terrified of a backlash from Scotland, where public opinion believes (incorrectly) that dark mornings are more dangerous than dark evenings and regards any talk of time change as a Sassenach plot. But now that the Scottish Parliament exists to legislate on precisely such issues, this is excuse is surely not good enough.

Choosing the right timezone is a genuine case of collective action. It is not something that people can do for themselves and it offers a clear opportunity for politicians to make improvements in citizens' lives without imposing new costs on the economy or constraints on society. This is exactly the kind of pragmatic and effective government initiative that politicians of all parties should be trying to implement instead of meaningless promises about economics, foreign policy, health and education that everyone knows they cannot fulfil.

The refusal of successive governments to do anything about this points to the wide divergence between the perceived interests of Britain's political parties and the people they supposedly serve.

But the failures of past politicians can present opportunities to the new generation. The Tories, in particular, could make huge political capital from the time zone issue. By adopting European time as a manifesto commitment they would gain justified popularity in England, whereas in Scotland they have nothing to lose. By embracing CET the Tories could show that they understand the concerns of ordinary families trying to bring up children and also prove that they can work with Europe when the policies are right. Best of all, the Tories could back Gordon Brown into a corner over CET, just as they did with inheritance tax.

If Mr Brown opposed the time change, he would suffer a haemorrhage of support from English voters. If he supported it, he would yet again be seen to be aping the Tories and would risk a collapse of Labour's Scottish vote. Either way, this would be a sure-fire political winner.

I think even hard bitten libertarians would agree that setting the time is a governmental competence, though having competing time zones within a country would add to the general gaiety of the nation. So we should support this suggestion and the Tories should grab the idea - except for one important difference. Drop any talk of it being CET - "European" time, that very phrase kills the idea dead, just call it "British Summertime and Double Summertime", doesn't that sound more appealing?

Comments

For once I think I may disagree with you. You should check out some of the comments on the Times's website.

Local time is an abomination. GMT (yes, politically incorrect Greenwich Mean Time) everywhere. Who cares what number is attached to where in the sky the sun is. Hell I live in Oregon USA, we don't even see the sun 8 months out of the year. This whole local time, daylight savings time, clock changing mumbo jumbo is just stupid crazy. If it's dark, get a flashlight (er, um a torch for you pleasant English folks).

Which reminds me, come this Sunday Nov 4th, I've got to run around the house and cars and diddle with clocks and watches. ARRGGGGHHHH!
Last Sunday used to be the time to "fall back", i.e. go off of daylight savings time. An old VCR actually helpfully changed the time back. It didn't know any better.

Then our fearless congress critters spent valuable time and money to change things. Again. BAH!

Rope, tree, politician. Some assembly required.

Ach away and shite.

We in the North, that's the Scottish bit, not the north of End-gland don't see daylight in the morning or in the evening, so changing the clocks make bugger all difference.

You know fine well you get idiots on both sides of the border. Unfortunately for folk like us, the idiots are in charge.

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