Charles Mitford Cust asks: “Do the clocks really need to go back?”
Yesterday, once again, the clocks went back and now we are officially in winter. As is always the case on this sad annual occasion, I am left asking myself why we have do something so apparently illogical and what are the origins of this extraordinary ritual.
I used to think it all started in World War Two but, in fact, having done some research, it transpires that we very sensibly did the exact opposite during the war years. Between 1940 and 1945 and also in 1947, we actually switched to “British Double Summer Time” (BDST). Why? We did so to save precious fuel as it was in limited supply. That should strike a chord today, don’t you think?
You bet it should. Supporters of BDST point out that 500,000 tonnes of CO2 would be saved this year if instead of putting the clocks back yesterday, we’d left them alone and then put them forward one further hour in the spring, thereby achieving British Double Summer Time (BDST). Half a million tonnes of CO2… Wow! That is the equivalent of permanently removing 185,000 cars from the road. Hang on, aren’t we meant to be concerned about the environment these days or am I missing something?
Where are the eco-warriors? Surely they should be screaming from the rooftops about CO2 savings like this. This makes all their bleating about wind turbines and solar panels seem stupid. Unlike these alternative energy sources, which we all know are only viable thanks to taxpayer subsidies, putting the clocks forward is free, and you can’t get anything greener than a free CO2 reduction. Yet strangely there is barely a whisper from the normally most vocal section of the green orchestra. Now, I am no conspiracy theorist, but I cannot help but feel that this is highly odd if not darn right suspicious.
There have always been myths concerning BDST, including strong if vague references to the requirements of farming being the reason for us being plunged into darkness earlier than necessary. This is something that, as a countryman, I have always found puzzling.
Farmers do not rely on the time indicated on their watches to go about their business. They do what their ancestors have done for thousands of years: they operate from first light to last light. The time that happens to be recorded on a watch face is all but irrelevant to them because unlike 90 per cent of the population, they do not have to catch trains or commute to work. What’s more, cows don’t wear watches, they just know when they want to be milked and they don’t care what Mr Rolex has to say about it.
Interestingly though, even this well used excuse seems to have been run off the road. In March 2010, in a survey of their membership, the National Farmers Union found that most respondent farmers were neutral about BDST and actually the only strong representation was from members supporting longer daylight in winter.
Another long-term excuse is that children in the north of Britain would be in more danger walking to school in the mornings if it were dark. “Walking to school?” When was the last time a kid walked to school in this country? 1951? Seriously though, with traffic density as it is today, no responsible parent would let their child walk to school even if they could do so. As Lord Archer has pointed out, this is outdated nonsense and therefore not a viable excuse for rejecting BDST.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), the RAC and the AA have campaigned for years to reintroduce BDST as they argue that police accident records clearly indicate that more accidents occur in the dark evenings during rush hour when tired commuters are returning from work than when they are fresh in the mornings. According to their research, they estimate 600 lives per year could be saved. 600 lives: that’s the equivalent of a bloody massacre. The government moved heaven and earth to ban competitive handgun target shooting when 30 people were killed but have routinely ignored 600 lives per year for decades? What are these politicians doing?
A Conservative Member of Parliament, Rebecca Harris, put forward the Daylight Saving Bill 2010-12. It was debated in November 2011 and January 2012, but despite being supported by “Call Me Dave” himself, it was filibustered out of Parliament by largely Scottish based members who argued it would disadvantage Scotland.
These politicians used this argument despite a 2010 survey of 3,000 Scots indicating that they were actually in favour of BDST. I guess Scots like to save money on their heating bills too: oh, there’s a surprise. Anyway, the efforts of these objectors were enough to ensure that the bill’s time was used up and it will now proceed no further.
What? That’s it? 500,000 tonnes of CO2 and 600 lives a year swept under the carpet because a couple of whingeing Scottish MPs are out of touch with their the views of their own constituents? Does that sound right to you? Even if they didn’t vote for BDST, which with fuel prices the way they are, being canny Scots, they almost certainly would, why can’t Scotland have it’s own time zone? Many of them want independence, so here’s a good start. As an aside, evidence also shows that if Scots did adopt BDST, their suicide rate would drop dramatically as the statistics show this is clearly linked to long dark winter nights.
Either way, we have reached a point where political correctness simply has to be outweighed by common sense. You cannot let 85 per cent of the UK population suffer for the sake of the other 15 per cent. What of the adverse affect this is having on GNP at a time when the economy is struggling so much?
The thing about this clock moving business is that the more you search for answers, the more questions you are left asking. One is forced to conclude that it is either a deeply sinister conspiracy involving multi-billion pound energy companies who would rather we carried on paying for an extra half a million tonnes of unnecessary smog, or simply an old fashioned British farce of monstrous proportions.
All in all, I’m left rather perplexed. What’s your view? Isn’t it time that something changed?
Jeffrey Archer bangs on about this every year but no one pays any attention. For once in his life he’s right and Charles Mitford Cust has got it too. Can some please give this article to David Cameron and Alex Salmond?
A well written piece. Points are correct. Why do clocks go back? Loving the title and also thought your remark to Annabel Giles was very funny too on Twitter. I laughed.
I am a Scot. We are not ‘whinging’ people so please don’t say that again but you are correct about clocks. Waste of effing time in my view – things should be left alone and not fooled about with.
Hamish, actually I was trying to make the point that it was a couple of misguided Scottish MP’s who were winging and not in fact as is often incorrectly suggested, the Scots themselves. Sorry if that came across wrong.
Mr Mitford Cust: You’ve done it again. I truly am impressed. Mr Bone and I discussed this over the weekend and I will print this document for him. He truly ought to raise this in the House as your points are valid. The facts of this situation do need more detailed examination but all in all, what you argue is true. Something must be done.
Mrs Bone, thank you for that. If Mr Bone could raise the issue we might see a change, I know David is a strong supporter of BDST and he cannot be alone.
It’d be a huge help to me if the clocks weren’t changed. Walking my dogs in the dark is not pleasant and I am in agreement about the dangers to Little Johnny. You can’t have kiddies walking the streets these days. Mr Cameron should make Britain safer. He hasn’t done much for us yet on that front. It’s simply not good enough and the author here is right to suggest what he does as it makes much sense in my humble opinion.
At last, something I can totally, 100% agree with from the pen of Mr S. Maybe you should start a petition and get the issue back on the agenda. No, not maybe, do it. Please.
Hugo, thank you for your support. If you have any ideas how to start an online petition, please let me know, we are thinking about how this could be done.
Mr Istay: Thank you for your comment and I’m glad to find something we can agree on. Given your knowledge of campaigning, please could you suggest which site is best for such a petition? I have heard about the government related one but it would be wonderful to know which is the most effective. Thank you.
I agree entirely with the road safety arguments made here. Something should alter – and it’s not the clocks.
I just received this on your daily updates. It’s not a matter I have considered before but I would sign the petition if there were one. Mr Istay should create one as I know from having seen his other comments that he likes a fight! I’d be there backing him like crazy given how convincing the arguments Charles presents.
I would sign the petition myself!
Cool idea – the petition has been launched here – please sign! http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/uk-government-skip-the-next-winter-clocks-change-institute-british-double-summer-time
Reading Haddock’s (sage) comments it strikes me that one other obvious option not really mentioned much is that instead of changing the clocks, if the darkness/daylight are causing us problems, just change the time we do things. Then it would be more optional and customized for everyone in offices, schools, etc per organization to decide whether to move the start of the day to 8am or 10am or whatever, according to whether darkness/daylight are relevant at all.
What a flurry of comments….,
A sight steer….I know some cows and cow’s sons that have Rolex watches