No, no, that can’t be right. They can’t trifle with our hopes like that. It is now more than two years since the Greater London Authority renewed its campaigning for lighter winter evenings – and last week we thought we had a stunning breakthrough.
The Government said it was “minded to support” a Bill put forward by a heroic Tory MP called Rebecca Harris, calling for British Summer Time to be in force all year. We all had the strong impression that the Cabinet had abandoned the inertia and spinelessness of the last 40 years, and was going to support Mrs Harris in her bid to save lives, expand the economy and cheer everyone up. Then I pick up my paper yesterday and I find that there has apparently been a U-turn.
It now turns out that the support of the Government entirely depends on the Scots. Unless Alex Salmond and his team agree that there should be another look at daylight saving, the whole thing is once again going to be slammed back into the bulging filing cabinet of projects that are commonsensical (like repatriating some powers from the EU) but just too politically difficult to pull off. According to a Downing Street source, the whole thing is now “dead in the water”. Come on, folks. This isn’t good enough.
This requires a bit more guts and determination. We can’t let the Scottish tail wag the British bulldog – and especially not when the change would be in the interests of the Scots themselves. The arguments are overwhelming, and especially in London, the motor of Britain’s economy. Lighter winter evenings would enable all kinds of places to stay open an hour longer – sporting venues, monuments – with huge benefits for the tourist and service industries. The income boost was calculated last year at up to £720 million – a lot of money and a lot of jobs in tough times. Then there is the point that crime is far more likely to be committed at dusk than in the morning. A switch to lighter evenings would not only cut crime by three per cent – according to Home Office figures – but it would lead to a fall in fear of crime as well.
If we all had an extra hour of daylight in the evening, there would be significant savings in electricity bills – and a cut in CO₂ emissions of 80,000 tonnes in London alone. There would be less seasonally adjusted depression, say psychiatrists. You would no longer have that terrible Lapland sense that the day was over by 3pm and you might as well go and get drunk.