Traditionally, the parties of power have been the ones who have proposed the more sensible and pragmatic manifesto pledges and policy changes, while fringe parties usually tend to rely on radical ideas to harvest interest and secure votes. then populism happened and brexit happened and conservative lord howard is now implying that britain goes to war with spain to protect gibraltar and tory mp andrew rosindell is suggesting the government spends half a billion pounds on changing passport colour from pink to blue – because why not?
Now, even the labour party has fallen into the trap of debating meaningless matters – jeremy corbyn responded to the furore over the national trust’s decision to drop the word ‘easter’ from their egg hunt by saying “it upsets” him.
prior to all of these ludicrous statements, the green party had their annual allocation of air time on the andrew marr show on sunday, discussing their new idea to introduce a three-day weekend. co-leaders caroline lucas and jonathan bartley explained it as such: “there’s a lot of evidence that suggests that when people are exhausted their productivity goes down.
we are now the sixth largest economy in the world. people are working ever more hours getting ever more stressed, ever more ill health and mental health problems. do we really want a future where all of us are trying to work even harder, taking our work home with us and working evenings and weekends?”
when jeremy corbyn won the labour leadership election (for the first time) in september 2015, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see him include a three-day weekend policy as part of his previously socialist agenda. now that he’s busy appeasing theresa may’s government, it is refreshing if a little unorthodox to see one of the fringe parties change the tone of the public discourse with a policy that might actually benefit the entire nation, not just a segment of it.
brexit has indubitably divided the country amidst a backdrop of other social problems making people unhappier with modern british life. there’s the housing crisis, under-funding in the nhs and a lack of school places among other issues. therefore it may not be surprising that in 2015 a survey distributed by numbeo found great britain had a worse quality of life than countries turkmenistan and saudi arabia.
furthermore, the organisation for economic co-operation and development’s ‘better life index’ ranked great britain as having average scores for ‘life satisfaction’ and ‘work life balance’. the former gave the united kingdom a score of 6.0, ranking behind brazil, a country engulfed in recent political scandal, poverty, gun crime and inequality. the latter, work-life balance, is described as being the measure for ‘how much you work, how much you play’ and the united kingdom holds a score of 6.0, leaving it in the wake of countries like portugal, greece and ireland, all of which have been involved in deep economic recession and mass unemployment in the last ten years.
consequently, here is a policy that has clear intentions to alleviate the stresses of modern life in order to improve the quality of life for a great portion of people throughout the country, yet still it was met with derision across social media. right-wing thinker and brexiteer tim montgomerie responded with unhealthy amounts of hyperbole, exclaiming: “Why stop there green party? let’s have 12 week holiday entitlements, retirement at 45...” sadly, the youth branch of the liberal democrats were also quick to dismiss the idea, insisting that “there are few things less insulting than the green party assuming that they can buy the votes of young people with a three day weekend… young people aren’t as lazy and economically illiterate as angry think pieces would have you believe.” there goes any hope of a progressive alliance to believe in.
while it’s not surprising for conservatives like montgomerie to oppose a very un-conservative idea like the three day weekend, it is wholly disheartening and a sign of the times that even ‘liberals’ are conforming to the rhetoric of the right to promote good old-fashioned hard work rather than thinking of alternative ways to make britain healthier and happier. as much as politicians across the parties love to emphasise the need to build a ‘hard working country’ almost to the point of obsession, when have the majority of workers ever been opposed to more time off? granted, some people like to work and get paid, but surely offering the electorate more time off to love, play, travel, create or relax is more enticing?
obviously it’s not pre-determined that the three day weekend would even work; as acknowledged by caroline lucas, the greens have no specific outline for it yet but it would require an increase in wages, a decrease in prices or perhaps more government regulation. nevertheless, most of the current workplace rights british people are entitled to started off as distant fantasies: minimum wage, health and safety, unions, equal pay.
brexit has distorted how politicians and the public think; now, it is always in the context of an insular, conservative nationalism. the green party’s three-day weekend feels like the first idea in a long time to break the mould and push through to the mainstream media. it may be that it’s just populism for kids and socialists, a plan with no real plan seizing on the discontent of those aggrieved by the aforementioned social issues. however it’s a step in the direction away from the silly and petulant prose offered by today’s power holding parties.
Words by Ollie Sirrell