Keep Sunday vaguely notable

Nadine Dorries is the Conservative MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, and is the poster girl for the sort of bloke who enjoys Alpha Course meetings as a come down from the BDSM club nights he usually visits. She is an “anti-everything”, often giving statements on the hot topic of the previous day in the most bizarre fashion. You might recall her claim that the expenses scandal had done so  much damage to her colleagues that some of them were “on suicide watch”.

The latest splurge of opinion soup to vomit from Dorries reacts to proposals (released through the pre-Budget leakathon) that the Olympics would be a fine time to relax Sunday Trading Laws. Currently, Britain allows shops to trade on Sundays only if customers can potter around for an hour beforehand fondling the biscuits, flicking through magazines and putting items back in the wrong place having reconsidered buying novelty garden gnomes for a fifth floor apartment.  The basis for restricted trading on Sunday is largely based on religious observance; Sunday is the day of rest, after all, and that means mowing the lawn and listening to Desert Island Discs, not stocking up with BOGOFs at Morrisons.

By restricting trade, shops can offer the same service within constrained hours, often paying staff more for the “novelty” of working on a ‘special day’. This can cause head scratches amongst people for whom Sunday is no more special than any other, who find themselves clock watching before they can set out to buy what they need.

Nadine Dorries’ reaction was typically provocative. “Is the coalition secretly implementing an anti-Christian agenda?” she fumed from her Twitter account, surrounded by the strictly observant religious idyll of Mid-Bedfordshire. (What is “Mid”, anyway? That’s a term used by estate agents and wannabe poets invoking Wordsworth. Apparently it contains a town called “Houghton Conquest”, which sounds like a particularly bad non-league football team).

I’m not sure Dorries is quite in the same….planet, I suppose….with this latest tirade. Relaxing Sunday trading laws will be difficult – there are questions of employment law and employees rights to consider – but that does not mean they  would bring about a destruction of the nation by any measure. Families are not going to split over the right to wander around B&Q, nor will the Church slam the doors on people who choose out of town shopping centres over the pulpit. It is a natural extension of the policy as it currently stands – there is nothing stopping a person buying their weekly shop through the Internet at 3am on a Monday morning or during a lunch break at work. Why ‘bubble wrap’ Sunday trading? If there’s nothing sacred about buying on-line during a lazy Sunday, why keep the High Street within the constraints of a previous generation’s attitude?

Dorries is more often wrong than right, choosing to pick fights in empty venues. Her proposed sex education Bill was a puritan’s wet dream (if such a thing exists, though it would have made a Saint a bit frisky). Otherwise known by the nickname “Won’t Somebody Think of the Children Act”, it would have required schools to drive all their female pupils to one of the Small Isles away from dirty boys and their dirty bits and bobs and desire to hump everything that moves.

There is no compulsion to consume from anyone outside PR companies and advertising agencies and yet Dorries sounds downright scared of what might flow from relaxing the laws, even temporarily. I know there are questions to be asked about consumerism and capitalism generally – they will always be there to consider. Relaxing trading laws would touch the surface of those topics and as is so often the case, Dorries attempts to tackle the subject only to appear completely out of her depth.

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