PARLIAMENT has seen its fair share of protests over the centuries, but nothing quite like the invasion of May Day defenders it witnessed this week.
More than 100 people from 1066 Country including Morris dancers and green-clad Jack-in-the-Green enthusiasts – including bogies, May Queens and hobby horses – descended on Westminster on Monday to hand over a 5,000-name petition warning the Government off its proposals to move the May Day Bank Holiday.
They were joined by representatives from other towns that have big May Day celebrations and met by Amber Rudd MP before performing some traditional musical numbers on the green opposite the Houses of Parliament. The eye-catching party then wound its way to Trafalgar Square where they met John Penrose, the minister of tourism, and handed over the petition.
Keith Leech, chairman of Jack-in-the-Green, said: “We came up to London to show them what Hastings is all about and it has been an excellent day. People absolutely loved seeing us on the green by Parliament and the minister has definitely heard what we had to say, although he was being a bit circumspect about what the decision will be because the consultation is open until the end of the summer.
“Local people feel very, very strongly about this and it has gone beyond party political lines with the Labour council and the Conservative MP all right behind us.
“Now we have to convince other towns to follow Hastings’s lead, and I think this year’s event will have an added impetus,” he added.
It is estimated that if ministers pursue their plans to scrap the May Day Bank Holiday and create a new public holiday later in the year, the Hastings economy would lose out to the tune of £5 million with the Jack-in-the-Green celebrations attracting 20,000 people and the motorcycle rally the same number again.
Ms Rudd was delighted with the turnout and is confident the campaign to keep May Day will be a success.
She said: “It was a marvellous day and a fantastic sight to see Hastings’s finest all dressed up although I think they terrified a few tourists.
“We definitely got our point across. I cannot see any reason to move it except bureaucratic convenience and we should certainly win against bureaucratic convenience.”
The final decision is expected towards the end of the year.