Freedom to do anything but relax : LEADING ARTICLE

Click to follow
The Independent Online
OH, DEAR. Oh, dear. Oh, dear. Riffle of newspaper. Sigh. Another riffle of newspaper. Oh, dear. Oh, dear. Oh, dear. Thus Tony Hancock, long ago, made his way through the ennui of a British Sunday. Hancock moaned; and Jimmy Porter railed while Mrs Jimmy Porter did the ironing in John Osborne's Look Back In Anger; elsewhere gravy browned, the joint roasted, cheery voices from Cyprus cued Max Bygraves on the wireless and the vegetables got watery waiting for Dad to get back from the pub before ever yone lay around and snoozed because there was nothing else to do.

How different we are now, with our out-of-town shopping centres and theme parks and racing, and football matches where you have to be very careful what you say to the players. There are workbenches and drills to be utilised, flat packs to be assembled, patios to be laid. And soon we will be able to go to the off-licence at 10am and the pub from noon to night. "Now we have Sunday trading, there is no logic in [the present] regulations. They are old-fashioned, out of date ... and they should go,'' said JohnMajor when he announced the reforms last week.

Quite. Freedom of choice, extending choice, these are the watchwords, the motivators. The generation of large profits for brewers and retailers is a mere happy incidental. The quality of life will be enhanced by more time to drink and shop and queue in motor cars. Society today, as it has proved time and time again, is quite sophisticated enough to be self-regulating. Given all this, it would clearly be deeply churlish to look back in nostalgia on a time of swift warm beers, old maids cycling to communion, and no freedom to choose between working on a Sunday or getting the sack.