Don’t put back the clocks amid Covid-19 challenges, urges Squeeze star

Chris Difford believes an extra hour of daylight in the afternoons would help people’s mental health during the pressures of Covid-19.

Chris Difford
Chris Difford

A founding member of the band Squeeze is calling for the clocks not to go back this weekend, as the UK faces the double bind of increasing coronavirus restrictions and shortening days.

Chris Difford said the new normal is frightening for a lot of people and that natural light is “one of the greatest tonics for mental health”.

The clocks are due to go back one hour on October 25 at 2am, bringing an end to British Summer Time (BST) and reverting back to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

This will mean lighter mornings but an earlier sunset, with darkness due to fall at around 4pm in December.

The 66-year-old musician has set up a Change.org petition calling for this not to take place as the country grapples with the virus and while people “get on their feet”.

He told the PA news agency: “I think it’s particularly difficult in this pandemic for younger people to be positive about what’s going on, and I think for them to spend most of their time in the dark is only going to make things worse for them.

“I’m a very tiny voice in all of this, I understand that, and some people will probably think it’s a bit of a whim and a bit of a mad thing to ask for, but who knows, you never know where these things can go.”

Difford added that it would be “amazing” if businesses allowed and encouraged their workers to take half an hour during their working day to get outside in the fresh air.

He said: “Like having light in the day, exercise is just as important. We are in a new situation here, this is the new now, and I believe if we are going to be saddled with the new now for a long time, people should be allowed to change the way that they live.”

Chris Difford, a founding member of the band Squeeze, who is calling for the clocks not to go back this weekend, as the UK faces the double bind of increasing coronavirus restrictions and shortening days (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Chris Difford hopes the clocks won’t go back this weekend (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Changing the clocks was first adopted in the UK in 1916, to make better use of the daylight and save on energy during the First World War.

It followed a campaign by William Willett, who was frustrated by daylight being wasted in the summer mornings.

In March 2019, the European Parliament backed a proposal to stop changing the clocks in the European Union.

If it is adopted, EU nations could change the clocks for the last time as early as 2021.

On Thursday, Welsh Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones called for a debate on this “outdated and unnecessary practice”, adding: “The last thing our country needs is yet another hour of 2020.”

A 2019 poll found 59% of the public are in favour of remaining on BST, she added.

Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, replied that people in Scotland “particularly would find very, very late mornings if we didn’t change the clocks”, adding: “I’m not sure the appetite for change, and certainly not the appetite to follow the EU, is all that great.”

Andy Bell, deputy chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, said people should be concerned about the effects of winter, with fewer opportunities for social connection and outdoor activity.

He told PA: “People are under an enormous amount of pressure, and we know that the mental health impacts of the virus and of course all the various lockdown measures that are happening around it are very, very considerable, and indeed the loss of livelihood too.

“And of course one of the ways in which people can help to cope with that is by being outdoors, by having contact with nature, having opportunities for exercise, and of course, the less access people have got to that, the fewer opportunities that we have to help, to cope, if you like, with the enormous pressure people are facing.”

There is a “real danger” that employees may also feel under “excessive pressure” to work long hours and over-perform in the context of rising job insecurity, he added.

Employers could help staff get through the challenges of winter by allowing more flexibility and control over their working day, he added, such as encouraging them to go for a walk during working hours to take advantage of the light.

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