Daylight saving time: Don’t let the Scots steal this hour because they want a lie-in

No, no, that can’t be right. They can’t trifle with our hopes like that. It is now more than two years since the Greater London Authority renewed its campaigning for lighter winter evenings – and last week we thought we had a stunning breakthrough.

The Government said it was “minded to support” a Bill put forward by a heroic Tory MP called Rebecca Harris, calling for British Summer Time to be in force all year. We all had the strong impression that the Cabinet had abandoned the inertia and spinelessness of the last 40 years, and was going to support Mrs Harris in her bid to save lives, expand the economy and cheer everyone up. Then I pick up my paper yesterday and I find that there has apparently been a U-turn.

It now turns out that the support of the Government entirely depends on the Scots. Unless Alex Salmond and his team agree that there should be another look at daylight saving, the whole thing is once again going to be slammed back into the bulging filing cabinet of projects that are commonsensical (like repatriating some powers from the EU) but just too politically difficult to pull off. According to a Downing Street source, the whole thing is now “dead in the water”. Come on, folks. This isn’t good enough.

This requires a bit more guts and determination. We can’t let the Scottish tail wag the British bulldog – and especially not when the change would be in the interests of the Scots themselves. The arguments are overwhelming, and especially in London, the motor of Britain’s economy. Lighter winter evenings would enable all kinds of places to stay open an hour longer – sporting venues, monuments – with huge benefits for the tourist and service industries. The income boost was calculated last year at up to £720 million – a lot of money and a lot of jobs in tough times. Then there is the point that crime is far more likely to be committed at dusk than in the morning. A switch to lighter evenings would not only cut crime by three per cent – according to Home Office figures – but it would lead to a fall in fear of crime as well.

If we all had an extra hour of daylight in the evening, there would be significant savings in electricity bills – and a cut in CO₂ emissions of 80,000 tonnes in London alone. If you’re a business owner, it’s wise for you to look at other affordable options to fuel your business, such as turning to sites like Business cost comparison. There would be less seasonally adjusted depression, say psychiatrists. You would no longer have that terrible Lapland sense that the day was over by 3pm and you might as well go and get drunk.

Mellitus, the saint who retook London from barbarians

“Mellitus?” said the guide with an air of surprise. I felt as if I had gone into Waitrose and asked for something quaint —like a hogs-head of mead.

After all, it’s tricky finding a Londoner who has heard of Mellitus. But Vivien Kermath is one of the accredited red-sashed guides of St Paul’s Cathedral. She knows her stuff.

“Of course,” she said. “Mellitus. AD 604. He built the first of several churches that have been on this site. Come this way, we have an icon.” “An icon?” I boggled.

We walked through the great church of Christopher Wren, past memorials of Nelson and Wellington. We passed where Lady Diana Spencer consecrated her ill-fated union to the Prince of Wales, and the list of former deans, including John Donne and his illustrious predecessor, Alexander Nowell, who discovered how to bottle beer – “probably his greatest contribution to humanity”, said Vivien.

At the far end of the church we came to the American memorial chapel, and there – perched above an illuminated book recording the names of the 28,000 Americans who gave their lives in the Second World War — is Mellitus.

The lesson for Europe from the beach at Arromanches

If you want to see the original purpose of the European Union, then you should join me for a little pousse-café here on the beach. It is a beautiful scene. People are strolling in the autumn sunshine. Dogs and sail-surfers roam the sweeping, biscuit-coloured strand, and out in the bright blue bay you can still see the vast concrete lumps, left like the haphazard stepping-stones of some forgotten race of giants.

Yes, folks, I am looking at the hulking remnants of the Allied invasion’s Mulberry Harbours, and this beach is Arromanches. We have snuck over on an early-morning ferry from Portsmouth, to show the children where their grandfather came ashore in June 1944.

I had forgotten how this whole sector of Normandy is a monument to carnage. Among the apple orchards and the hedgerows and the dairy cows turning grass into camembert, you can see the white crosses. You can see the graveyards and memorials of the thousands upon thousands of Americans, British, Canadians and, yes, Germans, who died on the beaches and in the battles around Caen. You can imagine the blood in the water at Omaha and the puffs in the sand from the machine-gun bullets as the terrified marines prepared to leap from their landing craft.

Here at Arromanches you can see why the founding fathers of the EU decided that they were going to create a system that would lock Germany into Europe, and to make sure that nothing like D-Day ever had to happen again.

In many ways, I would say that the Common Market was a success. We now have a single market, where British people are allowed to come and live here, to trade, to make their lives wherever they like in a vast community of European nations. You can set yourself up as an aromatherapist in Alicante or a dentist in Lodz. You have a perfect right, as a Briton, to ply your trade as a ski instructor in Courchevel — and if some French union of ski instructors tries to block you, then you have single-market legislation to protect you.

London mayor Dick Whittington is a tough act to follow, discovers Boris Johnson

You think you know the story of Dick Whittington? Think again. That pantomime you see at Christmas at the Horsham Salvation Army Hall, starring TV’s Jason Donovan, with Ann Widdecombe as his furry feline friend, is in one sense an egregious piece of tabloid misreporting. But it is also a powerful lesson in how a top financier can sanitise his reputation and win the undying affection of the public.

The real Dick Whittington was not born poor. There is no evidence that he tied his possessions in a handkerchief suspended from a stick. He did not “turn again” at Highgate Hill, at the sound of Bow Bells. He was not a Mayor of London thrice, but four times. He did not have a cat.

He was born between 1354 and 1358 in Gloucestershire, and his parents were not peasants, but the lord and lady of the manor of Pauntley, with their own coat of arms. Richard Whittington’s only problem was that he was the youngest of three brothers. With no chance of inheriting, his options were (a) hang around Gloucestershire, hoping to meet a nice, rich girl; (b) study for the law at the Inns of Court; (c) enter the Church; (d) enrol for military service with a baron; or (e) become an apprentice.

He went for option (e). We don’t know exactly why he decided to become an apprentice mercer, but we do know that he made the four- or five-day hike to London, entering at Newgate in about 1371.

To be an apprentice was a serious business. You were required to attend Mass and absorb the sermon, and you had to turn out for archery practice at Smithfield. You might be of good family, but your existence was Spartan; a junior apprentice might sleep in the loft, and a senior apprentice would have to make do with a bale of hay in the house. You wore a flat, round cap and a very short haircut, with a coarse long coat, and you walked in front of your master or mistress at night with a lantern or with a long club about your neck.

A new literary genius could be hard at work on a London bus

Any day now some science-fiction writer will do a dystopic story called The Great BlackBerry Crumble. A rat eats through cables in a shed in Slough or Shanghai and crash – servers all over the world pack up. The screens go blank. The internet is kaput. Even the phones are down.

No one can communicate by any kind of electronic means, and in this giant information blackout another disaster threatens the existence of life on Earth: an asteroid, say, or a tsunami or a plague of giant shape-shifting iguanas from Venus who come disguised as Eddie Izzard.

Someone needs to tell the President of the United States! Someone needs to get the message through to the only man with the firepower to save the planet from the mutant lizards – and that someone is a loveable teenager from London called Jake.

He has an earring, he has an iPod, he has a BlackBerry – and after all kinds of vicissitudes he makes it through to the White House, where a blizzard is raging. By now Jake is at the end of his tether, after marching through the snow with nothing more to sustain him than a Curly Wurly and a packet of cheese and onion crisps. He knocks on the door. No one answers. Faint with cold and hunger, he slumps to the mat and realises that he must leave a message. He fumbles in his hoodie pockets and finds his BlackBerry. Still stuffed! How can he communicate? The President needs to know about the Izzard lizards – and time is running out.

He gropes again in his pocket and finds his girlfriend’s eyeliner. Quick – before he passes out he knows he must write the news, here on the vacant white paint of the Presidential door. He takes out the eyeliner, and just as he is preparing to make the first planet-saving mark he realises with a gasping sob that it’s no good.

Without a new airport, British businesses will be left behind

Good for Philip Hammond. Once again the Transport Secretary has shown robust common sense. First he pointed out that everyone already travels at 80mph on a motorway, and that it is therefore pretty silly to maintain that it is a criminal offence to go above 70. And now he has said what needed to be said about aviation.

We cannot go on as we are, with Heathrow as the UK’s major hub airport. The place is bursting at the seams. Most of our rival European airports are expanding, and have huge scope to go further. Heathrow is running at 99 per cent capacity. That means you spend ever more time circling pointlessly in the air above London, with your ears popping and your plane burning kerosene and blasting sinful vapour trails of CO₂, while making its presence heard by the hundreds of thousands of people below. Many planes are now waiting 30 or 40 minutes in a Heathrow stack. And the weight of traffic means that taxi-out time – the time taken between pushing back from the stand and actually taking off – is 18 per cent longer at Heathrow than it is at Paris Charles de Gaulle, 31 per cent longer than at Amsterdam and 40 per cent longer than at Frankfurt. Other airports have slack in the system. While Heathrow has only two runways, Amsterdam has six, Paris four, Madrid four, Frankfurt three and they are all only using about 70 per cent of their runway capacity. The result is that UK plc is simply missing out.

China’s biggest airline, China Southern, does not serve the UK because there aren’t enough slots at Heathrow – which is one of the reasons that it is not as easy for British business people to get to China as it is for our competitors on continental Europe. Here on Melbourne weekly eastern all updates available to check.  Every week, there are 17,500 seats on planes bound for mainland China from Frankfurt; 15,000 on planes from Paris; 11,000 from Amsterdam and only 9,000 from Heathrow. It will not be all that long before both China and India have bigger GDPs than the US – and yet we are making it harder for British business people to get to the future megacities from London than from our competitor airports. If you want to fly to Chengdu, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Xiamen or Guangzhou you can get there direct from one of London’s Continental rivals – but you can’t get there from Heathrow.

It is not just China: we are losing out on direct flights to Latin America, Asia and Africa because of the shortage of capacity and the greater ability of other airports to try out something new. Airlines flying out of Heathrow are reluctant to risk their precious slots by testing the market for an exotic destination; and so the Continental airports pioneer the new routes to these unheard-of cities, and derive the first-mover advantage. It is not just a question of people: it is goods as well. More and more high-value goods are transported by air, with air freight accounting for 25 per cent of UK visible trade in 2005, the last year for which I can find figures. In the same year, 71 per cent of Britain’s pharmaceutical exports went by air. Those exports need to reach a wide range of destinations quickly and conveniently – and that is why you need a hub airport.

People can be slow sometimes to grasp why it matters to Britain if a traveller from Miami Beach spends a few hours in a departure lounge in London on the way to Minsk. What is the value to us, people wonder, of having this person temporarily on UK soil? The answer is that it is the transit market produced by a hub airport that creates the range of destinations that makes your airport the handiest to fly from – and that makes your capital the best place to invest in; to say nothing of the many tens of thousands of jobs that a hub airport generates in aviation alone.

Conservative Party Conference 2011: Boris Johnson defies David Cameron to call for referendum on Europe

The London mayor said it was “not a bad idea” to give the British people a direct say on Europe. He told a fringe meeting at the Conservative conference that voters deserved a chance to express their views on the issue.

He said: “The British people haven’t had a say on Europe since 1975. There hasn’t been a vote. It seems to me to be that if a reasonable question could be framed and put to the people of this country, I think it is not a bad idea.”

One option for the referendum would be an “in-out referendum”, he said.

He predicted that while voters might not vote to leave the EU, they might demand a “looser relationship” with Brussels.

Mr Johnson, seen as a potential future Conservative leadership contender, spoke hours after Mr Cameron had ruled out any popular vote on EU issues and insisted that the Conservatives should not focus on the issue

Ed Miliband is one export that would scupper our rivals

These countries are seeing huge increases in living standards, female emancipation, literacy and per capita GDP. Let Ed explain to them how they have been getting it wrong, and that it is time for them to acquire some western labour-market rigidities. He can tell them all about the clever way we do things here, with massive unfunded pension liabilities, and a welfare system that acts as a disincentive to work, and a labyrinthine grievance culture that makes it virtually impossible to dismiss anyone without being sued for discrimination of one kind or another.

He can tell them how wonderful it is for small businesses constantly to be hit by non-wage costs such as months and months of paternity leave. They don’t have that kind of thing in the Asian dynamos – and that is why they are so much more competitive. But if Ed can show them the way, perhaps they will acquire this baggage, and give the poor old UK competition a breather.

Well, what do you think? Will it work? One day I have no doubt that non-wage costs will be higher in China than they are today, as China’s rulers respond to the growing inequality in their society. Perhaps one day there will be a kind of global social charter, of the kind that Jacques Delors used to campaign for all those years ago, with a general partnership role for government in business of all kinds. But I don’t see it happening any time soon.

China and India have a combined population of 2.4 billion, with a middle class increasingly avid for possessions and status. They get up early; they work hard. The bourgeoisie knows the vital importance of inculcating their offspring with an understanding of science and maths. If you want to see the results of this culture of mental exertion, look at the first-class honours attained in some of our best universities, or the scholarship houses of leading fee-paying schools. One day in 40 or 50 years’ time we may well have persuaded them to go down our route, and once again festoon their economies with costly regulation; but in the meantime we need to compete.

Instead of hoping that they will acquire our debilities, we need to learn from their success. In making their seismic conversion to free-market capitalism, they have adopted a culture that rewards hard work, where taxes are kept as low as possible, where it is possible to create jobs easily, where governments zealously guard their own economic independence and where there is a clear recognition of the role of ambitious infrastructure projects in creating growth and long-term competitiveness. That is a lesson that I have no doubt the Chancellor will be spelling out to the Tory conference today.

Just as the world’s most successful economies are moving in one direction, it looks as if Miliband wants to go the other way. I am still not quite clear how he wants to restrain capitalism and attack the profit-motive; but all I can say is that it will only work if we could take China, India and the rest of the emerging market economies with us. There is a growing media-political view that free-market economics have somehow failed us, and that capitalism must be transformed by a new partnership with the state.

That is not the view of billions of people around the world, whose lives have been transformed in recent decades by escaping state economic control.