Support grows to make Darwin Day a holiday

Charles Darwin revolutionised how mankind views itself
Charles Darwin revolutionised how mankind views itself

By Ian Dunt

Support is growing in parliament for Darwin Day to be made a bank holiday.

An early day motion by Ashok Kumar, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has now received support from 65 MPs from all parties - although predominantly Labour and Liberal Democrats.

Talking to politics.co.uk Mr Kumar said he had tried to raise the matter during yesterday's prime minister's questions but the Speaker failed to pick him.


"There has been talk for a while about another bank holiday and the government is still deciding on a particular day," he said.

"We need a new bank holiday, especially if you compare us with our European counterparts. So this is a gentle push to say to the government 'how about celebrating Darwin?'"

The motion, EDM 377, reads: "That this House notes the extraordinary achievements of Charles Darwin; notes that 2009 marks both the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species; welcomes proposals for the creation of a Darwin Day in recognition of the ground-breaking work of the British scientist responsible for the theory of evolution by natural selection; and calls for Darwin's birthday, 12 February, to be designated a public holiday in honour of one of the fathers of modern science and one of Britain's greatest, if not the greatest, scientific minds."

Jeremy Corbyn, the infamous Labour backbencher, told politics.co.uk celebrating Darwin could encourage more school pupils to take up science.

"Darwin was a far-sighted, brave and imaginative scientist who changed the whole world's thinking through his studies," he said.

"We'd do well to push the frontiers of knowledge as he did, and it would help encourage young people to study science and biology, which, after all, is crucial to our survival."

Mr Kumar said Darwin deserved to be considered the greatest ever Briton.

"He was a great scientist and also a great man," he told politics.co.uk.

"Had I got my chance at PMQs I would have said that not only should we celebrate his work but also his status as a great man. How he conducted his own life is very close to my heart.

"I am a humanist. I love his principles of humanism and the rational principles he set out which help us move away from superstition."

Andrew Copson, director of education and public affairs at the British Humanist Association, which is supporting the call for a new bank holiday, said: "Charles Darwin is one of the greatest and most influential thinkers who ever lived and one of Britain's greatest scientists.

"In the middle of February we could all do with an extra public holiday and recognition of this particular day would be a great way of celebrating Britain's great contribution to science, reason and free thought."

There will be events across the country today to celebrate Darwin's birthday, along with a demonstration outside London's History Museum as part of a campaign for 'a secular Europe'.

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