More on GMT — what’s really behind the current clocks campaign

My earlier post, ‘Hands off GMT!’, triggered a lively discussion.  My thanks to everyone who participated.  Most of us wondered why the question about clocks has arisen yet again.

Commenter Mintee left a couple of links which I have now had the chance to explore in more depth.  The first is an October 2009 paper by Elizabeth Garnsey and Brendan Cronin; this is a revised edition of their 2007 paper, ‘Daylight Saving in GB: Is there evidence in favour of clock time on GMT?’

Dr Garnsey is on the Academic Staff of Cambridge University’s Centre for Technology Management (CTM) and a faculty member of the university’s Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), tied into the Engineering Department.  The IfM is one of the UK’s Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres (IMRCs).

In 2007, Mr Cronin was ‘a student in the Department on the MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development’. The aforementioned paper concluded:

No evidence in favour of imposing Greenwich Mean Time in winter was found.

Furthermore, page 5 of the paper states:

Folk memory is in error in holding that there were more accidents during 1968-1971, the period when the clocks were not set back in winter.

The words ‘folk memory’ (as well as ‘imposing’) stand out.  Since the 1990s, my better half and our friends (all of whom are English) have discussed the statistics that emerged after that three-year trial period.  They appeared in newspapers, were read out on news programmes and so forth. They were not an old wives’ tale.

In the comments to the Telegraph articles I cited in my original post, a number of  the newspaper’s readers have been trying unsuccessfully to get hold of these data, but to no avail.  This leads some to believe that they might have been scrubbed or ditched.

I looked at Mintee’s other link, leading to Lighter Later.  Clicking on the link reveals an interesting logo, which a number of us will recall from last year.  It is the infamous 10:10.  Remember Richard Curtis’s eco-terrorist 10:10 film, No Pressure?  If not, here’s a reminder:


This is where a teacher, a senior manager, a footballer and a studio technician simply pressed a red button to explode those unconvinced by climate change arguments into an unfunny, bloody mess.

Lighter Later is a 10:10 initiative. The latest news is on their main page.

The IfM paper cited above is part of Lighter Later’s resources.

A principal 10:10 goal is to effect one major policy change this yearThe clocks could be it.

In closing, below are a few comments from Guardian readers in response to a December 2010 article, ‘Wouldn’t changing our clocks make our lives better?’

JohnRuddy, 20 December 2010 10:07 PM:

I fail to understand how an increase in road deaths and accidents during the period of the experiment can be statistically changed into a cut in the number of deaths and accidents?

There is no actual evidence substantiating these claims by those that want to fiddle about with the clocks, just studies and estimates and guesses and opinions. In fact, virtually all of the results of actual countries or regions which have done this have shown the exact opposite to the claims these campaigners make. I just dont understand it.

Its not called GREENWICH mean time for nothing- it’s the time on the meridian of Greenwich – not the meridian for Poland.

Matthewnotmatt presents a number of recent road statistics and concludes:

@JohnRuddy – You are totally right, there are no figures to back these claims up …

The reason that this idea keeps being rejected is that the facts that supposedly back up the argument are never presented, leading me to believe there [are]n’t any clear facts to support it. By looking at the data myself I cannot see a clear and definable difference between the deaths and injures sustained during lighter summer months and the darker winter months, and therefore see no reason to change GMT.

BigEd, 21 December 2010 9:51 AM:

… Great Britain fought hard for Greenwich Mean Time to be adopted as an international marker; why would we want to move away from it permanently? The day will not be longer; the evening will not be longer – the day will be exactly the same length. If we want to maximise our time in daylight then we need to start organising our lives around it …

And, finally, Peter Jackson — who like my better half and friends — remembers dark, depressing days at school during the trial period 40 years ago:

I was at school in Manchester during the previous experiment in 1968-71, and even that far north – not Scotland, note – it was bloody awful. Not only going to school in the dark, but having half the morning lessons in the dark as well. Try reading the Parliamentary debates on the subject before it was changed back again; it was dropped because of widespread public opposition.

All this seems like another attempt by so-called experts with spurious science to bully us and our MPs into accepting yet another plan to notionally save the planet and tell us we are death-deserving idiots if we don’t follow along.

Red button, anyone?

21 comments for “More on GMT — what’s really behind the current clocks campaign

  1. Chuckles
    November 3, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    I’m sure it’s part of the same initiative that would ensure that all our school and university students are above average. Garrison Keillor could probably tell us more.

    But the chronic analogies should clearly be adjusted, polished up and ready chime the hour, or toll the bell. Not to mention stretch the metaphor. Even the clueless buff sorry saintly paragons of the UN are now suggesting that GMT should start with the sheltered living applications –

    perhaps it’s time to petition the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, surely they’d know what to do?

    You mean you REALLY didn’t know there was such a thing as an International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service spending your tax money and worrying about such things? The son doesn’t rise by itself you know, and leap seconds don’t just add themselves. It’s very stressful at times.
    Look here, look at that excess day length, on top of the global warming and everything

    • November 3, 2011 at 4:15 pm


      ‘We’re all going to die!’ ‘Don’t panic!’

      Re the French link: it would be great if someone called this out for what it is — probable rubbish — after having mapped the shift all the way back to 1972, not just 2010. It’s amazing that our technology has been able to survive up to now. The horror!

      Two sentences in The Register stood out:

      ‘… the hyper-accurate clocks do not measure time as experienced by humans on Earth because the planet’s rotation is uneven.’


      ‘Mobile phone networks and GPS systems in particular suffer when leap seconds strike.’

      When leap seconds strike … that’s going to keep me up at night now. 😉

      It would be fascinating to find out if all these groups were somehow linked, a bit like the climate change — or is it ‘global warming’ this week — thingy.

      Thanks for the info, Chuckles — much appreciated!

      • ivan
        November 3, 2011 at 5:56 pm

        If you had looked at the comments on the Reg article you would have seen that the GPS system uses its own atomic clock that has little or no relationship to what the ITU is proposing.

        I imagine the groups are linked to the Luddite band wagon of trying to force everyone but themselves back to serfdom.

    • james Higham
      November 4, 2011 at 6:19 am

      ensure that all our school and university students are above average


  2. Mike Spilligan
    November 3, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    …. just to say, many thanks for that; we might have known that there would be some self-serving, “campaigning” group behind it – and such a nasty one, too.

    • November 3, 2011 at 4:36 pm

      You’re welcome.

      I’d forgotten all about 10:10, yet, they’re still around, stealthlike.

    • November 3, 2011 at 5:12 pm

      I agree, I didn’t know about the involvement of 10:10 either.

  3. Chuckles
    November 3, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    I suppose it’s illustrative of the old saw, ‘A man with one watch knows what time it is. A man with 2 is never sure.’
    There are a lot of concepts like ‘time’ and ‘sea-level’ and the like which we can confidently say we know exactly what they are. And we do, in the general sense of ‘Look over there at the Wash. See where the sea is, that’s sea level. Innit?’ until we start looking a bit more closely, and it rapidly gets VERY compicated, very quickly.
    Time and ‘the time’, sea level, shape of the earth, coastlines, distances, temperature, they can all get us into trouble if we look too closely.

    I mean, just this past weekend, all my clockes went back. Lucky I kept all the receipts, damn things were an hour fast.

  4. Mintee
    November 3, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Is attempting smear and innuendo the best that Churchmouse can come up with?

    Clearly Lighter Later have won the argument then.

    • November 3, 2011 at 10:11 pm

      Thanks, Mintee — I was waiting to hear from you.

      Well, how would you interpret the 10:10 film, then? Shouldn’t all us notional Luddites and idiots be ‘red-buttoned’?

      I went through your rhetoric the other day and that was what tipped me off to look into this further.

      ‘Smear and innuendo’? Look at your own comments and what you support. If you need a reminder, I can post them for you.

      • Mintee
        November 4, 2011 at 7:53 am

        I think the 10:10 promotion/advert was appalling but I fail to see what that has to do with the argument (as put forward in the ‘Daylight Saving in GB: Is there evidence in favour of clock time on GMT?’ paper.

  5. November 3, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Let’s look at Mintee’s wording. Does this win you over to his/her astroturfed cause?

    Mintee on November 1, 2011 at 5:08 pm: “The idiot in the Telegraph who misleads about the sunrise ‘north of Manchester’ …”

    “The idea that individuals can do what they want with the clock is laughable …”

    Mintee on November 1, 2011 at 10:11 pm: ‘I think your tendency to promote some presumed heritage that you imagine everyone should subscribe to is facile …

    “Personal opinions do not really count, nor should a few crofters in the highlands tell us how to live our lives …”

    Mintee on November 2, 2011 at 9:06 am: “Is it really the ‘children’ who would benefit? I thought the feckless fat useless loafers were all shepherded to school in 4×4′s these days?”

    Mintee on November 2, 2011 at 9:08 am: “For those not blindly ignorant to considering the idea of trying the ‘lighter later’ change, this is worth a read …”

    Message to Mintee: Your rhetoric shows an utter disregard for your fellow countrymen.

    If this is what your Lighter Later 10:10 is about, you can count many of us out.

    • Mintee
      November 4, 2011 at 8:00 am

      You mistake my contempt for your hard of thinking, near Empire Loyalist tendencies, for an argument in favour of looking at the clock change.

      And you are still mistaken if you think it is ‘my’ campaign in any way.

  6. November 4, 2011 at 2:57 am

    This mucking about with time is probably part of the campaign to get rid of GMT altogether since the righteous see it as a colonial relic. (Hence the 10:10 involvement, also news to me). Next thing you know we will bow to a parallel campaign to base time zones on Mecca.
    Yesterday BBC Radio 2 ‘News’ was propagating a “study” that shows that Britains schoolchidren were more scared of being bullied on the way to school than any others in Europe, part of the same nonsense perhaps?

    • james Higham
      November 4, 2011 at 6:26 am

      The effing French and Germans have been at it for donkeys’ years. Talk about green with envy. Greenwich is the prime meridian, the modern metric drive came out of France, bratwurst came out of Germany. No one complains about the latter two.

    • Maaarrghk!
      November 4, 2011 at 6:28 am

      Yep. Ve must do zis for ze children. Classic Hitler stuff.

      Oh, just fuck off Godwin.

    • November 4, 2011 at 8:37 am

      Well, most people using GMT as a reference are calling it Universal Time these days, so anyone wanting to bury it as a colonial relic really could find better things to do – it’s already gone. That just leaves the harmonising thing and the idea that despite solar noon occurring over nearly 3 hours across the whole EU everyone’s clocks should say the same, and the issues with that should be plain. Just imagine if Ireland didn’t join in – you’d have not only have to move your watch forward as much as two hours for the ferry trip east from Rosslare and Fishguard, but you’d also have to do it if going westwards from Knockballyroney in the Republic to Enniskillen in Ulster. Even if you got the whole EU on one clock you’d have the same thing with Morocco and Portugal/Spain/Gib. Any time you need to change your watch when travelling north/south it’s as artificial as aerosol cheese.

  7. Maaarrghk!
    November 4, 2011 at 6:26 am

    So, we had this 3 year experiment during 68-71.

    We are now getting told that there was no conclusive evidence from it to back the clocks being changed.

    If that is the case, then there is a question I would like to ask – a very obvious one.


    Even if there were no advantages/disadvantages either way, then it would have made sense to simply keep things as they were in 68-71.

    • Mintee
      November 4, 2011 at 8:09 am

      Look it up then. It’s not that hard.

      There was a free vote in Parliament in 1970. You can even read the debate in Hansard.
      The argument seems to hinge on the numbers of what we now call KSI. And the accuracy of this data has been questioned by RoSPA on several occasions in the decades since.

      It is worth noting that during WWII there was double summer time – and Britian worked 2 hours ahead of GMT. This reverted in 1945 but was reintroduced during the fuel crisis of 1947/8.

      It might be worth noting that the current bill before Parliament was introduced by Conservative MP Rebecca Harris.

      • November 4, 2011 at 10:01 am

        So, a Conservative introduced it. LibLabCon.

      • Maaarrghk!
        November 4, 2011 at 10:14 am

        It’s also worth noting that currently there is no blackout as we had in WW2.

        I guess those folks at rospa are among those who will always be getting out of bed during full daylight whatever we do with the clocks. Sadly, we are not all in that position and many of us have to take our chances in the dark.

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