Labour leadership hopefuls quizzed on metrication

It is at least possible that one of the five candidates for the Labour leadership will be our next Prime Minister – so it would be helpful to know where each stands on the question of completing metrication.  Here is the result (so far) of a small survey carried out by an individual Party member.

The following question was sent by email to each candidate (or to their campaign team) about one month ago:

“What is your policy on completing the changeover to the metric system, including road signs?”

These are the replies received from their respective campaign teams as at 29 August (listed in order of receipt).

Miliband, David David Miliband (30 July) : “David believes that we should keep the miles system as it is, in the old system.  This is part of the British tradition, is widely understood, and prevents the expensive [sic] of a changeover”.


Diane Abbott (3 August):  “I think that we should complete the changeover.”

Miliband, EdEd Miliband (27 August ):  “I support the use of metric measurements as has been the case since conversion to metric in 1965. In fact, when in government Labour negotiated in the EU to allow continued indefinite use of dual measurement indicators. In practice, this means that most goods must be sold in metric units (as is now the case) but old style units are permitted to be displayed as well. I think there could be problems in exclusive use of one or other style of measurement – for example, many British goods are exported to multiple countries which use different measurement units. Switching to exclusive use of the metric system could raise issues about the viability of those exports, which would need to be addressed.”


Andy Burnham:  No response.


Ed Balls:  No response.

Comment:   Clearly, when deciding whom to support in the election, Party members will take into account a range of factors.  However, metrication is actually quite a good test since it illustrates the candidate’s attitudes to change vs tradition, and the degree to which they support expedient, populist policies rather than advocating the national interest in a modern system of measurement.

It is particularly disappointing therefore that the supposed favourite, David Miliband, should have authorised such a pathetically inadequate answer.  Diane Abbott’s reply is refreshingly clear and unambiguous, and will be welcomed by supporters of completing metrication. The media do not expect her to make it to the final round of the ballot, but if they are right, her second preferences could tip the election toward the other Miliband – the younger brother, Ed.  So it would be useful to have a more focussed and less evasive answer from Ed.  A supplementary question has therefore been sent to his campaign team, asking him to deal with the question of road signs.

The silence of the other two candidates could mean either that their campaign teams are very inefficient – or that they do not want to answer awkward questions.

MetricViews will be updated to include any further replies received before the close of poll. [No further responses were received – Editor]

15 thoughts on “Labour leadership hopefuls quizzed on metrication”

  1. Well done to Diane for speaking up for common sense and what’s good for Britain, instead of worrying what the Conservative newspapers think.


  2. Hmm – David’s view on the mile is disappointing. Ed’s view on the impact on exports is misinformed I think – I am not aware of any exports that are produced to Imperial measurements. Can anyone explain what he may be talking about


  3. Ed Miliband is probably talking about the US and because of its corrupt influence on other markets is fooled into thinking supplementary indications are primary units in other countries.

    I second the tribute paid to Diane Abbott. She gets my vote!


  4. Given Ed Miliband’s remarks, I hope all the more that the USA will finally adopt the voluntary metric-only labeling amendment to the FPLA (Fair Packaging and Labeling Act) proposed by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology).

    Though the amendment has been dormant for some time, perhaps it will finally gain some traction in the next Congress. If it does get adopted, this will remove any issue about packages with metric-only labeling possibly being excluded from overseas markets (from the standpoint of the UK) since I believe the USA is currently the only country to require non-metric (US Customary, in fact … not Imperial) units on all packaged retail goods.


  5. The responses from the two brothers are very disappointing and sounds like they are both ignorant about Metrication. Surely Ed Miliband’s response would be different if he knew more about the Metric System as would David’s be. Is there no way to encourage them to take interest and educate themselves on the Metric System? Both of their responses are made up of myths which are so often encountered.


  6. They don’t have a clue do they? David Milliband thinks that miles are well understood does he? He clearly doesn’t get out much beyond the shores of Little England! His brother wonders about the viability of exports. Why does he think we started the metrication programme in the first place?!
    It’s quite obvious that this issue is not high on their agenda. UKMA needs to find ways, not only to argue the case (which they do very well), but also to get the issue onto the agenda.


  7. The ignorance displayed in these matters by the Miliband brothers is typical of the general public. Although they are prominent politicians there is no reason why they should be particularly well informed. It doesn’t automatically come with the job and they don’t get where they are on the strength of it.

    To make progress we have to educate people – all the way up to the top!


  8. Remember that the replies from the Milibands may not have been drafted by them personally, but may have been from a member of their respective teams familiar with their general views and authorised to reply on their behalf. That doesn’t make it any better since (if true) it reflects the type of staff member that they employ and/or the general values and attitudes that they have communicated to their staff.


  9. While we are talking politics, can I draw attention to all UK based UKMA members that the much-vaunted ‘yourfreedom’ website is closing its threads to new ideas and comments in a few days.

    This is a direct line to the Coalition Government, and some of you may have visited it in the past. Even if you have, pro-metric and pro-imperial threads have still been popping up over the last few days so be sure to go in and make your views known – every vote counts!

    What is interesting is that the anti-imperial vote seems to be stronger than pro-metric. About 65 votes against a return to imperial, but only about 35 to complete metrication.

    So can I suggest that we all get clicking and get as many people as you know to do the same!


  10. With regard to Ezra’s comment on the possibility of the USA adopting metric-only labelling, I take it for granted that if this did happen then the attitude of politicians in this country towards metrication would change completely.


  11. If the US adopts metric-only in the near term, it will be “permissive” metric only. The company may drop or retain the Customary measure, only SI will be required. If the Customary is retained, it will have to comply with the law on usage.

    If it is permissive, it is very unclear at what rate companies would drop the Customary. It seems most likely on things already manufactured in rounded metric sizes, but no one can really say. Getting rid of the Customary would free up some label space. The Customary can be burdensome with compound units (pounds and ounces, or quarts, pints, ounces) to comply with largest whole unit requirement.

    At the moment, we (in the US) are wondering whether it is moving forward or not. After the amendment has been lying dormant for years, NIST has released a rather detailed report recommending adoption of permissive metric only, and made minor updates to the proposed amendment. However, it is not clear that there is a plan to put a bill in Congress, and Congress is SERIOUSLY gridlocked at the moment. They have several items they MUST address before year end, and I seriously doubt their abilities to do that.


  12. If the Democrats can hold a majority in the House of Representatives in November (and the Senate is looking more and more safe for a simple majority for the Democrats) and if the new Senate in January 2011 scraps the old rules on filibusters so that all bills will eventually come up for a a straight up-or-down vote, then I think we might have a chance to see voluntary metric-only labeling become law in 2011 or 2012.

    Maybe. (Fingers crossed!)


  13. Now that Ed Milliband has won the leadership post of the Labour Party, let’s hope his humbled attitude towards the voting public will not lead him to avoid metrication.

    Still, it seems the choice of Ed might work out better than David for metrication, at least if Labour wind up regaining power at the next general elections and Ed becomes PM.


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