A statement from UKIP

UKIP’s recent electoral successes have resulted, quite rightly, in increased scrutiny of its policies. Here, we take a look at a recent statement by the Party’s Trade spokesman on the subject of measurement units.

Ronnie Cohen recently contacted the major national political parties, including UKIP (the UK Independence Party) and the Greens about their policies on units of measurement. He asked these parties:

“What is your policy on the use of metric and imperial units for official, legal, trade and administrative purposes within the UK? Can you please tell me about any changes you would like to make in the use of measurement units within the UK.”

Only UKIP replied to his query and commented on its policy. Ronnie received the following reply from William Dartmouth, a UKIP MEP and the Party’s Trade spokesman:

“Dear Ronnie Cohen,

Thank you for your e-mail concerning metric and imperial measurements.

As I understand it, the law at the moment allows traders to sell and label their produce in two ways a) in metric units only b) both metric/imperial units simultaneously. However, traders may not label and sell their produce in imperial only. This last ban was the reason for the famous metric martyrs case, whereby a grocer sold his produce in only imperial measurements. UKIP holds that this current situation is illiberal and unfair.

As a libertarian party, UKIP feels that traders should be free to label their produce in whatever units of measurement they and/or their customers see fit. We do not have a policy per se, but this is the general feeling within the party hierarchy. I would remind you that UKIP policy is currently being revamped, but our policy on imperial measurements will remain as described.

Yours sincerely
William Dartmouth”

Readers may recall that, in 2000, metric measures became a legal requirement for retail sale of both ‘loose goods’, for example fruit and vegetables, and ‘from bulk’, for example meat and cheese. Even though customers were still able to ask for pounds and ounces, and supplementary pricing in imperial was permitted, libertarian arguments began to appear. UKMA responded by pointing out the weaknesses of these arguments, and a summary appears on our web site: http://www.ukma.org.uk/what-about-free-speech, and also in our briefing notes, paragraph I: http://www.ukma.org.uk/briefing-notes.

UKMA has no view on the UK’s continuing EU membership, but is reassured that UKIP sees Norway and Switzerland as models for a UK outside the EU. Both countries are significant players in the global economy. And, of course, libertarian arguments do not apply when you are trying to sell pound-inch products in any of the metric economies that serve 95% of the world’s population.

So what are the consequences of the rise of UKIP for further progress on metrication? It is reported that, when Mao Tse-tung was invited to comment on the implications of the French revolution, he replied, “It is too early to say”. This surely applies to UKIP’s impact on the stalled UK metric transition. But we should still use every opportunity to inform politicians, including those from UKIP, about the adverse effects of the continuing measurement mess – which will not disappear without government leadership.

10 thoughts on “A statement from UKIP”

  1. Do you really think UKIP want Britain to go metric? You are joking right? Nope UKIP pretty much want to go back to the 1950s which is shown by the fact it is men 55+ are more likely to vote for .Apart from the leaving the Eu they want to relegalise fox hunting , allow smoking in pubs, make all power from fossil fuels , introduce opt out vouchers for the NHS which would end up killing it,increase the ta budget by 40% and the leaders of the BNP and EDL have both urge their supporters to vote for them. http://www.richardcorbett.org.uk/theres-something-about-ukip.pdf UKIP is a really scary party that many people are misguided to vote for they need to be informed about and the media is giving these crackpots well too much publicity as well as turning David Cameron further to the right. As they will never get more than 20% of the vote all you did here was give them that little bit extra publicity


  2. The Earl of Dartmouth wrote: “the law at the moment allows traders to sell and label their produce in two ways a) in metric units only b) both metric/imperial units simultaneously”.

    What the Earl fails to state is that only the price per metric unit is the legal price. It is not true to state that you can sell and label produce ‘in both metric/imperial units simulatenously’. Any reference to price by imperial measure is ‘for information only’ (it is called a ‘supplementary indication’ in the official jargon). It is not an indication of the legal price. Only the price per metric unit is the legal price.

    Perhaps this should be made clear to the Earl and his followers.


  3. @ Alex David
    Firstly as a male septuagenarian I do take (polite) exception to the suggestion that we are likely voters for ‘that’ party (I refuse to even type the name). Whilst I yearn with a passion for the green fields and woodland areas of the 1950’s, there is little else about that time which I would wish to return to, and certainly not the smoke from my parents fags and the factory chimneys.
    I could not agree with you more about ‘them’ being a scary party. For sure they got well beyond any media coverage (hand picked, positive coverage at that) they deserved either by size, virtue or by sensible radical policies. I also agree we are adding to that coverage, so lets try to keep it negative.
    However, even without the metric part of the debate, this idea that traders should be free to trade in any measurements they ‘see fit’ (to satisfy their own greed maybe?) shows a total lack of knowledge, or more likely a total dis-regard for any legal, moral or indeed social implications of such a (IMHO stupid) statement. Trade must surely be regulated? I do not see how it cannot be. True if a trader were to sell cloth by the Ell, price it by the yard an then measure it by the metre and do all the conversions, the net result should be the same, just a teensy bit confusing. (I have lived in such a country in fact, it was considered a joke).
    That is pretty much where the UK lies right now. A joke country.


  4. When the French introduced metrication after their revolution, it was one of mankind’s great steps forward. There are no downsides whatsoever. We and our Empire resisted it because as it was ‘not invented here’, the same reasons the Americans still resist it now.

    At 55, I am just old enough to have grown up with Imperial measures. I still have to convert if I want to be more precise than 2km=1 mile, 2lb=1kg, 2pts=1ltr. But it’s a one or two generation thing. Why saddle future generations with unnecessary mental arithmetic.


  5. I disagree with David Atherton. In South Africa (where I lived in the 1970’s) and in Australia it was not a “one or two generation thing” but a “one or two year thing”. The reason was quite simple – the governments in those countries took the lead – in South Africa the state funded conversion of scales in businesses (and in so doing undermined a “metric martyr” situation), while in Australia, the government persuaded the horse-racing fraternity to be among the first to metricate – the “six furlong race” became the “1200 metre race”. In the UK, the government left things to the CBI and BSI, said that costs would be borne “where they fell” and then whinged when they realised that they would have to pay for road signs to be metricated.


  6. Martin, you forget the recent thread here (“Imperial left-overs in Australia”) where we saw that Australia are still using imperial units for many purposes, nearly 50 years on.

    Another point to bear in mind here is that Australia, South Africa, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Ireland and the other former British Empire states had no national affinity or long historic and cultural ties with the imperial system. In fact throwing imperial away and embracing the metric system was symbolic to them of their freedom from British imperialism – so no wonder most of them couldn’t wait to change!

    On the other hand, the UK has used imperial (and its ancestors) for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and the cultural link is thus very strong. Forcing the British people to stop using imperial and to start using metric could be seen by some as being closely comparable to the long since condemned actions that took place under British colonial control where the Irish, and others, were forced to stop using their traditional native languages and to start using the English language in government, education, commerce, etc. The cultural links to imperial are strong in the UK and clearly important to the British people, the recent UKMA-commissioned YouGov poll admirably demonstrates that without doubt. This tie should not be treated with contempt, even the EU recognised that, when in 2008 they gave up on trying to force the UK to metricate.


  7. @Charlie

    The YouGov poll did not ask any questions about “cultural links to imperial”, so your comments are purely your subjective interpretation. What the poll did demonstrate was that where there are specific practical reasons for using metric (e.g. in measuring up a room for carpets) people are happy to use metres – obviously because carpets are sold by the square metre. Conversely, as long as road signs display miles, yards, feet and inches, these units will persist in popular usage, reinforced of course by the media.

    Incidentally, it is a myth that the EU tried to “force the UK to metricate”. On the contrary, the EU repeatedly agreed to lengthy and now indefinite delays, derogations and exemptions. The introduction of metric measures for packaging in 1995 and “loose goods” in 2000 stems from a voluntary agreement by the Thatcher and Major governments in the 1980s/90s. As long as it doesn’t affect cross-border trade, why would the EU care what muddle of units the UK uses?


  8. @CharlieP
    You un-intentionally make a very good point. We, the dreaded English, ‘forced’ our language on the commonwealth countries, including USA don’t forget. So where would these countries stand in the world today if they still used only their native and very diverse local languages? Would India be able to trade worldwide using Urdu? South Africa using Bantu or Xhosa? New Zealand using Mari? USA using whatever, I have no idea.
    So where would UK trade using only UK Imperial measures? USA with its version is both good and bad, already this is now metric so both USA and UK can trade internationally. Every country in the world trades in metric. To have metric ‘forced’ on an unwilling and stubborn nation would be no bad thing.
    As for the ‘awful’ EU (like UK is not part of the EU) once they (France and Germany especially) generally realised that letting UK stay with the GB pound, the mile and a hotch potch of daft units would actually give the Euro zone a nice little trading edge, they were quite happy to let us hang ourselves.
    We generally (but not us!) seem to actually enjoy purgatory, whoopee for the rest of the world.
    Forget not, these ‘ancestors’ you speak of were themselves invaders (notably Romans) who forced there ways upon us in no less a brutal fashion than that of the British empire, so why are we supposed to love this while at the same time see other nations as shedding the shackles? That makes no more sense to me than does the Imperial non-system.


  9. Another response to CharlieP.

    Those so called “Imperial” units were invented in 1824. Since then they have altered in value and are now defined with reference to the international metric system.

    The only link with times prior to that are some of the names but there was no consistency in their values, indeed the weights and measures act of 1824 was to designed to put that right. The far superior metric system had been invented and adopted overseas but resisted here no doubt for political reasons.

    Furthermore those historic unit names were not unique to Britain. So we have no special claim to them nor any sensible reason to hang on to them. Nothing cultural about them.

    The last thing we should do today is purpetuate the stupidity of our forefathers on this matter – which UKIP seem to expect us to do.


  10. I think CharlieP is overstating his case when he claims that Australia is using Imperial units for “many purposes”despite being metric for “nearly 50 years”.

    Firstly, metric conversion only began after the metric conversion act was passed in 1970. Horse racing and temperatures were converted 1972 and road signs were converted in July 1974, 40 years ago this year. So the main metric changes took place about 40 years ago.

    Certainly there are instances where the old measures are still in use, and these have been specified in the discussion he refers to. However, metric units have taken the place of imperial units in a wide range of contexts.

    Take personal heights and weights. The stone weight has been dropped. virtually everyone talks in kilos, and imperial units for personal weight are now quite foreign to all but the older generation of Australians. When it comes to heights, I think you would find that most younger Australians would know that “six feet” is tall, but would be more familiar with heights measured in centimetres. Even baby birth weights are now predominantly metric.

    That leaves some land and historical measurements, some clothing measurements, electronic screen sizes and some dual measurements in imported goods. Call these exceptions “many” if you will, but they are still exceptions while the general rule is metric.


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