Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Metric morons

Well THERE’s a surprise – the European Commission has announced that the Imperial system of weights and measures can continue to be used indefinitely. This was always going to be the outcome – though it would have been nicer if the announcement had come sooner, if only to shut up the idiots.

Contrary to popular belief amongst certain sections of the Europhobe community, Imperial measurements have never been banned – there has merely long been an attempt to introduce the simpler metric system (since the Hodgson Report back in 1950, long before the EU even existed) by attempting to get shopkeepers etc. to display both systems of measurement side by side.

This, for anyone born from the 1970s onwards, makes a lot of sense, as successive governments have so poorly introduced the metric system over the last four decades that a sizeable chunk of the population between the ages of 20 and 40 understand a mishmash of both systems – I measure my own weight in stones, flour in grammes, and meat in pounds, but can’t visualise a kilogramme or an ounze, while in terms of volume I think of pints and litres side-by-side, and length can work with yards, metres, feet, inches, centimetres and miles quite happily, but have no idea how far a kilometre is – but don’t understand either system perfectly.

And in any case, it’s not like the “Martyrs” didn’t have plenty of warning – and it’s not like it’s really anthing much to do with Brussels, considering that Britain has been moving towards the metric system for over half a century. Hell – it’s been official government policy since 1965, eight years before the UK joined the EEC (and, incidentally, a year after the group’s leader, Steve Thorburn, was born).

And that’s not even to mention the conference of English-speaking countries of 1959 that redefined Imperial measurements by their metric counterparts, or the fact that Commonwealth countries South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Canada also all went metric towards the end of the 1960s. (And it’s also, by the by, not as if remaining under the Imperial system allows us to trade more easily with the United States, as they use slightly different definitions for a lot of their units, refusing to cave in to the Commonwealth.)

So although the “Metric Martyrs” have often been made out to be staunch defenders of British rights and values (“save our pint!” and all that nonsense), and while some of the people heading the campaign are entirely sensible, the actual “Martyrs” themselves were not only pig-headed idiots, but would also STILL be penalised under this new agreement, despite the group’s claims that this is a victory.

For why? Well, because of the original convicted metric martyrs – Steve Thoburn, Colin Hunt, John Dove, Julian Harman – the major offence for three of them was not refusing to display prices for metric units, as has repeatedly been claimed by their supporters, but refusing to use a legal set of scales. Thorburn, Dove and Harman were all convicted of this, with Hunt handily proving the point of how suspect using illegal scales can be by being convicted of supplying a lesser quantity of goods than that claimed – an offence dating back the medieval period and the age of the guilds. You use illegal scales, the suspicion is you’re short-changing people. You refuse to get legal ones, you go to gaol. Simple.

This newly-announced extension to the existing agreement that both Imperial and metric can be used would not, therefore, have saved Thoburn, Hunt, Dove or Harman, because they were convicted while the same conditions were in place – not for a principled stand for John Bull and Britannia, but for being too tight to update their equipment. You might as well refuse to use “new money” (the decimal system introduced back in 1971 for similar reasons to the introduction of metric measurements – because it’s easier) and then complain bitterly when people refuse to provide you with goods and services while you hand over great piles of shillings and groats.

In other words, the metrication battle was lost – without much of a fight – back in 1965, and had nothing to do with the European Union. So can we shut up about it already?


  1. I speak in Metric better than Imperial, its more about schooling than anything else.

  2. As a rule of thumb a kilometre is a couple of hundred yards beyond half a mile. I always thought that was one of the easier ones.

    As Epi says, I expect the generation now in nappies to think entirely in metric, as long as they go to school.

  3. ” the major offence for three of them was not refusing to display prices for metric units, as has repeatedly been claimed by their supporters, but refusing to use a legal set of scales. ”

    Then why did Lord Justice Laws have to issue his famous judgement? If the scales were not measuring accurately at all, why the need to nail them on metrication? Why the need to go to the 1972 – IIRC – Act and specifically set aside the 1985 Act in order to uphold the convictions?

  4. Pingback: Penny for your martyrs « The Hard Sell…

  5. Cleanthes, old boy, may I briefly adopt your previous nom de plume? I didn’t claim the scales weren’t accurate, but that they weren’t legal. Which is the whole point. They weren’t being forced to sell solely in metric, as they claim, but to use scales that could measure in metric as well as Imperial. In other words, they were being forced to offer customers choice.

    (I won’t attempt to explain Laws’ ruling – because many have tried, and all have failed. I doubt very much that even he understood it…)

  6. Pingback: doctorvee » For and against metric

  7. So people will continue to have their choice – get over it Nosemonkey. It seems to me that those in favour of metric cannot stand that 80% prefer to work in imperial – and want to stamp out that choice in four of their minority preference.

    The matter is now over – let the market decide. If most people prefer imperial, that will be used most But those that prefer metric can do that instead.

  8. Im sorry but this is a total non-issue.


    /points to Iran.

  9. Chris – erm, yes. That's precisely my point. The Metric Martyr lot were trying to prevent people from having choice by refusing to use metric alongside imperial.

    Epi – Iran? Meh… Storm in a teacup. Russia, on the other hand… Now THAT's a worrying situation.

  10. Pingback: Save the Imperial Martyr! | Nosemonkey’s EUtopia