Although it is widely assumed that the next Parliament (to be elected no later than June 2010) will contain more Conservative and fewer Labour MPs, is it possible that they may be more sympathetic to completing the metric changeover? (Article based on a draft by Martin Vlietstra.)
On Saturday 23rd January 2010, the Times ran an article on the ‘Oxford Mafia’ that was running Britain. They listed 18 prominent politicians who were active in Oxford University political associations between 1984 and 1990. They included eleven Conservative Party supporters, six Labour Party supporters and one Liberal Democrat. The names included David Cameron and Ed Balls who both studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) between 1985 and 1988.
Given their ages, it is likely that they were at junior school between 1974 and 1983. During that time imperial units were all but banned from the classroom. They would never have learned how to manipulate pounds, shillings and pence nor would they have learned how to manipulate yards, feet and inches, or stones, pounds and ounces. It would have been too much to expect the school syllabus to include square yards, acres and square miles. The only exposure that they would have had to non-metric units would have been the manipulation of days, hours, minutes and seconds and conversions between Fahrenheit and Celsius – the latter because the value of “c” in the equation y=mx+c is non-zero.
There are likely to be many new faces in Parliament in a few months time. I wonder how many of the new MPs will be able to calculate the average weight of a number of people using stones and pounds, or the average height of a group of people using feet and inches. This is a skill that they should have picked up in the final years of junior school or the early years of secondary school. And will they be honest enough to admit that they were not taught this skill and that the only way compensate for this problem is to complete the conversion to the metric system.