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