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.
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.