Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Weighed and Measured

The Prime Minister confirms that free movement of labour, of which Britain has always had a particularly liberal interpretation, is going to continue forever. But never mind, eh? At least we'll have the blue passports that we could always have had, anyway.

Imperial measures are not coming back, though, because who would teach them? I'd be all for teaching them, as I would be all for teaching Latin. But in both cases, I acknowledge that there is no one to do so.

A number of pernicious falsehoods are circulating on this subject. Of course metrication was by Act of Parliament. But guess which party? And we can't be having people remembering that, now, can we?

The reason why our own and so many other traditional weights and measures survive for the sale of bread or beer all across Europe is because they are perfectly adequate, and even ideal, for the sale of bread or beer.

They are, however, at least arguably too imprecise for anything much more than that, and it is undeniable that an international scientific and technological culture simply could not function without a universally accepted system of weights and measures.

Unlike, I believe that it is correct to say, any part of the imperial system, the metric system was invented by an Englishman. It has a very long history in this country.

Even leaving aside how long ago Imperial Britain's industrial zenith was, making it irrelevant to the present day, the bald claim that that was achieved entirely by the application of the imperial system does not stand up to the slightest analysis.

Nor does it ring true that the United States (whose system of weights and measures is its own, for all that some shared vocabulary might give rise to confusion) went to the Moon using non-metric units. 

If, for the sake of argument, that was the case, then it was 50 years ago.

There is no way, though, that the Americans are still doing anything remotely comparable in anything other than the metric system today, even if they were doing so in the 1960s, which itself strikes me as highly unlikely.

Canada, New Zealand, and the Kippers' Promised Land of Australia all gave up the imperial system for any purpose decades ago now.

No, save the never threatened pint of milk or beer, which will always be readily available in the Irish Republic, a state that will never leave the EU while there is still such a thing in which to remain.

By all means bring back the official pound of meat or butter, if you like.

But there are no more people who could teach imperial units than there are who could teach the second declension, more is the pity.

And, for the rigid utilitarians among you, Latin would be of more use to artists and scientists alike than imperial units would be to either.

Really, though, this is not about rods, perches or poles. This is about pounds, shillings and pence. "Pull the other one," I hear you cry. "No one is that mad." Oh, but they are.

I like the new pound coin. But George Osborne, who devised it, was three months old when the threepenny bit was abolished by, again, guess which party?

Yet, in his pursuit of that party's Leadership, on which he has by no means given up, he felt the need to introduce a coin that resembled one that he himself could not possibly have remembered.

I voted Leave, and I would do so again. But that does not mean that I have to like the noisier Leavers. I do not even want to take them seriously. Alas, though, we are all going to have to.

They must have their preferred colour of passport, which the EU never prevented.

They must have their pounds of meat and butter, which no one has ever had any difficulty in buying under a convoluted alternative designation.

They must have coins that look like ones from the 1960s despite having totally different values, so to speak.

All the while, though, they will not care threepence that, as the Prime Minister confirms, free movement of labour, of which Britain has always had a particularly liberal interpretation, is going to continue forever.

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