Imperial measures

Every day, every single day, the Johnson government brings yet more shame on my country. Desperate refugee fleeing tyranny? Here's your ankle tag and a one way ticket to Rwanda. Fed up with the idea of those pesky human rights? Don't worry, we're going to be the only European country apart from Russia outside the European Convention on Human Rights, promoted and inspired by Winston Churchill (the Guardian's sketch with Patrick Stewart says it best). Hate the Northern Ireland Protocol? So do we! Yes, we negotiated it, fought and won an election on it, and then signed it, but surely no one could think we actually meant any of it? It's all the remainers' fault anyway. Oh and the EU's fault. But don't worry, we're going to pass a UK law that overrides it. OK, so it breaks international law but we don't care and nor do Daily Mail/Telegraph/Express readers so it's OK! Followed the lockdown rules in 2020? Sucker!

The current state of affairs leaves me angry and ever-more deeply ashamed of my nationality. For the first time in more than 2 years, I went to a face to face meeting recently. It's the kind of international workshop I am privileged to go to as part of my work. Everyone I saw there was incredulous that Johnson could still be in power and basically offered me their pity. That's where we have come to.

Mercifully, I'm not alone in my shame and incredulity. I know this thanks in no small part thanks to Chris Grey's matchless Brexit and Beyond blog and to James O'Brien on LBC. As he likes to remind his listeners whenever he can, his mid-morning programme is currently the most listened to commercial radio talk show in the country (more listeners than his station's breakfast show). I can't listen live (I'm at work!) but frequently listen on catch up primarily as a salve. I'm not mad. I'm not alone. Johnson and his cabinet of deplorable, ignorant and incompetent sycophants really is that bad.

The cover of Beyond Measure. The title and other text are shown written along a tape measure

Among this tide of our government's despicable behaviour, law-breaking, inhumanity, xenophobia, ignorance and denial of reality comes the suggestion that, 'freed from the shackles of the EU' we can bring back imperial units of measure. Thanks again to James O'Brien, on the day this announcement was made, I learned that, in an astonishing stroke of good fortune for its author James Vincent, a new book was being published on the history of metrology - the science of measurement. For someone like me, Beyond Measure has everything: science, geek-fuelled pedantry, standards, and their evolution within society. From measuring the flooding of the Nile to re-defining the kilogram, it's a terrific read.

In case any of this needs saying there are many facts one can adduce regarding the imperial measures nonsense:

The government is currently running a public consultation on the matter. My submission is succinct (PDF).

Addendum 2023-12-27

In the quiet time between Christmas and New Year, the results of the government consultation were slipped out to an unconcerned world (BBC, Guardian). It seems I was not alone in dismissing Rees-Mogg's ridiculous idea. 98.7% of respondents were opposed to the reintroduction of imperial measures. However, we should not dismiss our hard-won "Brexit Freedoms" (sic) so lightly. It will be permissible to sell sparkling wine in volumes of 500ml and 568ml (pint), and still wine in 200ml cans. Well, OK, 500ml is a useful measure I'd say - it's the size of a carafe or, as I think of it, the appropriate amout of wine to drink with a restauarant meal. The pint of sparkling wine is, it seems, yet another tiresome reference to Churchill in the context of Brexit. Whether any of these new sizes appear in the shops only time will tell. I suspect the 500ml bottles and 200ml cans will. I'd be surprised if the pint of champagne ever sees the light of day, but, well, it might appeal to that small section of society that continues to seek a benefit of Brexit.

Addendum 2024-01-05

I mentioned Chris Grey above. His piece today is about this subject and, as ever, he provides firm evidence to back up the ridiculousness of this particular topic.