A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Not metric and not a martyr

I'm glad that the local authority I'm a member of has prosecuted a market trader at my local market, Ridley Road, for not displaying metric measures.

It's fundamental to any system of protecting consumers from being ripped off that there is a single agreed, and legally enforced, system for weighing and measuring goods for sale. Otherwise how can you compare prices at neighbouring stalls or shops and work out if you are paying a fair price, or indeed that you are getting the measure that has been advertised? This isn't a new concept - every civilisation since the Romans has had a legally enforced system of weights and measures.

For better or worse, in this country that has been Metric since the early '70s.

I've got nothing against traders putting up the Imperial measure equivalent so that older folk can compare using a measuring system they grew up with, or even just for nostalgic reasons.

But refusing to display Metric measures puts anyone who went to school after the early '70s at a huge disadvantage. I was schooled in the transition years where we primarily learnt Metric measures but also were given a rough idea what a pint, a pound or a yard was. People younger than me will have grown up entirely with Metric and won't have any idea whether Janet Devers is handing them a pound of apples or a stone of them. I'm 36 and I don't know how many ounces there are in a pound or how many pounds in a stone - 12 or 14 or 16 I think but I'm honestly not sure.

Ironically, I think Mrs Devers uses decimal currency to price up her goods. Surely if she is really against all this newfangled Metric stuff she would be charging in pounds, shillings & pence prices or better still groats and farthings?

More to the point, if it's all about free choice can I go and ask her for an sester of apples and pay her in denarii?


Blogger Quink said...

'Denarii', I believe. Also, a sester varied depending on what era you're talking about - not the best measure to choose.

The question you haven't answered, though, is why the many traders who sell by the bowl across the borough haven't also been prosecuted. This case did smack of unfairness at best and victimisation at worst.

Pretty grubby in my opinion.

12:51 pm, October 13, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Actually my understanding (wholly anecdotal from another cllr) of the case in question was that it is linked to the issue of sale by the bowl, which as you point out is a far more widespread - and was uncovered as part of an ongoing effort to stop the "£1 bowl" being used as a standard of measurement.

1:11 pm, October 13, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeh, but what about the rights of us brought up solely on pounds, shilings and pence and imperial measures?

For us, metric is odd, dodgy, foreign, bureaucratic, jobsworthy, NuLab, Gordon Brown (it all comes down to him)

Imperial measures are an integral part of the country's culture, and therefore under the multicultural diversity directive, known and understood by every Labour Party member, should be implemented.

1:39 pm, October 13, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I blame Ted Heath

Where's Rich when you need a comment from him?

1:45 pm, October 13, 2008

Blogger Shamik said...

Once all the scum have been thrown in jail, once all the muggers, hoodies and rapists have been dragged through the courts and sent down, maybe then the authorities should consider persecuting, I mean prosecuting, the likes of Mrs Devers.

People are being gunned down and stabbed to death on the capital's streets. Hackney Council need to get their priorities right.

2:29 pm, October 13, 2008

Anonymous tim f said...

I think this insistence the right have on letting people price goods in imperial measurements only is political correctness gone mad.

Those who stubbornly refuse to integrate with the rest of Britain should be forced to comply. It is weak lily-livered liberalism that allows them to get away with imposing their culture on the majority of ordinary decent Britons who use metric measurements.

That is why this country is going to the dogs.

2:31 pm, October 13, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


the staff involved are trading standards officers who fulfill a statutory regulatory function, not one we get to choose to fund. Their other roles include stopping people selling dangerous goods or running dirty and unhealthy food premises.

We and more importantly the Police employ large numbers of other people to deal with ASB and the types of crime you suggest.

3:28 pm, October 13, 2008

Blogger Mark Still News said...

I find metric much easier to work out. Our imperial measurements must really confuse foreign tourists and traders, who are getting ripped off?

4:36 pm, October 13, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The cost will have been into five figures I'm sure, money that could have been far better spent.

Being two years younger than you Luke I can testify to the fact that I can switch from imperial to metric without any problems, but tend, as everyone else I know does, to use imperial.

I rather suspect that the left's dislike of imperial measurements comes from the fact that it smacks of empire.

7:12 pm, October 13, 2008

Anonymous Haggerston Harry said...

Last September, European Union commissioners ruled that Britain can carry on using imperial measurements such as pints, pounds and miles.

Europe's Industry Commissioner Gunter Verheugen said at the time: "There is not now and never will be any requirement to drop imperial measurements."

Within a few yards (or metres) of Janet Devers's stall there are shops carrying illegal signs such as "no refunds given" and "no exchange of goods". Trading standards officers ignore complaints about these shops, preferring to victimise market stallholders such as Janet Devers and others connected to the Metric Martrys.

Rumours abound that the Council is running an underhand campaign to destroy Ridley Road and the other street markets in Hackney. Actions like this don't help to dispell those rumours, do they?

7:57 pm, October 13, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Luke you are so wrong, and any tradesman worth his salt will tell you imperial is still king. To be honest I'm more than happy to work in both and I will switch depending on the product and the customer.

You go to any merchant in the UK and talk metric and 90% of the time they ask you what that is in inches or feet. From sash locks to friction hinges etc etc.....they still use imperial.

So what if a market trader uses imperial and if his customers didn't like it then they can go down to Tescos and get really ripped off. The fact is his customers will probably tell you they like this person and enjoy shopping with him and are familiar with this method of measurement.

Please also remember that we have an aging population and not all know about metric and even if they do, prefer to buy in imperial.

So what place has the state to demand how we measure our products. Does it really matter and what right has the state got to interfere.

In terms of people being ripped off, I doubt very much that this particular trader was using imperial for this reason. I think government should concentrate on the wider picture, such as ripping off the tax payer to the sum of £550 billion pounds or starting illegal wars that have cost over a million lives.

I will continue to use imperial no matter what these officials say.....it's time for government to keeps its nose out. Too authoritarian.

8:12 pm, October 13, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Imperial measurements are not banned, and i can inter change between the two like others.

But it is a disgrace is any trader does not display metric measurements, and they should be prosecuted.

9:41 pm, October 13, 2008

Anonymous Ben said...

To be honest Luke, I started at my comprehensive in 1993 and we were still taught imperial lengths and weights and how to compare with metric...

But refusing to display metric is plain wrong...

9:50 pm, October 13, 2008

Anonymous Lord Low of Dalston said...

You won't be happy until Ridley Road market is demolished and another Pipe Towers is built on the site

10:00 pm, October 13, 2008

Anonymous Fred Goodwin said...

May I invite you down to my new laundering business on Ridley Road. No point wasking your dirty linen in public. One of my fav customers is a communist from Sandringham Road. I think you may know him

10:26 pm, October 13, 2008

Blogger Mark Still News said...

Is that Ridley Road Market?

Sandringham Road is that Forest gate?

What is this riddle?

10:48 pm, October 13, 2008

Anonymous Haggerston Henrietta said...

Yes, Mark Still News, that's quite a riddle! Fred Goodwin is the RBS ex-boss who has just suffered an ignominious exit from the bank.

For reasons best known only to himself, Hackney's Mayor Jules Pipe wants to destroy the market and has been up to his usual tricks, making untrue and defamatory statements, such as that the Ridley Road market traders' electricity supplies are being paid for from the public purse and he even implied that traders have been stealing electricity.

Not sure who the money laundering communist is in Sandringham Road. Do you think we should lynch him (or her)?

1:20 am, October 14, 2008

Blogger Quink said...

Well, that's my point. Selling by the bowl is widespread, but precious few - if any - other traders have been prosecuted for doing so. I really don't see why the council has had to waste time chasing this woman through the courts when they could - as you reveal - be clamping down on the rather more worrying numbers of dirty food premises in the borough.

Personally, I can't see the problem in selling stuff by the bowl, anyway. It's not as though it's difficult to understand what you're paying for, is it?

7:19 am, October 14, 2008

Blogger Shamik said...

Well, accepting your point that this money is ring-fenced for trading standards, it can still be better spent than in prosecuting little old ladies.

For a start, how about clamping down on all those dodgy DVD sellers?! Or is that too politically incorrect, seeing as how they're all, well, know, I'll let someone else finish that sentence!

And on the subject of imperial versus metric, how far do you want to go? In pubs, will we get to the stage where you'll go up to the bar and ask for "two 0.568-litre glasses of beer please?"

10:09 am, October 14, 2008

Blogger Mark Still News said...

Shamik said: For a start, how about clamping down on all those dodgy DVD sellers?! Or is that too politically incorrect, seeing as how they're all, well, know, I'll let someone else finish that sentence!

I suppose if they did clamp down on them the Coppers wouldn't get their free DVD's and these people in desperation may turn to drug pushing, although some do already.

The upside is it has brought the price of DVD's down as they are far to expencive.

But I remain annoyed, because we pay all this tax and those in the black market fail to contribute to our society

11:16 am, October 14, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


You are a bit behind the curve.

Hackney Council and the police recently ran a huge operation to clamp down on illegal DVD selling which was endemic in the car park of Tescos Morning Lane in my ward. It resulted in about 20 Chinese illegal immigrants being arrested and I believe deported - and disruption to the organised crime networks which profit from this pirating.

1:04 pm, October 14, 2008

Anonymous dirty eiro said...

shamik your just a racits. stop piking on chinees peopel

2:01 pm, October 14, 2008

Anonymous John said...

"if it's all about free choice can I go and ask her for an sester of apples and pay her in denarii?"

Sure, why not? She can freely choose not to serve you, but I don't think it should be made illegal for you to ask, any more than I think it should be made illegal for her to offer.

Anyway, agree with the majority here. Whether it's right or wrong, it's so far down the list of priorities for sorting out what's wrong in Hackney that it feels like a bad joke, and it drags government enforcement of needed laws further into disrepute in the eyes of the public.

3:07 pm, October 14, 2008

Anonymous T_i_B said...

Luke, I salute you on your truly warped priorities!

7:17 pm, October 14, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

We don't want our markets to be full of wide boys but this has nothing to do with weights and measures. Most market traders still use imperial because their customers prefer to buy that way.

When was the last time you went to a green grocer and asked for half a kilo of Oranges. I do in France but I never really know how many oranges or apples I'll end up with. I'm more likely to ask for 5 Oranges while when ordering apples or potatoes I'll buy a couple of pounds.

Local government really has no right to start enforcing this type on nonsense. They are in the end public service managers and nothing else. They are there to manage the services we pay for and I can't see much support for inspectors that hammer market traders for trading in imperial.

Councils have a choice either they work with the people who fund their services or they face losing their support.

10:17 pm, October 14, 2008

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Luke it seems with you and like minded people it’s a case of truth out of the window to justify attacks on civil liberties. You made this silly but dangerous statement about the Lords:

“your daft vote denying the Government the right to lock up suspected terrorists.”

The Lords did no such thing, the Lords cannot do any such thing – and you must, you must, know that. So from the very start of your posting it does not merit serious consideration. This kind of stuff emanates from the same sources that gave us WMD lies, distortions and a pointless dirty Iraq war.

As an aside I note that Gordon Brown’s pathetic populist bullying of Iceland was made possible by ‘terror legislation’. This is precisely what many of us warn of – that Governments may use and misuse any draconian powers we give them. Iceland today; some more of our freedoms tomorrow?

10:35 am, October 15, 2008

Anonymous Ho Chi Minh said...

Luke for you information the DVD sellers in Tesco provided a great alternative to the overpriced rip off leagl DVD for sale in the shops. And their back. Good

8:52 pm, October 15, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Ted Harvey....a very good post. I also wondered how they could use terror legislation to seize the assets of another state. Surely this isn't classified as terrorism as it was our banks that regulated the Iceland groups of banks that went bust.

I think Luke shows contempt for traditions of this country. I suppose he thinks making Mandy a lord is the best use of British democracy...An unelected cabinet member,,,,,,as no one would elect him

9:45 pm, October 15, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


cabinet ministers in the Lords is actually very traditional. It's only in modern times that it has been less usual. I can think of at least 2 Tory Foreign Secretaries -Home, Carrington and Halifax, who held that office whilst peers. Lord Young also served as Thatcher's DTI secretary from the Lords - same dept as Mandelson. You don't even have to be in either House to be in the Cabinet - Wilson put Frank Cousins and Patrick Gordon Walker in in 1964 when they weren't MPs or Peers.

10:39 am, October 16, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

I just don't think its very good to have an unelected member of the cabinet. That's my opinion. You can't argue for the removal of the lords on one post and then defend it because it got your mate Mandy back in office.

Personally I think the government should be made up of elected parliamentary MPS and our house of Lords should be elected & unelected independent representatives. We need a second tier of democracy to make sure nothing nasty gets passed.

Back to the subject of "metric martyr". I've looked into this story and from what I understand the trader wasnt' using any method of measurement, apart from a bowl. In this case I think the action was probably justified, even though the punishment was a little severe. We can't have people selling things by the bowl....as how big is the bowl...no one knows. I think this whole story is purely bad reporting by the media.

9:31 pm, October 16, 2008


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