Imperial weights and measures – what next, stone tablets in the classroom?

·4-min read
Will my children come home crowing because they got to use the latest, newfangled equipment in numeracy lessons – an abacus? (Getty/iStock)
Will my children come home crowing because they got to use the latest, newfangled equipment in numeracy lessons – an abacus? (Getty/iStock)

Glad to see that, true to form, Boris Johnson’s Conservative government is showing how very Up With The Times it is. Hooray! All hail the victory we’ve been waiting for, the soothing balm across the furrowed brow of Brexit; the tonic to our food shortages. Yes, we will soon be able to weigh our tomatoes in pounds and ounces again!

What next, stone tablets in the classroom? Will my children come home crowing because they got to use the latest, newfangled equipment in numeracy lessons – an abacus? Will they be given a school-issued hand axe to throw in PE? A bone tool to cut, pound and crush their fish fingers in the canteen on Fridays?

Perhaps a spear to take home at the weekend that they’ll be able to write about for a project: “On Saturday, Mummy took us out into the swamp, where we hunted a giant ground sloth and used its bones to make a new pencil case. Found some sick flint to make a fire but Sally got eaten by a sabre-toothed tiger and we had to go home. So unfair. 4/10.”

Forget “pen licences”, make the children work for their cleaver licences! All in favour, say aye!

Ah, the Tory party; always so current, so hip – what will they think of next? They’ve already cracked down on clothing rules in parliament, with MPs told to “smarten up” after the summer recess. Little did we know that would involve seeing the likes of Dominic Raab in a loincloth; a special animal skin smock for Michael Gove to mark his new role as housing secretary after the reshuffle this week.

Gove is also in charge of the government’s “levelling-up” agenda, with responsibilities for strengthening the union, which probably means we’ll all get told to unite the country by way of gathering everybody together to lug huge stones around in a special formation in a field.

No wonder everyone’s obsessed with the paleo diet; it’s part of the new free school meals rollout – over to you, Nadhim Zahawi.

I can just imagine the scenes over at No 10 as the PM celebrates this grand victory, the landmark of his tenure, the way to make his name (though he’s not the first to do it, don’t we all remember the infamously monolithic “Ed Stone”?).

At last, a way to bring joy to the people after the past 18 months of pandemic hell; a way to really make them smile. Forget empty supermarket shelves, lorry driver shortages, unemployment and the continued health crisis, and let’s focus on what really matters: the imperial system! Give the people what they want, what they demand, what they’ve not been able to sleep for thinking about – a proper set of scales and the crown stamp on a pint glass! There. We can all breathe easy now.

Speaking of the crown stamp (WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DIDN’T REALISE IT WAS EVER MISSING?!): how to toast such a victory, such a score? If we’re really feeling fruity (though let’s get real, we’ll have to chew it first – along with some rice, honey, wheat and barley), maybe with mead?

Oh, it’s funny, isn’t it. Sort of. Or it would be, if it wasn’t so eye-rolling obvious, because what this government is really trying to do – purely and simply – is appeal to its fan base. That’s what the return to blue passports was all about, frankly that’s what Brexit was entirely about, and that’s what this review of post-Brexit changes to EU laws is all about, too, as announced by the Brexit minister Lord Frost on Thursday.

Because let’s face it, as put so succinctly by my colleague here, the only people who care (or even understand) imperial weights and measures are those above the age of 50 – state primary schools started formally teaching the metric system in 1974, though it was actually introduced in the UK a decade earlier.

I don’t use it, none of my friends or colleagues use it, my children have never heard of it; the only people you ever hear talking about “pounds” are midwives, for some reason – and people’s parents.

This “change” does nothing but takes us backwards, which is presumably the point. It is the rose-tinted version of nostalgia that forged Brexit from the fires in the first place, it is a return to the phrase “the good old days” when the stark truth is that these aren’t good days, and they weren’t good days then either, actually, but people like to pretend and reminisce. It was better, they say, when we could ask the grocer for a pound of potatoes and be done with it.

It’s nothing but obfuscation from a prime minister who obfuscates like the best of them; a veil to hide the myriad more important things the government should be dedicating itself to sorting out. It’s glitter, a crowd-pleaser (to a certain crowd in their mid-fifties) to mask a seething sea of incompetency beneath – a Neolithic issue of smoke and mirrors.

Still, stone tablets and special, MP-sanctioned mead for the nation, Boris. Your cavemen (apparently) demand it!

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