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The fourth of July 2021 marked the twenty-first anniversary of the day that Steve Thoburn’s scales were seized. On that day in 2000, two trading standards officers accompanied by two police officers marched up to Steve’s busy market stall in Sunderland. He was threatened with arrest if he did not hand over his three sets of imperial scales after an undercover “consumer protection exercise” had confirmed that he was selling bananas by the pound.
The next day I received a phone call from Steve. I was a market trader and had recently highlighted in the local press that the enforced metrification regulations, introduced on 1 January 2000, were oppressive and did not have public support. “Neil, they’ve taken my scales,” he said. “Can you help?” I turned up at Steve’s shop. An hour later there were reporters, photographers and satellite trucks at the back of the pitch. A few weeks later, we formally launched the Metric Martyrs campaign.
Now, Boris Johnson finally seems to be acting on his 2019 manifesto pledge to lift the EU’s ban on shops selling produce in imperial measurements. Lord Frost, the Cabinet Officer Minister, announced in Parliament this week that the law could be changed to reflect this, freeing up traders to use imperial measures.
This is a bittersweet moment for me. Steve Thoburn’s conviction of the criminal offence of selling bananas by the pound attracted global media attention and was referred to by District Judge Bruce Morgan as “the most famous bunch of bananas in legal history”. The Morgan judgment highlighted in the starkest terms the consequences of the UK’s membership of the EU and his view that Britain had “quite voluntarily surrendered the once seemingly immortal concept of sovereignty of Parliament” made headlines around the world.
Looking back, it is believed by many to have sowed the seeds of Brexit and I saw it as poetic justice that, on the night of the Brexit vote, Sunderland delivered the first blow, setting in train the biggest political and constitutional reform for a generation.
When it went to appeal, Steve’s case was consolidated with three others. Greengrocer Colin Hunt, a Hackney market trader, had been convicted of failing to advertise prices in metric. Julian Harman and John Dove, a greengrocer and a fishmonger respectively, were convicted of pricing by the pound. In Harman’s case, one charge that he’d displayed a sign stating “Brussels Sprouts 39p per lb” brought cries of “shame” from the public gallery when it was read out.
The hearing before Lord Justice Laws put “Thoburn” at the heart of the constitutional debate. Nevertheless, defeat came again when his judgment was handed down on February 18 2002. Appeals to the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights were rejected.
Despite legal setbacks, we continued to win the hearts and minds of the British public. Every time we were knocked down they willed us to get back up and fight. They knew that this was about more than a system of weights and measures.
Tragically, Steve Thoburn died of a heart attack on March 14 2004 aged only 39. He left his wife Leigh a widow and his two small children, Georgie and Jay, without a father. Along with his family, we have continued to fight for a posthumous pardon for Steve and to clear the names of the other Metric Martyrs, a case that is now surely unanswerable.
We first called for such a pardon shortly after the European Commission backed down and abandoned the rest of its enforced Metrication agenda in 2007. We had saved the mile and the pint, but the campaign to clear the Metric Martyrs’ names continued.
Another name was added to the list in 2009 when Hackney Council decided to prosecute Janet Devers, the first prosecution since 2001. She was convicted of some of the charges at a Magistrates Court, but secured a partial victory when her decision to be tried by jury on the others led to the council abandoning the case. Janet was passionately supported by the British public, including the now Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, who turned up at Janet’s stall to offer support and spoke about her case in his maiden speech to Parliament in 2010.
After more than 20 years of campaigning, the Metric Martyrs have finally been vindicated for their brave and courageous stand, and today we can raise a pint glass to the late Steve Thoburn, the first to draw a line in the sand. We are also within touching distance of finally securing his posthumous pardon and pardons for John, Julian, Janet and Colin, too.
Leigh Thoburn died suddenly in late 2016 aged 43, and so student nurse Georgia and I are now leading the relaunched Metric Martyrs’ Royal Pardon campaign. The advice we have received is that if the laws which banned the sale of products in imperial measurements are repealed, the Martyrs or their families would be able to apply to the Ministry of Justice for their convictions to be disregarded.
All these years after he spoke up on Janet’s behalf, the power to grant such a request now lies with Dominic Raab. He must do the right thing.
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With an avg. 1.2M voters per MEP & Britain with 16% of EU GDP and 13% of the EU’s population yet having only 8% (if united) say, whilst holding less than 3% of the various offices within the EU Do note The EUropean Parliament has no ability to make policy and has a Commission of unelected bureaucrats, thus clearly the EU is not even a pretence of being a democracy despite its protestations!Do note that many senior apparatchicks and even elected politicians speak openly of the ‘Post Democratic era’ with no sense of shame or irony and in complete contempt of the so called electorate – yet The EU & many of its vassal States/Regions are all too willing to slaughter people in Sovereign States, to impose The EU’s chosen brand of democracy on them!
Now as President Junker announced in his ‘State of the union’ speech 2017 the aim is to create an EU military force and centralise ever more of the decision making and control!
The imposition of a Government and policies upon its vassal regions such as the peoples of Greece shows just how far from being a democracy the EU is.
Just follow the recent EU display of so called ‘Democracy’:
France and the Netherlands voted against the proposed EU constitution in 2005, only to have those votes ignored.
Ireland voted against ratifying the Lisbon treaty in 2008, but then later under pressure & threats had to change its mind.
Greece for me was the final straw. It became clear in 2015 that it didn’t matter which way the Greek people voted. The birthplace of democracy had become its tomb. That was enough. I was going to vote to leave the EU when the chance came.
No political party of any significance in Britain took active steps to achieve a Referendum – the task was eventually taken by an Indipendent West Midlands MEP Nikki Sinclaire who personally launched and funded the gathering of a petition of 225,000 signatures delivered to Parliament via Downing Street, thus forcing a debate in the House of Commons on an IN/OUT Referendum, which led to David Cameron’s first consequential rebellion.
It was due to winning that debate, officially opposed by every party including Ukip that David Cameron was forced to include a promise of an IN/OUT Referendum in the Tory Manifesto at the next General Election. The rest is history & despite no Parliamentary Party backing the OUT vote & Government spending Millions of Pounds of public money leafletting & promoting ‘Project Fear’ to try to persuade the British people to Remain just as they had at the first Referendum in 1975 – This time their lies and threats were not heeded and in the largest vote in British history Britain voted by a clear majority to Leave.
Nikki Sinclaire’s OUT result left Cameron & his co conspirator Osborne with no option but to resign, sadly some of the other traitors have remained to try to hinder progress to BreXit, aided by their corrupt allies in the EU and \eu funding and bribes!
There will be little or no change in Britain’s economic position, if we leave the EU, using a better negotiated, customised & updated version of the ‘Norway Model’ as a stepping stone to becoming a full member of the Eropean Economic Area, where all will benefit, as we secure trade relations with the EU’s vassal regions, with an EFTA style status and can trade and negotiate independently on the global stage, as members of The Commonwealth and the Anglosphere.
This is of course dependent on a modicum of intelligence on the part of Britain’s politicians and negotiators but it also requires the integrity of Parliament to uphod democracy and the integrity of EU politicuians & apparchicks to act ethically and without their normal vindictive mallice.
I believe Leaving the EU will be turned into something of a rough ride by the ignorant and the corrupt but I have no doubt that in the long run Leaving the EU will prove conclusively to be in the best interests of Britain and our true allies. I also believe that Britain leaving the EU will prove to be the catalyst to great changes within the EU and hopefully its democratisation as without great changes it is indubitably doomed.
Do not overlook the fact that politicians have plotted and schemmed since the 1950s and we have actually been vassals of the EU, when it was still using the aesopian linguistics and calling itself The Common Market in the early 1970s, a name the bureaucrats arbitrarily changed to EUropean Union in the early 1990s as they worked towards their long term goals of an ever closer centrally controlled Political and economic Union with its own anthem, currency, flag and rigid central control by its self appointed bureacrats towards a new Empirate –
It will take many years to rectify the mess our political class got us into and we have no other peacefull means by which to extricate ourselves than to depend on that self same self styled elite, who all too often forget they work for us!
One huge benefit of BreXit will be that we can negotiate with bodies like the WTO, UN, WHO, IMF, CODEX and the like, directly, in our own interest and that of our partners around the world, in both the Commonwealth and the Anglosphere at large; rather than having negotiations and terms imposed by unelected EU bureacrats and their interpretation of the rules handed down, as if they were some great achievement of the EU’s!The greatest change and benefit will be political, as we improve our democracy and self determination, with the ability to deselect and elect our own Government, with an improved Westminster structure, see >Harrogate Agenda<.
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