Victory for A.R.M. – How The Mile Was Saved

In the 1980s, the government began planning to alter some 2 million road and footpath signs from familiar miles and yards into metric. By the year 2000, the government was planning for this change to take place in just a few years time. In fact, so close were they to implementing this change, that some local councils – in anticipation of the change – were already erecting road signs in metres. As it turned out, A.R.M. discovered that those metric signs were illegal.

In February 2006, the then Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling, announced on B.B.C.’s Question Time, that the government had decided to completely abandon their plans to metricate our road signs. That meant 20 years of careful government planning for this change to metric had been utterly wasted. This article tells the story of how A.R.M.’s campaign forced this historic change.

The idea of forming an organisation to oppose the proposed metrication of signs on our roads and footpaths took place at a garden party in 1999 (in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire) to celebrate the historic election, for the first time, of three UKIP M.E.P.s to the European Parliament.

At that garden party, A.R.M. chairman Derek Norman and A.R.M. secretary Tony Bennett first discussed the importance of maintaining our traditional system of weights and measures. The two of them then cooperated with many others in a memorable campaign of opposition to the government making it a criminal offence to sell goods in pounds and ounces.

It was in April 2001 that Derek and Tony, together with a few committed activists, met to discuss how to defeat the government’s metrication plans.

A new branch was established to form the spearhead of an active campaign of direct action, designed – in the first instance – to force councils to remove any illegal metric signs they had already erected.

The direct action campaign began in earnest on Friday, 18 June 2001 in Northampton.

A.R.M. had written to Northampton council demanding the immediate removal of 2 dozen illegal metric signs giving distances to road humps in yards. Northampton council refused.

Dressed in what became A.R.M.’s traditional “uniform” of yellow hi-visibility jackets, Derek and Tony, using no more than a ladder and a spanner, removed the signs, placing them in a roadside ditch several miles from the town. On the Monday after, A.R.M. contacted the press and the council, informing them of the location of the missing signs. The press ran a bold headline: “UKIP Activists Get The Hump over road signs”. Northampton council admitted their signs were unlawful. And so A.R.M.’s campaign was well and truly “On The Road”.

This successful direct action operation was followed by dozens of other similar raids, many of which you can see more about elsewhere on our website.