Meritocracy hasn’t helped Britain

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.


Decades later, he expressed dismay that Tony Blair had adopted meritocracy as a defining philosophy of the New Labour project, writing in the Guardian: “It is good sense to appoint individual people to jobs on their merit. It is the opposite when those who are judged to have merit of a particular kind harden into a new social class without room in it for others.”

In 2017, meritocracy is still central to political conceptions of fairness and social justice. While Blair pursued the goal with genuine vehemence, you get the impression that successive Conservative leaders were just going through the motions. Under David Cameron, funding was slashed for Sure Start centres, schools and child social services. Theresa May continued austerity, while also concocting a plan to bring back the grammar school system satirised by Young – which most educationalists consider a failure, even accepting the logic of meritocracy.

A report released today by the Social Mobility Commission has confirmed what many people in this country already know far too well: social mobility policies have failed to significantly reduce inequality between rich and poor despite 20 years of interventions by successive governments.

The Time for Change report looks at policies introduced between 1997 and 2017, and assesses the effectiveness of interventions at four broad life stages: early years, schools, young people and the world of work. Young people and the world of work are considered the stages where policy is most lacking, but early years and schools are also rated as inadequate.

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