LETTER : Who says we're meritocratic?

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The Independent Online
PAUL BARKER'S cogent article on social order ("Meritocracy rules. OK?", 6 August) reveals the dangers in assuming that a meritocracy is a panacea for all of society's ills. However one chooses to divide up society, it still results in society divided.

But even if it were a desirable aim, are we really any nearer to it than 40 years ago? The author uses Margaret Thatcher as the model of the meritocrat, but would she ever have achieved the highest office had she not been married to a millionaire? Would she ever have been promoted to the leadership of the Tory party without the machinations of Sir Keith Joseph and the New Right? And when it all went wrong, as it inevitably had to, was it not the old guard, drawn from Eton, Harrow and Winchester who filed in to tell her that her time was up?

Despite the passage of 37 years since The Rise of the Meritocracy, and 16 since Margaret Thatcher took power, the upper house of our Parliament still has a membership two-thirds of whom are there solely because of their fortunate choice of (titled) parents. Plus ca change ...

Chris Waller