The Labour Party made the inevitable compromise with the new society it had done so much to create: it ceased to exist.

Michael Young from The Rise of the Meritocracy

Michael Young was one of the central figures of the Labour Party after World War II and one of the greatest social innovators ever. His satire on the post-war settlement (The Rise of the Meritocracy was published in 1958) predicts much that has happened since. In his wicked satire the meritocrats are those who rule us – because they are bred, trained and prepared for that duty. But this is not a cold duty – for they of course must get the best treatment in order to ensure that they can put their full energy into looking after the rest of us. The rest of us – who are less meritorious – must await the benefits that flow from their wisdom (while of course working hard to take care of our meritocratic rulers).

Perhaps what Young did not expect was that people might miss the satire; today many now use the term ‘meritocracy’ to describe the kind of world that they want to live in.

It is perhaps an open question whether Young was right or wrong about the Labour Party. In some sense it clearly still exists – but who does it now represent?