Fleet Street’s dubious support for meritocracy

The meritocracy is striking back. Responding to years of denouncement from Ivy League academics and leftish wonks, Adrian Wooldridge is about to publish The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World.

The Economist hack has taken to various newspapers to state his case that meritocracy is in fact good ahead of the book’s launch. Writing in the Times on Monday, he said modern societies are “outraged at the mere smell of nepotism or favouritism or discrimination.”

Nepotism is indeed rather stinky, and journalists have spent much of the last year attacking the government for handing pandemic procurement contracts to its mates. But it must be hard sniffing out such corruption when the fourth estate is bathed in familial odours.

Take Flora Gill, daughter of the late Sunday Times food critic AA Gill and former government minister Amber Rudd. Between filing pieces about flicking her bean over the chancellor of the exchequer, Gill junior has clocked up bylines for the Sunday Times and previously hosted a show on Times Radio alongside her mother – doubtless purely on merit.

Hereditary journalists are ten-a-penny elsewhere, with Fred Dimbleby, son of the famous broadcaster David, recently joining ITV. And on the left Bella Mackie, described on the Guardian as a freelance journalist, is the daughter of one Alan Rusbridger, former editor-in-chief of the paper.

It’s not unusual for family members to share a trade, and children can climb to their parents’ heights on their own merit. But Fleet Street’s attacks on nepotism would sound more convincing if its gene pool was a bit wider.

Journalist, pamphleteer and propagandist rarely mistaken for a man of principle. Still trying to back the winning side in the English Civil War.

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