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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 01:22 GMT
Blair leads tributes to OU founder
Open University logo
Lord Young founded the Open University
Lord Young of Dartington - the founder of the Open University and the Consumer's Association - has died aged 86.

Prime Minister Tony Blair led tributes to the political thinker and social reformer who wrote the manifesto on which the Labour leader Clement Attlee won the 1945 general election.

Few people have made such a contribution to our society in so many different areas as Michael Young

Tony Blair

His thinking helped pave the way for the creation of the modern welfare state.

In the 1950s, the then Michael Young became a champion of the consumer. Despite fears about being in breach of the libel laws, he launched the magazine Which to help prevent shoppers being misled by the claims of manufacturers.

His campaigning led to the formation of the Consumers' Association. In the 1960s he was the visionary behind the creation of the Open University.


Mr Blair said: "Few people have made such a contribution to our society in so many different areas as Michael Young.

"On consumer rights, on widening access to education through the Open University, and on social entrepreneurship, he coupled radical thought with practical action.

"And as the author of Labour's 1945 manifesto, he was one of the guiding hands of Attlee's great reforming government.

"Michael Young was without doubt a seminal figure of the centre-left over the last century.

Memorial service

"He was that rare combination - not just a great thinker but a great doer."

Lord Young's family said, in a statement: "He died peacefully on Monday night, surrounded by his family. We will miss him very much."

A private funeral will be held within the next two weeks, followed by a memorial service later this year, they said.

Lord Young
Lord Young wrote the manifesto on which Attlee won the 1945 election

Trained as a barrister, Young's creation of the CA was followed by the Advisory Centre for Education and its magazine Where?, the National Extension College, the College of Health, the National Funeral College, the University of the Third Age, the Open College of the Arts, and the School of Social Entrepreneurs.

Among the flood of pamphlets, books and reports produced over six decades were groundbreaking studies of life in Bethnal Green and a 1958 book The Rise of the Meritocracy, which coined a concept at the centre of Blairite thinking.

He was appointed the first chairman of the Social Science Research Council set up by Labour minister Anthony Crosland.

On being made a life peer in 1978, he took the title Lord Young of Dartington, a tribute to his education at the progressive school Dartington Hall in Devon.

Clement Attlee
Post war Prime Minister Clement Attlee

He defected to the breakaway Social Democratic Party in the 1980s but later rejoined Labour.

SDP founder Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank - one of the so-called Gang of Four and now a Liberal Democrat peer - said: "He was an outstanding entrepreneur of social policy.

"He made consistently constructive contributions to British public life over more than half a century."

Married three times, Lord Young fathered six children, hitting the headlines with the birth of his youngest daughter when he was 80.

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