David Cameron said when he came to power he wanted to improve people’s happiness – that government policy was to be more focused on those things that make life worthwhile. To this end, the Cabinet Office has recently revealed which jobs in the UK give us the most satisfaction. Top of the list of 274 job titles is vicar; bottom of the list is pub landlord. It is perhaps a surprise that these two jobs should be at opposite ends of the table given that they share many similarities: they both have dwindling regulars, both dish out wine and nibbles and if you spend a long time in either’s establishment you can think imaginary people are talking to you.
But it’s great that government realises there is more to life than GDP, or, as the Cabinet Office puts it, that it is important to assess “non-market impacts”. You just wonder how seriously those considerations have been taken when it comes to policies such as the bedroom tax, HS2, and shooting a few badgers but not nearly enough to make any difference. Certainly if David Cameron really wanted to improve our happiness you’d have thought he’d have accepted Maria Miller’s resignation that much sooner than he did. Or maybe he was always intending to accept the resignation – he just wanted to delay it as long as possible so that when it finally came our pleasure was that much greater. I did read through Maria Miller’s resignation letter. It took me 96 seconds. I didn’t spot an apology in it – although in that time she would have been able to apologise three times to Parliament.
Surely if David Cameron was truly dedicated to this happiness policy, he could go that much further? For instance, they’ve set up an NHS 111 helpline and a Police 101 helpline. How about setting up a government helpline simply called ‘Vent’? Any member of the public can just phone up free of charge and vent on any topic they like about any aspect of government that upsets them. And every time they seem to be drying up or calming down – the person whom they are speaking to quickly puts them on hold – or tells them they are now being held in a queue – or starts playing a tinny synthesiser version of Greensleeves for no reason – just to keep their emotion simmering to make sure they absolutely get every last drop of frustration out.
Cameron himself, could do more personally to increase our happiness. He’s always seen as Eton and Oxford and Bullingdon, so why doesn’t he upload a six second video on Vine of him dressed in white tie and tails, quaffing champagne whilst poking a poor person with a stick? Everybody would be delighted to have their prejudices confirmed. Perhaps at the same time he could tweet a picture of Nick Clegg bringing him a cup of tea whilst wearing a lovely apron and nothing else.
Michael Gove is a fan of a traditional education. If government want to improve our happiness, every time Michael Gove makes one of his usual gaffes, force him to stand in the corner of the Ministry of Education with his back turned, with a dunce’s cap on, with his trousers down, whilst being beaten by a kid with a birch who films it on his mobile phone for internet distribution.
Rachel Johnson recently for Sport Relief’s “Famous, Rich and Hungry” had to live for a week with a family in food poverty. But imagine how much happier we would have been if we could have seen her brother Boris go hungry for a week – because he looks like he can pack a bit of food away. You suspect by the end of the week there would have been a good chance Boris would have got so hungry the family’s pet would have gone missing.
And George Osborne when he was part of the Bullingdon Club was supposedly held upside-down by the other members, who shouted at him “who are you?” – and he was dropped on his head repeatedly until he answered “I am a despicable c***”. If they can do it, why can’t we? Imagine the happiness that would ensue if David Cameron re-instigated that – in public – every day – on Westminster Green – until the economy had markedly improved. Surely those are the sort of “non-market impacts” the Cabinet Office would approve of?