The first task this morning was a visit to B & Q in search of roof panels to replace those that ended up in Austria last week. The check-out lady there has become a friend over the past few years, but only after we explained why a load of old geezers regularly drop in for what must look like the ingredients for Cameron’s big society. Mind you, whilst we don’t understand what that is, we are confident that B&Q could supply it! On our return with the battered pick-up we began the process of hitting our thumbs and swearing which are the key features of our DIY endeavours. The level of curses was enhanced somewhat when Albert reported the Met Office as predicting further storms later this week. If we hurry we may just get the runs covered in time for the whole lot to be re-dispatched.
But there was light relief to be had over tea when we saw the headlines announcing the latest government initiative. It seems that the brother idea to the big society is a national wellbeing measure! Apparently Mr Cameron has long dreamed of having a wellbeing index and to have it updated quarterly and published to every citizen to enable them to better organise ther lives. Whitehall claims that we are likely to be the first country to have such an initiative, no great surprise there. Already work is underway and the government has commissioned the national statistician Jil Matheson to devise questions with a view to the first ever wellbeing survey being launched in the Spring.
That sounds a long time to think up a few questions but the press relaese tells us that not only will it ask about recycling (no explanantion given as to why wheelie bins are considered our major source of delight) but will also deal in depth with psychology and attitudes. Downing Street spokesmen seemed almost as vague on this as they proved to be on the big society but they did have a go. They said that a large sample is needed to enable anyone who wishes to move, say, from London to Exeter to establish what effect the move would have on their quality of life. I can only assume that an aunt of Mrs Cameron is thinking of moving west, but it seems an expensive way to find out just how hostile the natives are likely to be.
Another advantage that the spin-doctors trotted out was that come the next comprehensive spending review – bit frightening to be told that there is to be another – the government will “have a clearer idea as to which cuts are most acceptable”. At this point I lost the script as Premiership Managers like to say. That was because they added that sustainability will be a by-product. Ye Gods, this is even dafter than Clegg’s already abandoned “1000 ideas”.!
I have the uneasy feeling that this is another one from David Cameron’s ‘dreambox’. He followed the fanfare for the wellbeing scheme by saying that “Wellbeing can’t be measured by money or traded in markets. It’s about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture, and, above all, the strength of our personal relationships”. Spot on there Dave but what do any of those things have to do with the government?
I may be the odd one out on this but it seems to me that what most people want is less involvement with politicians, not more. Many of us derive great pleasure from laughing at them, or complaining at their ineptitudes’ and that is probably the extent of their influence on our personal sense of well being. For what it is worth the one national survey of ‘happiness’ has shown little change over the past three decades. Ministers have come and gone, recessions and boom years too, but the average Brit has remained constant in his or her joy or misery.
I sense that David Cameron means well and, unlike his deputy, is as straight as they come. But he does seem preoccupied with a vision that no one else can fathom, a sort of benign big brother who loves, and is loved by, all. I hate to disillusion an idealist but people were happy under such diverse characters as Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown not because they loved them but because they took the usual British perverse approach of mocking them. People loved the tales of counting ones fingers after a meeting with Blair, of not risking a meeting at all with Grumpy Gordon, of Lady Thatcher really being a man in disguise and of Major having his underpants outside of his shirt to please Edwina.
Probably his self understanding should tell the present leader that the best he can hope for is to be vaguely more popular that the others. But if he insists on maintaining the tempo of a new, barmy and impossible-to-understand idea every other day I suspect that he will create a reputation for being even more boring than Sir Alec Douglas-Home. Never heard of him? The ultimate accolade for a bore!
The Daily Mirror can usually be relied upon to flay fat-cat bankers alive but it was strangely quiet over the news that the state-owned Northern Rock is paying departing boss Gary Hoffman £500,000 of taxpayers money to stay at home for six months before he joins rival bank NBNK.
Strange because the rest of the Fleet Street hacks had a field day. In fact so great was the uproar that within 24 hours it was announced that Hoffman had decided to waive the ‘ golden goodbye’.
We can only speculate as to the silence of the ‘people’s champion’. Surely that had nothing to do with the fact that Hoffman is a non-executive director of Trinity Mirror, the owners of , er, the Daily Mirror?
BUY BRITISH…NOT LIKELY!
I am reliably informed that almost 90 per cent of the materials required for the building and staging the 2012 Olympics is being purchased from abroad. Sounds like we really have that opportunity sorted then!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. 1975 2. The Labour Party
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which three Arab nations joined in a federation in 1971? 2. With what unusual crime was Joyce McKinney charged in 1978?