Heaven knows we’re miserable now

I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Bill Bryson’s excellent “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid”, his autobiographical account of his early life in Iowa.

It’s as funny, charming and wistful as you would expect, full of fantastic imagery of post-World War II consumerism, invention and prosperity. And, of course, it harks back to the innocence of a childhood utopia that probably didn’t actually exist.

But what struck me with the most force was the sheer optimism of the time. Even with the constant threat of nuclear obliteration, with memories of the war still vivid in most adults’ heads, most US citizens seemed to believe the future was brighter than the past. Their country was the wealthiest, the most powerful and, yes, the happiest on the face of the planet. National leaders were respected and even liked (as in Ike). In a pre-Watergate era, politicians, though viewed through a healthy filter of cynicism, were nevertheless acknowledged as local and national leaders, essential to the workings of a democracy that, having been fought for only recently, was still precious.

So where did it all go wrong? In our own country today, despite the recent credit squeeze, our citizens have never been so wealthy. High-def TVs fly off the shelves at Tesco quicker than they can be imported. Whatever the latest technological innovation, most people can treat themselves to it. Eating out – a rare treat when I was a child in the ’70s – is as commonplace as going shopping. And when we do go shopping, whether for groceries or for clothes, we spend money in quantities that would have made our parents gasp.

We’re securer than ever, at least in international terms. There’s no equivalent of the Soviet Union threatening to bury is in a nuclear armageddon. The very real threat of terrorism hasn’t notably altered anyone’s patterns of behaviour or travel (which is as it should be). Job security is felt to be less than in the past, it’s true, but the corollary of that is the tremendous real-terms rises in incomes over the years and the consequent improvements in quality of life.

There are more two-car homes in Britain today than there are homes without a car at all. We live longer, eat healthier (if we choose), have better access to forms of entertainment never imagined a generation ago (satellite TV, DVD, computer games), the majority of us have fast access to the worldwide web, which we use to enable even more spending and for entertainment. Crime is down.

So why is everyone so bloody miserable?

Are our crippling levels of cynicism and pessimism simply part of the human condition? Were we always like this? Or is a consequence of the “instant gratification society” that, having been instantly gratified, we must resent the society that manipulates our desires in this way?

I will, on this one occasion, concede that the mass media can’t be held entirely to blame, just as I hope readers of this blog will accept that our elected leaders are similarly not 100 per cent guilty.

But what happened to that post-war optimism and commitment to common values? Are they gone forever and if so, why? If not, how can we bring them back?

Heavey stuff, I know, but occasionally you want to talk about more than the latest episode of Doctor Who.

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147 Comments

Filed under Economy, Media, Politics, Society, Uncategorized

147 responses to “Heaven knows we’re miserable now

  1. Consumerism can’t make society happy. Personally, that kind of optimism is linked in my mind to great projects like, say, high speed rail. So, a high speed line from London to Edinburgh would do wonders – I may well be personally wealthy, but if it’s easier (and cheaper) for me to spend a weekend in Paris than in the city of my birth then I’m socially poorer. Especially when by economic necessity I’m left with few options other than working in London.

    Also, like many in my generation I’m unable to afford to buy a place to live and quality rental is a myth. Where you live has a massive impact on your quality of life and people who rent have no access to energy efficiency schemes and little security of tenure.

    Finally, I’ve my student debt, which also has a nice habit of eating up bonuses and other financial incentives that should in theory make me happier by the use of wealth.

    So, basically there are three distinct areas where successive governments have either made my quality of life go backwards or stagnate compared to where it could be either in an alternate Britain or somewhere similar in the west. It is little wonder to me that my generation, though we may be wealthy compared to our predecessors seem restless and unhappy – little in the way of policy contemplates those who live or work outside family units and who don’t own their homes – yet it is the norm for my generation.

  2. nibbs

    Interesting point. ‘Status Anxiety’ by Alain De Botton explore the reasons for increasing unhappiness and depression despite rising living standards and wealth. He puts it down to unrealistic aspiration and never being happy with one’s lot in life due to constant comparisons with others.

    Looking back to my childhood (in the 60s/70s) people now have living standards we never dreamed of.My 18 year old son has just jetted off for two weeks in Cyprus, when I was 18 it was a weekend in Southport. He has his own car, I was 29 before I could afford my first car.

    As for politicians, the frightening thing is most people seem to think they are unnecessary.There’s been a near total disconnection between politics and the public.

  3. Technology has given us loads of wonderful gadgets but our quality of life is not measured in GDP. There are real problems out there – the number of cars on the road is a negative if you are trying to get somewhere (whether by car, foot or cycle).

    It is the quality of our friends and security of our jobs that brought happiness. Jobs are more demanding and life is lived at a faster pace with society far more atomised. Family and friends are spread out across the country – making support networks fragile or non-existent.

    How do we change all this? We need to get away from dependence on fossil fuels – the current crisis could actually be a benefit in the long run – we will have to stop taking the environment we live in for granted. It is not an infinite resource – there are costs.

    People are more interested in politics than ever, but they now realise accountability is not what it should be. This has always been the case – but now people are more aware of the problem, if not the solution.

    I know you will disagree but even the best MPs over a long period may build a rapport with only 5% (at most) of their constituents. We all know that no matter how good an MP and how hard they campaign they will almost certainly not win in an opposition’s safe seat. Famous losers are Maggie Thatcher and Tony Blair – it was not for want of effort or political ability that they lost. Under our current system 75% of MPs are elected in seats where their abilities or otherwise are virtually irrelevant. Where parties can get large majorities on just 35% of the vote. The biggest lie about our electoral system is that it ‘lets us kick the government out’. In fact the opposite is true, it allows governments with only ever minority support stay in power until about 65% of voters are willing to vote for ANYONE to get them out.

    What democrat would argue against 50% of the vote getting you 50% of the seats. PR is what we need in this country. Just this one small change now could prevent another catastrophic right-wing government. But more importantly allow the alternative to be a government that is influenced equally by it’s left-of-centre supporters as by its right-wing support.

  4. Advertising builds expectations that can’t be met by consumerism…

  5. You are making the mistake of linking happiness to material wealth. There is no evidence of such a link. Indeed, rates of depression are higher in the rich than in the poor. So if you want us to be more cheerful, perhaps the Labour party is innocently doing the right thing by allowing inflation to rise, squeezing wages and letting the credit crunch make us all less well off. We will get happier as a result..!

    Also, memory studies suggest that what we thought our parents did when we were children was often not the case. Parents protect their children and so don’t let them know when times are hard. So, in your childhood your parents may well have seemed happier to you, but that was to protect you. Now you look back on those days and compare them with what you experience now. But you are not comparing like with like.

    The fact is, happiness is most closely linked with socialising. Society is much less social now than it was thanks to things like greater commuting distances, increased home entertainment, and the focus on individual success. If you want to make people happier, increase socialising with policies that, for instance, force businesses to be more regional, thus reducing commuting times. People are at their happiest when with other people – not matter how much or how little they actually have in terms of possessions. So if the Labour Party wants to make us all happier it needs to stop focusing on the individual.

  6. Peter Tomlinson

    Not repeating the excellent stuff above, but pointing you to something: Dan Solove’s article – “‘I’ve Got Nothing to Hide’ and Other
    Misunderstandings of Privacy”:
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=998565
    He sets out one thing that he believes makes society work (and thus us less miserable): respect for our privacy. Dramatically reduced of late has been respect by the public sector, and dramatically obvious is the poor performance of the areas of central govt generally described as public administration. One example on TV yesterday: a good worker in a restaurant declared to be illegal and taken away – he should have been given the chance to continue working while negotiating a change to a legal status. Then Jacqui Smith on TV telling us how the terror (taking people away for deportation) has been escalated.

  7. Kevin Schofield

    Hi,
    I know this post won’t make it to your website, but I’m going to make it anyway. The reason “we are so miserable” is purely down to the current labour government, and in particular our current PM, Gormless Clown.
    I think he, and yourself, should resign. You know why we are miserable. Please stop berating the public in your blogs and do some real work. You’ve clearly got too much time on your hands (as do all of those who ‘blog’).

  8. Kev

    It is true that we now have many consumer products that are fairly affordable by the majority, although there are some poor devils who have nothing. I was born in the early 50’s an can honestly say it was a much happier time for teenagers than now. Even with all the consumer products available teenage suicides, death from drugs and alcholism are a curse in the 21st century. The breakdown in society is the problem we now face not least heped by Labour’s fixation on wealth and power. Certainy MP’s do well, what other employment offers free kitchens, TV’s, Mortgage interest payments for second homes, etc – yes Mr Harris you are right – what I don’t understand though is why MP’ all want salary increases and enhanced gold plated pensions when they are so well off.

  9. Bill Radford

    many of us don’t ‘spend money in quantities that would have made our parents gasp’ as we’re too woried about trying to pay our increasingly expensive gas/electric/council tax bills, let alone our mortgages. I think you probably refer to those fortunates who get everything given to them on a plate at either end of the social scale.
    Those of us in the middle, as ever, are the one’s subsidising the whole bloody farce that is today’s Great (sic) Britain.

  10. George

    Because it isn’t a deal of fun living in a Nazi state, try running the country and not peoples lives. Unfortunately your party has created a climate of fear and hatred which is reflected through society, 2 pointless wars on terror. Britain is a very unhappy little country, not a nice place to live, has very little to do with money.

  11. Chris' Wills

    Now as one of your constituents let’s see why I’m unhappy.

    State interference in my private life has increased and is increasing even more, you support most of this intrusion by the state.

    You and your fellow ministers are deliberately making people more fearful by invoking the threat of terrorism (why is Al-Quida any worse than the IRA? Didn’t have all this rubbish when the IRA bombed us) so that you can keep closer track on my movements.

    Taxation has increased overall, so a lower percentage of my earnings are retained by me to do with as I see fit.

    Local taxes increase at well above inflation year on year but the roads are full of pot holes.

    More and more consultants and administrators are employed at high salaries by the state while the workers are told to accept what they’re offered.

    Ministers of state lie.

    Personal data stored, oh so securely, by state ministries is lost and no-one is blamed no-one pays.

    Companies employed to implement IT services for the state get retained to fix their own mistakes and rake off even more cash for being incompetent.

    There is no responsibility and no accountability, if you are a goverment minister caught lying or abusing your position you might lose your job for a month but probably not your state supplied accomodation or you’ll get a nice job in Brussels.

    I am cynical because the people elected by my fellow subjects have made me so by their continual lying, deceit and blatant greed.

    I am unhappy because of the above.

    Happiness isn’t just to do with the cash in your pocket.

    Oh yes, to earn a decent living I now have to work overseas (I still, most likely, get payed less than your expenses) yet we continually hear that the goverment is committed to not allowing the importation of cheap labour from overseas to undercut wages in the UK.

  12. peter morpuss

    I don’t think you should apologise for your comments, you are honest enough to say it as it is.
    To many people these days are frightened of not being PC and the result is that nothing of substance is ever said.
    So good on you and keep saying what you think.

  13. B. Hill

    Well done for raising people’s widespread ‘bloody’ misery Tom. It really isn’t a mystery, is it? Post-war politics has delivered what it promised – affluence and ‘freedom’ – but with *way* too much focus on economics. I’m not saying those aren’t important, but they can only ever be part of what makes us happy. The things that do – social coherence, wellness, trust and security, healthy mutual interdependence – are not beyond the reach of Government to affect; however their progressive erosion is, like the credit crunch, a tide of global social evolution bigger than any of us. I don’t know where it’s taking us, but I strongly suspect that until we quite seriously value ‘Gross National Happiness’ (Google it) above GNP, nationally and internationally, we’re headed in the wrong direction.

  14. Sean Lang

    I’ve just heard the comparison with Jim Callaghan’s “Crisis? What crisis?” moment on Radio 4. What your comments me in mind of, rather, is Harold Macmillan’s “You’ve never had it so good”. Which may well have been true, as your analysis may well be true, but missed the point. Happiness comes in large part from a sense of security and that in turn hinges on people’s fears for the future. The more material things one has, the more one has to lose from an uncertain future. The message I get from the news stories about the credit crunch and the imminent collapse of the housing market is not necessarily that I’m in dire straits now, but that, unless things change radically, that is where I am heading – and that there is nothing much I can do about it. That mixture of fear for the future coupled with a sense of powerlessness more than outweighs any feeling of satisfaction I might feel had I all the consumer goods you rather assume (not entirely accurately) that I have. Oh, and if people talk about Doctor Who a lot, it’s because we want someone like that to save us – precisely because we feel in need of saving. How’s your time travelling, Tom?

  15. Ricky Bruce

    Can’t understand why people have got upset with your comments! And you get extra points for getting my favorite Smiths song in the title.

  16. MAC

    Tom, I can agree with you to a certain extent.

    I have recently returned from Africa (57 years away form the UK), and I must admit that I have found numerous ‘wingers’ in this country. These type of people seem to complain about everything under the sun – they are absolutely miserable. Often while waiting at the bus terminus I come across people who seem to have no zest for life.

    I find this seems to especially the case with some older people. When I returned to the UK I had very little pension to live off, so I have to be very careful indeed. However I have found so much to continue being happy about – in my case I read a great deal. I also help out at various charities and then I also think back on my past life which has been full of interesting people – fascinating people.

    At the same time, I must admit I have met some absolutely fabulous people in this country – English men and women – first class people who contribute a great deal to society. And perhaps that is the difference. If we stopped compalining so much about our own condition and worried more about others we would be a lot happier.

    and I have also met a lot of very happy young people, but at the same time I have met youngsters who are preparing a rather nasty bed to lie on later in life – they are undoubtedly the future wingers of the UK.

  17. Brian Hooper

    Two thoughts on this. (1) I’m pretty sure I noticed a sharp decline in levels of happiness around the time Her Majesty the Queen spoke of her “annus horribilis”; it was as if we all said “So you think you’ve got troubles, what d’you think it’s like for us?” (2) I’ve noticed that people who don’t read the papers are often happier than those who do; could the media be partly responsible – particularly in terms of promoting the celebrity “culture” and of raising expectations to a level most can’t achieve?

  18. Alecx Brodie

    We’re miserable because of the increase in the number of sanctimonious gits telling us how to behave.

    The worst part is that many of these gits are receiving enormous expenses that allow them to buy whatever they need whenever they need it.

    These expenses don’t even require auditable receipts and guess who pays for it – yep! That’s it. The miserable public!

    Maybe that should give you a little clue. Then again, probably not. It would require lifting your nose out of the trough for a moment.

  19. Louise

    I’ll tell you why people are so bloody miserable because they literally cannot afford to live. Every day is a struggle. I don’t have high def Tv’s or two cars outside my house. I don’t even have one car. I am a sick single mum of 2 boys, one who is 13 and one who is 9. My 13 year old is sick too but the DSS refuse to pay his DLA saying he isn’t sick enough yet because of his illness my expenses are increased not double but triple. And because I have an illness that requires special investigation at St Thomas hospital, I have to travel from Liverpool and the DSS refused to cover my accomodation and taxi fare expenses and subsequently I have had now had to cancel two appointments. I am on income support and child tax credits. I am not on DLA. I don’t drink or smoke. The last time I socialised with friends was in October last year. Yes I have high speed internet access and struggle each month to pay it. You know why I have high speed internet access ? Because both my sons schools require it. Both childrens homework are put online. If they don’t have high speed internet access they don’t get their homework done and then land up in trouble. And I’m sorry but they have so much homework to be sat in a library every night. I have gone without food so my children have food. I have had to scrimp and save just so my children can have a haircut. My sons birthday has just gone and he got a £20 present. Luckily my son understand my financial hardship at the moment and knows that when I am healthy again I will make it up to him. So before you go around making comments about people being better off than before because they can afford High Def tvs at Tescos (oh yeah some of us can’t afford to shop at Tescos either) you should take a look into the real world and not just at your surrounding friends, family and colleagues.

  20. PauPearce

    Sorry Tom but this is yet another example of Government Ivory-Towerism. Yet another reason why you shall not receive my X next time around. Its the (personal) economy, stupid.

    The average individual in this country has received 2/3% pay rises in the past couple of years. During this time the Office for National Statistics would suggest people have suffered somewhere in excess of a 10% fall in real income. Forget about the CPI figure you choose to use, everyone with more than 5 functional brain cells knows that is not the real inflation. That is why we are miserable. ..perhaps you would like to consider and comprehend that rather than carry on your merry way in blissful ignorance.

  21. Georgie

    The problem is that the link between effort and reward has gone. There is a new “class” of people who think that they should be able to have cars, satellite TV, PS whatevers, smoke etc without actually earning these things through hard work. We pay the bills for those who won’t work and we even build top spec social housing for them (and then give them money to furnish and pay the rent). Those people who do work have to work hard to stand still because all their income tax is going to fund the welfare state.
    The EU has put the UK into special measures as our government is now classed as wasteful and profligate; some great thinkers believe that UK plc will be a 3rd world country within 10 years.
    Until the link between effort and reward are firmly re-established things will spiral down. This country needs to cut public spending through cutting the welfare state and making people stand on their own 2 feet.

  22. Duncan Morley

    There are many reasons why we might not be as happy as our predecessors. Here are a few of them:

    1. Debt. The government has overseen a long period of people building up huge personal debt, and now things are getting tight, they don’t have the means to service those debts.

    2. Student loans. We were promised that Labour would legislate to prevent them. We were then told that they would be linked to inflation, and therefore in real terms, they would not be attracting interest. This year, the interest on student loans is 4.8%, as it’s linked to RPI. The government tells us inflation is now 3%, but they use CPI. Therefore, the below CPI inflation linked pay rises the government are trying to force us to accept means that our student loans are growing faster than our salaries.

    3. We struggle to pay for our mortgages, food, council tax, petrol and utilities. MPs have us pay for their mortgages, food, council tax, petrol and utilities. They then buy a second home, and profit from that as well at our expense.

    4. Petrol prices. Yes, oil prices are rising globally, but Gordon Brown saying he can do nothing about fuel prices is a blatant lie. He could cut the duty.

    5. Petrol prices. If the tax on fuel is designed to get us onto public transport, why doesn’t the government first invest in an integrated public transport system that doesn’t shut down at 6 pm outside of London?

    6. Car tax. How does this work again? Oh yes, I pay more tax on my old car, and that makes it emit less CO2. No no, sorry, by increasing the tax on my old car, it will encourage me to buy a newer greener one. Ah, sorry, all my money’s going on tax and my student loan, so can’t afford a newer greener car. And I can’t get a decent price for my old one due to the increase tax anyone who buys it would have to pay.

    7. Dentists. I need to see one, and I can either pay an arm and a leg and see one now, or I can get onto a never ending waiting list, and then just pay an arm.

    8. Government waste. How come the government can spend loads on quangos that frequently do the same thing, an NHS IT system that doesn’t work, consultants that are brought in to clear up the mistakes the previous consultants made, endless bureaucracy that taxes people, does some sums, and then gives them back their tax but usually an incorrect amount etc. etc., but can’t, or rather won’t reduce the mounting tax burden, notably on petrol.

    9. Democracy. MPs are 99% automatons, doing as the party tells them. Surely if the government cannot allow its MPs a free vote on all issues because it is not confident they will vote the way it wants, it hasn’t got a strong enough argument.

    That will do for now I think.

  23. Steve Glenister

    I’ll tell you why we’re all so bloody miserable. We’re seeing horrific scenes from Afghanistan and Iraq; We’re seeing disproportionate force used against Palestinian’s. We’re watching Africa implode. Look at the big picture. I don’t need to mention credit crunch, housing crash, global warming. We may be better off, healthier etc… But what state is the world in? A bloody awful state! It all filters down. If all I cared about was my wallet then you’d be right to ask that question. Maybe that’s where politicians go wrong. We’re not all fixated on wealth you…

  24. Michael Pigeon

    I think it a bit rich that a member of the party that removed our democratic choice should complain of our “cynicism”.
    We have an ‘any colour you like so long as its tory’ political system and are part of a European Union that treats democracy with contempt. We have no voice and are therefore entitled to be miserable.

  25. Totalitarian Tom

    As a child of the 80s I don’t know much about what life was like in the 60s and 70s, but I can certainly see that people seem to be getting less happy as time goes on. Personally, I believe that this is down to the persistent march of Thatcherism, which the current Government has keenly embraced.

    The State attempts to do less and less and as a consequence ordinary citizens are exposed to exploitation by bigger and bigger private multi-nationals who have a legally binding obligation to ignore the needs of people in favour of higher profits. Until the corporate system is reformed to work for people instead of the other way round, and governments take back – in the name of the people – the power that they have abdicated to unelected, unaccountable beancounters, society will continue to crumble.

    As society crumbles, the government at Westminster will continue to try and find an excuse for its existence by becoming more and more authoritarian, thus lowering the quality of life of its citizens. Government is supposed to work for the people, not sell them into 21st century serfdom.

  26. Hi Tom

    Totally agree with you. People seem to want ever more amounts of material goods, forget simple pleasures and teach their kids the world owes them a living and that they can have whatever they want without trying too hard to get it. There’s also an unrealistic expectation that they’ll go on getting more and more without thinking about the impact this is having on the environment. Even when they get ‘stuff’ they’re not happy – they want the next, latest, thing.

    My partner and myself are incredibly fortunate. We’ve made a point of getting to know lots of people in our street, we have a brilliant community and support network, have good jobs, house etc, and celebrate life and friendship. I think the things that matter are more to do with your outlook on life than how well off you are.

    Listened to Victoria Derbyshire’s phone-in this morning, and thought she was very unsympathetic to you (no BBC bias there then). When people start complaining about having to wait an hour to get petrol, you know they’ve got their values and priorities all wrong, however you do have to appreciate that some people are having a genuinely hard time at the moment. Having said that – you have struck a chord with many people – we have to get to a simpler, less materialistic world view, and stop wanting so much!

    with very best wishes

    Dick Tapsall

  27. Bernie Woollard

    Society’s ills can be broadly defined as being the difference between what we all “want” and what we all actually “need.” The fact is that over the last 10 years the stitches that hold the fabric of our society together have gradually then increasingly become undone. Respect, tolerance and respect for law and order have been replaced by rudeness, selfishness and anything goes. With freedom and rights come responsibilities. The decay of families and social cohesion in genral that comes from such distorted values means that people become increasingly stressed, unhappy, insecure and anxious. No amount of spending on holidays, buying new cars, meals out or shopping can make up for that! And for those that can’t do those things the alternative is drugs, crime or just beating someone up (either a partner or a stranger it doesn’t matter)over the most trivial of issues. The result is growing unhappiness despite inexorable rises in GDP. Now that there is an econmic downturn people will have less money so the false opiates that have replaced spirituality and a belief in God and respect for each other are in short supply. No government is going to fix this particular mess in a hurry.

  28. If our happiness relies on what we own or what we can buy, I’m afraid that as a society we are screwed. Sure, our lives can be made easier or tougher, or more or less comfortable, depending on our financial situation – but does that genuinely make us happy?

    Spending time with friends and family makes me happy and they don’t cost me anything.

    Maybe the values that our parents’ generation held to, when we had to spend Sunday together because there was nothing else to do, was the way to go. Now work has become more valuable than family and the slope has become increasingly slippery.

  29. JS

    Simple really – good things have been received, but every loss or restriction is felt more acutely, even if one still ends up better off than before. So:

    (i) a person used to eat out three times a week, now they can afford two. This will make them unhappy, even if they once never ate out at all;

    (ii) someone grew up with NHS dentistry, now they can’t get an appointment with an NHS dentist. They can afford private treatment, but have lost something.

    The mistake in reasoning is to conceive of happiness as affected by absolute levels of provision and resources. As economists know very well, that only works for certain relative essentials. After that, happiness is affected by relative shifts, not the absolutes.

    It’s an interesting insight into human psychology related to expectations. We have an expectation that we will be better off at all times (which politicians of all parties seek to encourage when they are in office), so anything that frustrates that disappoints us. We have an expectation (again, encouraged by politicians) that the NHS (for example) will be available and can solve all health problems, so are frustrated when it does not. It may come down to our now thoroughly ingrained enlightenment idea of progress. Management of expectations is really the key – in a very post-modernist take, perceptions can generate reality (albeit not the current reality). Inflationary expectations for example, do create inflation.

  30. Gerard Ambrose

    Dear Tom Harris,
    I think the answer is that a vast majority of MP’s have their dirty little fingers in the till, are coining in fiddled expenses like there is no tomorrow and are accountable it seems to no one. Be it Labour, Conservative or Liberal, MP’s, or MEP’s they are all the same, in Politics just to feather there own nests. As a group you are amongst the low life of society because there is one rule for you and another rule for us poor plebs and we can’t even expect the speaker to keep you in cheque because he is fiddling expenses as well.

    Regards

    Gerard Ambrose

  31. Alexander Kerr

    One word Materialistic.

    Don’t know why everyone is having a go at you. Hope you get thru it ok.

    People should be glad for the food in their belly and the change in their pocket!

    Go out and have some fun with friends, switch off the TV! If you want to watch the news watch channel 4!

  32. Alastair Scott

    I think one of the main reasons for “miserableness” is, simply, too much media and too much competition between media, compared to the days when I grew up and there were three television channels, shorter newspapers, fewer radio stations and no Internet, and the media were generally more innocent (to use an unsatisfactory word which is the best I can do at the time). There is a staggering bombardment of news, frequently misinterpreted, inflated or sensationalised, lacking context, and slanted towards the negative because “bad news sells”. I suggest that much of this news would not have been published or, at least, not been given so much prominence in the past. (As for “celebrity culture” … not much noticed, apart from its obvious evils, is that it is hideously passive and reactionary – everyone else presses their nose against the window of the sweet shop and watches while the “celebrities” play).

    One of the previous posters, who made a point about children having a false view of the past because their parents shielded them from “bad things”, is spot on; the parents would almost certainly not have realised it at the time, but they were also shielded from “bad things” to an extent.

  33. Steven Martin

    I think we’re miserable and frustrated because, basically, there was a momentous sea-change between the majority of the population of the baby boomer generation (our parents) and the majority of the population who were children of the 1970s and post-1970s. We missed the boat that benefited many of our parents. This feels frustrating and unfair. Their generation benefited from the release of the Council housing stock (to the detriment of the following generations). They enjoyed the best years of the NHS and the fact that there were a few NHS dentists around who wouldn’t charge you £180 a time.

    This slash and burn policy (I think it was called ‘privatisation’ and monetarism) has now come home to roost. It was always going to do so.

    The financial and policital establishment (let’s call them the ‘haves’) had to offer an olive branch to the inter-war/post-war generation. They then started retracting that offer, as quickly as memories fade. That is where we now are and hence the anger and sense of injustice.

    I am not interested in gadgets and the latest TV. I don’t want a fast car. I do need, however, a way of getting to work because the local jobs don’t exist any more. So I commute, like most people. This commute, which is evidence of me ‘getting on my bike’ to find work, has become self-defeating. I can’t afford it. But I have to.

    Having been raised on a council estate, all I have strive to do is to provide a safe, secure home for my wife and children in a safe non-violent area. Evidently, that is too much to ask. I can’t afford the mortgage repayments, but I have to provide a roof over my family’s head.

    I can’t afford it. But I have to.

    This situation, I am sure, is repeated for family after family.

    This ridiculous situation has forced people into a spiralling nightmare of debt. For example, I could not afford the monthly cost of rental for a home in a safe area for my wife and daughter. What was I to do? After all, I don’t spend money on Hi-def TVs. Our food bill each week is as cheap as I can make it, living on Tesco Value food. A block of cheese costs almost £3 ! So we continue to cut back. We very rarely go out. We don’t drink. We don’t smoke. But we still can’t afford the monthly bills.

    The monthly mortgage payments are far cheaper than the high rents. So I obtained a mortgage in 2006 which was a frightening amount of credit/debt (but still, apparently, far less than the national average), but – as I say – it was far cheaper than the rents. It was a no-brainer. Now my mortgage payments will increase by at least 50% per month, because the lenders are trying to rake in the money they gambled on sub-prime (or, screwed out of the poorest people who also needed a roof over their heads). Sad thing is, the rents are increasing too because the buy-to-let mortgages and taxes are increasing for the landlords. Also, demand for rental is up because others cannot get on the housing ‘ladder’ (or ‘millstone’ as I like to call it). Pity them too, with the exorbitant rents.

    So the future is: Work harder and harder for more and more debt. Your home will then be taken away from you and you will be left on a housing list, having to pay more money in rent each month than you were spending on the mortgage you could not afford in the first place and which led you to being left on the housing list.

    Before the Council Housing stock was sold off in the 1980s, at least those with little money could scrape by without getting into too much debt.

    Oh, and then there’s the anxiety and stress and sleeplessness about the debts.

    If you want the people of this country to work hard, if you want to provide a future for our children, then those who ‘have’ must realise that you have got to give us something worth fighting for. Crap homes and debt. Currently, there is no incentive. That breeds anger, misery and resentment. It can also breed a sense of abandonment: i.e. let’s go out and splurge on the credit cards and enjoy what we can now, because the wolves are going to be at the door one way or another anyhow.

  34. Ged Simpson

    You ask a fair question Tom.

    Answer : we are a pack of spoilt sods and sadly all government is driven by an agenda to make us even more spoilt (growth, growth growth ever year). Also the most shallow often moan the loudest in my view.

  35. Matthew

    Interesting article and replies. Yes, I think as a nation we are miserable. Yes, I believe as a nation we do whine and moan far too much. Yes, there is a huge degree of cynicism about politicians and journalists. So lets recover our “Zest for life” – as one poster called it.

    But wait….. a charity swim has been cancelled due to too many forms to fill out and insurance needs. A child can’t be given an aspirin at school without parental consent but that same child can be sent for an abortion. Children in the street intimidating our elderly – and young – cannot be told off for fear of infringing their civil rights.

    Come back common sense you are greatly missed!!

  36. Teri

    So why is everyone so bloody miserable?

    Because we’re living in this bloody country! Its a daily struggle for most ‘ordinary’ people to get by these days with the never ending price rises on fuel, food, bills etc etc all around us these big companies keep announcing they are putting up this and that where the hell do us ‘ordinary’ people find the money to pay these things from our already overstretched budgets……oh and we don’t own a high-def TV either and eating out or other treats are way beyond our budget these days……no wonder most people have little to smile about, and no doubt with the predicted 40% rise in gas/electric bills come winter if we smiled it would be frozen to our faces as we won’t be able to afford to heat our homes.

  37. Adrian

    If you do not understand why a lot of people in this country are unhappy then I suggest you come down from your ivory tower ,mix amongst ordinary people and listen to them. Try it, you may learn something.

  38. I’m with Tom on this ~ most people seem to be only happy when they are miserable or complaining. I often find myself asking people, “Yes, but what’s the Good News?”

    Perhaps it’s the human condition to complain.

    We’ve certainly never had it so good and these are undoubtedly the good times that we will be looking back upon, wistfully, in twenty years.

    Cheer up, everyone. Enjoy life, ‘cos one day we wont have it!

  39. Andrew

    I think ‘Affluenza’ may be partly responsible for the pessimism but I think there are a lot of good reasons for the negativity in society at the moment. The main reason is that, in much the same way at in the late 1970s, it doesn’t seem likely that the next generation will be better off than the last. It’s quite possible in fact that we will be worse off.

    I think what worries me about the current economic downturn is that I don’t see it as a recession or the downward side of a cyclical economy. Yes, there is the credit crunch, but it is not in my view the burning economic issue of the day. The problems are not based upon our national malaise or global financial mismanagement but on a global scarcity or resources from which there is no reason forthcoming as to how we can recover.

    Commodities prices are hitting the roof. Oil is the most notable; the knock on effect has been an increase in other energy sources such as coal. Cheap oil’s running out, we have got to get used to it, and it’s one of the main reason’s our lifestyles will not be as comfortable as our parents. It effects almost every good and service we use now in our daily lives.

    Copper is rising rapidly and that too will peak; so will every other finite resource as the new economies consume more and more. Despite the warnings, we never see Government doing enough to plan for the future. Instead they embark on foreign wars, another point of worry because I fear the response of people to depleting resources than the depletion itself. What is going to happen to society when our standard of living drops to something below the quality of life of out grandparents?

    In turn, the shift to biofuel is causing a shortage of food. Realistically, will we ever create enough renewable energy to to power an economy and still be able to grow enough food for a growing world population.

    These are serious issues frequently treated as fringe. They follow a deadly cycle. First they are ridiculed; then they are criticised; then they enter the mainstream; then they finish us off because at every stage we do nothing about them.

    In the short term we worry about rising fuel and food costs because of this condition. In the long term it only looks like getting worse. That’s why this country is in malaise.

  40. Stan Rosenthal

    Before the downturn we were miserable but felt guilty because we had no material reason to be miserable. After the downturn have a self-righteous reason to be miserable again. And we are enjoying every moment of it, in a miserable sort of way of course.

  41. Christy Andersen

    I think the two main problems are government and the media. The government is less trustworthy than in previous times – the media makes sure we know all about it.

    In addition, we hear about every tragedy, big or small. Constant news reporting requiring us to emote on cue about tragedies all over the world rapidly erodes any real empathy.

    Things are bigger. People say the world is smaller, but that isn’t strictly true. We’re just expected to be able to take more of it into our own hearts and heads – but the human brain can’t do that. Have you ever heard of the Monkeysphere? People can only care – really care – about a certain number of people. Beyond that it becomes “us” and “them” – and if the government are taking from “us” to give to “them”, at the same time that the media are expecting us to care about “them”, resentment begins. A person can’t be resentful and happy at the same time.

    Yes, we have more gadgets, and they’re very nice. But we also expect to have them. We take them for granted. People don’t get overjoyed about things they take for granted. Of course, we now have environmentalists lecturing us on our every move, trying to take away said gadgets. This causes – you guessed it – resentment. So if anything our modern ‘perks’ are a source of unhappiness – not only do they cost us money, but people are continually trying to take them away!

    There are other reasons, but these are the main ones I’ve noticed. I would also add that people simply don’t trust the Government anymore. During the recent petrol strikes one thing which summed it up for me was a friend’s statement: “They say don’t panic buy. What I hear is, “let your fuel run out and trust the Government’s word that there will be fuel to replace it”, but I don’t trust the Government to do anything but fill their own pockets – so I’m filling my tank”. People feel they have to look out for their own interests – after all, we no longer have anyone else to do so.

  42. Sam C

    What a load of complete and utter codswallop (I would use stronger language but I’m unsure about the rules on this site). I was brought up staunch (Old) Labour by my mother but I think this homilie to consumerism is the final nail in the coffin for Labour in my eyes. I am utterly staggered that you seem to believe that the voters owe you a more cheery disposition simply because there are better quality TVs in the shops. Your government has stood by as the economy has been stripped bare by venture capitalists; the price of oil has rocketed due to your government’s policies in the Middle East and on transport; the price of food has shot up because of your governments ill-though out policies on biofuels, yet you seem to believe we aren’t grateful enough for this. Your government locks up more people than ever before and you spy on your citizens more than ever before, whilst restraining free speech and the right to protest at every opportunity and you expect us to smile about it.

    If you want to know why people are more cynical about political leaders nowadays perhaps you should re-read your own blog – you say we’re more secure than ever, yet just last week your own government was passing a bill giving the police powers to lock up us citizens, without charge, for longer than ever to deal with the “threat of terrorism”. If we’re more secure than ever why do you need this power? This is yet another small example of political posturing designed to patronise the electorate that New Labour and the Conservatives do so well and it’s this type of statement that goes such a long way to ensuring that voters have no confidence whatsoever in the political leaders of this nation.

    Well, at least let me congratulate you on one thing Mr Harris. I have never before responded to a statement by an MP, yet you personally have motivated me to do everything I can to ensure people like you are kept as far as possible from the levers of power in this country.

  43. cheryl

    Im a working class student in south wales. both my parents are on benefits due to having to look after my youngest termally sister. my other sister and brother have epilepsy and the last sister is narcoleptic. I live in a very poor area, I work as well as study. I believe i have a right to be unhappy. I know to get a good job in the future i will have to live a considerable distance away from my family. And I know i will be like a fish out of water, being brought up with different values, which i am already experiences problems with as most of my friends at university are middle class. There are a lot of other problems going on in my life as well.
    As i said before I personally have a right to be unhappy I have had a very hard life and its barely began, but I’m not. At this moment in time I know my parents love me and will help me out even if they can’t afford to. Most people here complain about money but again I don’t, I know better than most people that life is worth living, yeah complain a little, which i do myself. but don’t let the set backs in life make you miserable, there is always someone worse off than you. and more than likely they are more content with what they have.

  44. It seems that where you live in the UK has a big influence over your happiness levels, according to a new study out today. People in Northern Ireland, closely followed by those in Anglia and Wales, are much happier than the average Brit and far more contented with family life, compared with Londoners and people living in the North West.

    Those who are happier also tend to know a lot of people in their local area, have a good social life and help out with community activities.

    People are also generally more contented with the standard of local public institutions, services and facilities compared with those nationally

    The findings were released by the Newspaper Society today as part of a new Local Matters study looking at regional differences and the importance of community to people’s lives (www.newspapersoc.org.uk)

  45. David

    Great point.

    Yes, we’re going through a difficult time at the moment. But there’s an easy response to the credit crunch – consume less of the stuff we don’t really need. It doesn’t take much effort considering the materialistic peripherals we use in everyday life – e.g. cut down on mobile phone use (or cancel your phone contract and switch to pay as you go) invite friends round to yours rather than eating/drinking in pubs and restaurants the whole time, buy fewer clothes (we don’t need new ones the whole time!), use a library instead of buying books (or buy books at bargain prices in charity shops), swap music with your mates and enjoy sharing it, travel less, consider whether it really is worth commuting a long distance by car (I decided it wasn’t, and have been much happier since…) etc.

    Our parents and grandparents lived in times of real material poverty compared to today, we can still maintain a higher standard of living than back then if we make careful choices instead of wasting considerable sums of money of material items which do not make us any happier… we might all want a flatscreen telly today, but we can actually manage to wait a little bit longer… can’t we??

  46. Sam

    Very good post.

    The media can make us all miserable. Stopping top executive pay rises and increasing their taxes might cheer me up though.

  47. I fear people today have every justification for being “miserable”.

    We could prescribe seroxat to lift mood, perhaps combined with taking therapy.
    However, the underlying causes need to be addressed.

    Personally, I blame the stress… it was the best catch all psychological excuss I could come up with for my plagarism.
    Blame everything on stress, everyone else does, although it is a bit UNORIGINAL?

  48. Brian

    May I suggest this MP goes under cover and drops off MP from his name and he will find…………………

    Crime now is out of control and thirteen year old gangs run the streets. Crime is double and our Police are incapable of dealing with it.

    Our health service has had millions poured into the admin departments and not treatment Doctors or Nurses, in my Hospital for the first time in years there are now more Managers than Doctors and Nurses and the Hospital is filthy.

    Education is now only in private schools, the rest supply “a few” pupils who with care and teaching in the home can just about pass an exam if the marking pass is reduced.

    Fly tipping in on the increase and will eventually cost more than what Councils get back in charges as well as being an annoyance.

    Brighton Council rents factory to put in its workers to look through rubbish bags to find “illegal” rubbish, how pathetic.

    Carrying a knife, shoplifting is now covered by a warning, filling in and not complying with pathetic legislation carries a fine and prison sentence.

    What I ask works in this once fine Country? The expenses department at Westminster for MP’s, nothing else works and it makes one “bloody miserable”.

    Come on Career MP’s get real and realise you are appalling at running this once fine Country that previous MP’s made up of Trade Union Members and Business men ran with ease.

  49. Steve writes: “I’ll tell you why we’re all so bloody miserable. We’re seeing horrific scenes from Afghanistan and Iraq; We’re seeing disproportionate force used against Palestinian’s. We’re watching Africa implode. Look at the big picture. I don’t need to mention credit crunch, housing crash, global warming. We may be better off, healthier etc… But what state is the world in?”

    I wish you were right, that people are miserable because of their concern for the world we, as the rich and powerful, have created.

    It’s not even as simple as the valid economic points Georgie and PauPearce make.

    Actually, I rather think it’s because we have all the material wealth our grandparents dreamt of, but fractured families, no communities, no clear aspirations for something better, and such highly specialised jobs that we have no control over what we produce.

  50. Chris

    Why is having two cars meant to be a good thing? I’m supposed to be happy because I can afford two cars? I could afford five but I don’t even have one because they ruin my quality of life. They’re noisy, they ruin the environment, they kill people, they turn people into rude empty-headed savages and they line our streets on both sides like litter.

  51. Rob Parry

    Mr Harris, we are cynically miserable because leaches such as yourself destroy any respect we may have held for MPs. According to the web you earned £92100 as a junior minister and claimed £153862 in expenses last year.
    When my mother in law has to worry whether to eat or heat then I get cynical about anybody who claims that amount of money, while many in this land become miserable due to the inequities of life under NuLabour.
    Brown, Darling and all the other limpets have no idea what life is like for the proles; shaking a few outstretched hands while being shepherded by the close protection group isn’t life. I nearly threw my PC out of the window when I listened to our wonderful chancellor describe his understanding of ‘our pain’ as he filled his car with petrol the other day. You lot have no idea.
    Brown wouldn’t have a clue anyway, he doesn’t drive. Apparently he holds a licence, but when was the last time the useless lump of lard actually used a fuel pump? If he had to pay for his transport we would see why he has a face like a bag of crushed arseholes!

  52. For your information, Tom, many of us outside your rarefied bubble are not snapping up high-definition TVs in our droves. Those who “flash the plastic” to fund such purchases will soon realise, thanks to the credit crunch, that things have fallen to earth with a heavy thud. Moreover, I do not own a car, on the grounds that I can’t afford one & I don’t desire one. As for your flippant quote about us having the choice to eat healthily, I suggest you take a rare excursion into the communities that the Labour Party was supposed to represent & champion; in such areas a large number of parents don’t have a real choice for themselves or their children. It isn’t just the Daily Mail mob you’ve offended with this witless post.

  53. Dear Tom

    I would just like to tell you that I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    Every day, in our High Street, in my Sainsburys, in my office, I wonder at all the truly miserable, stroppy, angry, self centred people around.

    Everyone seems so wrapped up in their own problems or non-problems that they don’t have time for anyone else. They are more concerned with celebrities than other normal folk.

    I love my life, I am fit, healthy, I have 5 nieces and nephew who I adore and who adore me. I have lots of friends, and we laugh a lot. I have a full time job – it is hard work but at least I have one. I have my own car – it costs me more in fuel but at least I have one. I have my own home which will be mine in less than 3 years.

    I can understand people who have terminal diseases being miserable for that, but I can’t understand why almost everyone who shoves me out of the way in the town centre, or drops a door on me, is so miserable and angry.

    As an example, on my way to work last Saturday, I slowed down coming into a 30mph zone, and the chav in the 4×4 behind me (who had been driving in my exhaust pipe for a couple of miles) overtook me, pulled up in the road and blocked me and then got out, punched my car and screamed obscenities at me because I made her slow down. I was frankly stunned and frightened that my following the Highway Code had prompted this reaction. Symptomatic of the angry culture we are in.

    I will let you know if I find the answer. In the meantime you are entitled to your opinion. I do feel that if people are miserable, they should look to themselves first, before blaming Government, fuel prices, banks, or whoever else they think of.

    I am happy anyway!

  54. Ryan

    I’m glad you brought this up.

    What you are in effect talking about is the dark side of the information age. That is, problems that would once have been of no concern to people (ignorance is, after all, bliss) because they wouldn’t attract the MSM’s attention are now there for everyone to examine, discuss and generally fret over (goodness knows you’re probably finding that out first hand right now!). We’ve never been inundated with so much information competing for our attention through so many mediums – possibly the side-effect of a hideously over-populated planet? Who knows – and frankly we’re getting a bit schizophrenic about it.

    Also, thriving consumerism is no indication of a happy society – in fact, quite the opposite. The more unhappy people get, the more they need their material comforts to dull the pain.

    Humans are animals. Truth be known our instincts haven’t changed however much the world around us has changed over the last 50,000 years and there’s only so far we can ever push this technological wave before it breaks us. The cracks are already showing.

    I’m happy you’ve provoked debate – I’m just not sure the answers are going to be to you or your party’s liking.

  55. It seems our illustrious MPs are experts on social behaviour. A lot of this spending is little more than depression as people need to buy something to make them feel good.Why is that?We are fed drivel all the time via the media, much of it manipulated by the spin machine of public service and politics, about how bad we are and how our lives need controlling and regulating.We are being bullied by endless regulation and ever increasing taxes to raise money that we know will not be spent wisely.Manufacturing is outnumbered almost 10 to one by public servants-guess who makes the wealth and guess who gets a final salary pension?How many of these shoppers you’ve watched are elderly or disabled? A forgotten part of the community. Do we feel happy,no.Do we feel safe-no.My car was vandalised before my eyes again a week ago,needing 4 new tyres amongst other things.I didn’t even bother to report it to the police.I know what I will hear.A phone call at 1 am challenging me to prove the incident ever took place.The public has no confidence in the Police.
    What has been commented on is the dispair of good people witnessing the decay of a once great nation-ruined by well meaning but out of touch jobsworths that think we need to be regulated and taxed endlessly.
    How many MP’s these day have a sucessfull career behind them?,how many have good communications skills?How many are are perceptive and have proven man management experience? How many are in touch with Reality?
    A billion pounds to improve adult numeracy -what happened to the education system?-a sign of a nation in decline-shame on you Mate.
    Did the directors of a PLC like Sainsbury blame the work force when things went wrong!
    From the real World SR

  56. Er, isn’t it the relentless optimism of Americans in the face of all the evidence that makes the rest of us miserable?

  57. Veronica Tubbritt

    I will start by saying United Kindom is a wonderful country – great people, freedom and safety – well as much as possible in todays world.
    So it begs the question, why are people miserable? It takes a politician to ask that question.
    The main problem with this country, is that the people who make the decisions of who gets or doesn’t get what ie the politicians, are totally removed from the reality of trying to live in a society which is seriously underfunded. By this I mean that we all live up to our income, whether rich or poor: the rich can make cuts to enable them to still live comfortably, but the poor have nowhere to go. There comes a point with the rapidly rising costs of food, fuel, etc when if you are poor, there is not enough income to cover necessary living costs (and I am not talking about going out for meals etc -what planet do politicians live on???). We have now reached that point I think, as proved by the rapid increase in debt management sites and bankruptcies. What are people supposed to do? Young families and pensioners alike are affected by this, so it crosses the broad spectrum of society.
    The thing that makes people miserable is not being able to control how they live. With prices spiralling out of control, what do low income people cut back on – food? heating? They have already done that! They want to provide for themselves and their families, but that is being made impossible in todays society.
    It should be made compulsory for all politicians to live for a month on a low income, just to see what it is really like living in todays wonderful country!!

  58. Ben Turner

    Much of our misery is a simple matter of spiritual crisis. We are obsessed with what our minds tell us we can be, and what we did wrong in the past. We are ruled by long lasting emotions of anger, guilt and fear. All our actions are based on these emotions and our desire for new and better things, another foot on the ladder or another step toward happiness.

    Fortunately, the answer is simple. Be happy with where you are right now. There are no problems, only situations. The very goals of a consumer, money-driven economy are the fuel for this increasing misery. And perhaps it’s worse now with the increase in possibilities and communications. But the simple answer is not a simple step. Religion, Spirituality, Community, Meditation, Therapy – all things with much stigma and little value in modern society, but all helpful steps towards more inner peace, and a happier world.

    As Eckhart Tolle notes in “the power of now”, we are all basically acting insane, slaves to mental ego and emotion. There is little else to explain the behaviour of the human race right now ! The important thing to note is you can strive to become a sane man in an insane world today. And with that sanity might come some of this lost happiness.

  59. The truth which cannot be sidetracked is that we are living faster lives, and we sense it. And the effect of this frantic pace is to make our lives feel shorter than our grandparents did. We are living in a greater sense of panic, that this is not a rehearsal, and that in addition, we are now indoctrinated that it is feckless and foolish to expect anyone to co-operate or help you unless they stand to gain substantially from the transaction. Scrooge’s countinghouse without the benevolent glow.

    When Tom Harris echoes McMillan (and Tony Hancock and Kenneth Williams), and asks the question ‘What IS Happiness?’ he is sort of missing the point. As a Labour MP he should be told over and again, by Orwell for instance, that

    ” the real objective of Socialism is not happiness. Happiness hitherto has been a by-product, and for all we know it may always remain so. The real objective of Socialism is human brotherhood.”

    Then maybe his government would begin to sound like it was telling the truth.

  60. Currant Affair

    Well it looks as if all my points have been made already by some excellent posts. So, in the unlikely event that you actually read your own blog, Mr Harris, I’ll just say that the opposition are quite right to accuse you of being out of touch (not that they would be much better after a few days in power, I am sure).

    The reasons that people in this country are pretty miserable are, no doubt, many and varied. However, they have all been described in previous posts – and if you are not aware of them, you certainly should be. You are an elected representative of the people of this country and if you don’t even know the factors that make them happy or sad, maybe a career change is required!!

    Rightly or wrongly, the people of this country expect that their elected representatives make decisions based on what will be best for the MAJORITY of its citizens (not the wealthy minority) and also stick to the promises they made when seeking election. Surely that is not a difficult path to follow? The good folks of Downing Street and Westminster obviously do find it difficult – but then, if all you care about is your own well-being, that of your cronies, party supporters, and wealthy citizens of this country, that isn’t surprising.

    This is the country that sold it’s own tax offices off to an off-shore tax evading company.
    This is the country that promised an “integrated transport policy”.
    This is the country that said PFI was going to save money.
    This is the country that promises it’s citizens democracy and gives them nothing like democracy.
    This is the country where being at the top of the tree, being crap at your job and having your nose in the trough are rewarded with even better jobs and lots of money.

    Look around you, Mr Harris – you are one of the privileged minority. The rest of us have long memories, though – so maybe you should be thinking about doing the right things for the country and it’s inhabitants.

  61. Paul

    I’m miserable. Here’s why:

    1) £1.19 a litre to fill my car. Most of that is tax.
    2) Despite having a decent job, I have no hope of affording my own home.
    3) I despair at a government that pours so much of my hard earned taxes down the drain and then tells me it’s going to take even more away next year unless I get myself into debt and trade in my six year old car.
    4) I certainly don’t eat out frequently or enjoy a consummerist lifestyle, indeed I see less and less money from my wage packet as a result of the fast rising cost of living. Certainly not enough to fund the pension I’m going to need when I retire in 35 years time…

    I suggest that Tom Harris now has the answer as to why his party is languishing so low in the opinion polls.

  62. Laughing Man

    I’ll be blunt. We’re miserable because we live in a dictatorship run by delusional retards.

  63. Geoff Paterson

    I would support Chris Wills comments above, your party is introducing ID Cards , practically suspending Habeus Corpus and continually telling us that we are in grave threat of being blown apart by Al Queda. Thousands of people are being killed by dirty hospitals. We see the threat of global warming yet a Labour Party encourging more airport expansion. Drug use and aggressive behaviour is on the increase in the streets.

    People were positive after the war , but mainly because their brothers, sons and fathers were coming home and no longer adding to the millions of dead. You should get this in context.

  64. Anthony Smales

    Just to show exactly how out-of-touch he is, lets see how accurate my experience of each of his claims are:

    “High-def TVs fly off the shelves at Tesco quicker than they can be imported. Whatever the latest technological innovation, most people can treat themselves to it,” – It would take me a few years to save for such a thing.

    “Eating out – a rare treat when I was a child in the 70s – is as commonplace as going shopping. And when we do go shopping, whether for groceries or for clothes, we spend money in quantities that would have made our parents gasp.” – I try not to spend more than £10 on a shopping trip. £15 slightly worries me.

    “There are more two-car homes in Britain today than there are homes without a car. We live longer, eat healthier (if we choose), have access to forms of entertainment never imagined a generation ago.” – I agree with the comment about entertainment, so long as he means TV and computer games, as opposed to live entertainment. I eat about the same as ever. I don’t have a car.

    The majority of us have fast access to the worldwide web, which we use to enable even more spending. Crime is down. So why is everyone so bloody miserable?” – yes I have broadband but spend only about £40 per month that way. I’m afraid crime is up, not down.

  65. Stephen Sullivan

    The people are miserable because sanctimonious idiots like you are bleeding us dry with your huge expense claims and undeserved salaries.
    My wife and I both have to work full time to pay our bills. Even though our joint salary is £25000, once your government has bled us dry with its many taxes we struggle to make ends meet. We have a 10 year old car, so our son can get to away matches for his football team. It now worries me that you will try and screw more out of us because the cars emissions ar too high. Unfortunately we are not on your salary and cannot afford a newer greener car.
    Its about time Gormless Brown did the decent thing and called an election, then we could be rid of New Labbour.

  66. It’s your use of the words “securer” and “heavey” that’s spoiling my day.

  67. Gareth Williams

    My parents’ generation were much happier. Every night someone would come along and drop high explosives on their heads. They were separated by hundreds of miles but they kept cheerful and had a happy marriage.

    By contrast, my generation were less happy. We only had a small risk of being blown up by Irish terrorists.

    By further contrast, my children’s generation have less chance of being blown up by terrorists than winning the National Lottery. Hence they are as miserable as sin.

    The evidence is irrefutable. The less chance you have of being blown up by high explosive the more miserable you will be.

  68. I wholeheartedly agree with you!

    I teach in a secondary school and over the 16 years i have taught there the pupils social skills have fallen tremendously. Im sure some of them dont know how to be happy – unless they are making someones life a misery.

    The joy of simple pleasures seem lost on them. Taking a walk on a lovely day is a joy but to a lot of them they cannot see this as pleasureable.

    As a country we have lost the plot – look at the rampant consumerism, the programs that fill the tv channels – thank heavens we have 70 channels of rubbish to watch rather than just 4 with a decent schedule!

    I also find it worrying that the comments
    ” were denounced by shadow treasury chief secretary Philip Hammond” (bbc news)

    A government cannot function properly with this closed narrow view. To make a general comment and then have it rubbished because it is taken as a slur on the government is a sign that all is not well.

    Thank you for giving voice to your opinion

  69. Firstly, thanks for blogging. It’s a rare treat to hear things straight from a politician’s mouth, without the scoop-orientated filter of the media or the cautious censorship of government PR. And it’s reassuring to know the people making decisions sometimes think about the “heavy stuff”, because it’s important. I think you make some good points too, though, as the comments above testify, inevitably a bit incendiary in the current climate.
    I’ve just been reading “Affluenza” by Oliver James. It asks more questions than it answers, but he’s got some pertinent things to say about why wealth-seeking doesn’t necessarily make us happy.

  70. thesamantha

    I’ve just read the BBC article which heavily critisises your comments on our happiness; and do you want to know something? We are miserable!

    Okay, maybe consumerism, and technology are everyone’s idea of happiness, and nor is money (a point I try to make often); but we are definitely more angered, unsettled, and frustrated as a society.

    The overreaction to your comment “So why is everyone so bloody miserable?” is actually quite amusing, and the fact that many have quickly rushed to defense of their misery to prove their “unmiserable attitudes”, just makes the whole issue that more interesting.

    Personally, I think we’ve been becoming more and more unhappy, and it’s nothing to do with the “Credit Crisis” at all. Money doesn’t make happiness, I mean throughout history the peasants of England were happy! I think our problem is that we feel insecure.

    For so long we’ve tried to define our personalities, our status, our place in society through material objects that we’ve actually forgotten about what we actually need in life. Friends, love, compassion, a good chat now and then, a laugh and a giggle. It’s easier to blame problems on money and Gordon Brown (although he is just brilliant at making everyone feel bad, if he’s good at anything, it’s that), than it is to actually realise we’re to blame for our own misery.

    I applaud your article, and I have to admit, I’ve never read it before now, but I like it. As for everyone else moaning about being miserable out there… You’re only proving the point; you’re that miserable that you’re getting annoyed about a Blog?

    Samantha Kidd.

  71. Jon

    I heard about this on BBC R4’s 8am bulletin this morning, and have dropped by to comment. This question is key I think to some of the difficulties we are facing as a society, and it is a shame the question is not raised more often. Arguably it is a pity that people are not more aware of the underlying reasons for our current collective unhappiness, as demonstrated by contributer Kevin Schofield, who – unable to put his finger on it either – calls the PM names instead.

    Much of the old ills of society are still with us, and many of them have already been pointed out by previous commenters here. Our financial difficulties, caused in part by the greed of mortgage financiers, plus the lies and manipulation that took our country into an illegal (and very profitable) war against Iraq, and increased problems with our healthcare system (under pressure to privatise). This is accompanied with a widespread feeling that much of this is occurring in an atmosphere of dishonesty, spin, political invulnerability and legitimised corruption, and that nothing can be done about it. To distract us from these woes, we are encouraged to find refuge in high-pressure consumerism and vacuous celebrity culture (which promotes gansterism and aggressive racial/sexual stereotyping). But in the past, these problems were put down to aberrations within the system, “mistakes” that we have learnt from, and not a systemic malaise.

    But the problem for our politicians is that, with the communications revolution having made it easier to determine that ordinary people are indeed carrying society’s burdens whilst the wealthy rake in the profits, unrest is growing. I think this has been happening over the last ten years or so, and it’s going to get more sustained. Ordinary non-politicised folk, who think that the British (or American) electoral system offers them a substantial choice may start to realise that this is not the case (all are aligned unquestionably with the “free-market economy”). The conservative middle classes, used to attacking the working classes as they have been taught, may come to realise that the profits of UK oil companies are more scandalous than the “scroungers” they used to deride. As inequality continues to rise, and money transfers from the millions to the millionaires, even the traditionally “confortable” will wonder whether the system might implode.

    It is key also that as money generally flows from the poor to the rich, so it also flows from the public purse to the private sector. This has been aggressively pursued, of course, by New Labour, who – according to Tony Blair – did not think there should be an upper limit to how much one person could earn. In a country that still has extreme poverty and homelessness, aren’t these things enough to be the cause of significant unhappiness?

    To prop this precarious system up, we have a penal system that is getting harsher (more offences under New Labour) to deal with the crime that flows from this disenfranchisement. It is not a coincidence that the penal system is getting more corporate too: private security companies and prisons is a growing “sector” in the UK. The media has become ever more aggressive in its demonising “the other” to keep us divided (mainly on race/religion grounds, as the current wave of anti-Muslim sentiment demonstrates). People are meanwhile so poorly aware of politics it has become acceptable to destroy the principles of habeus corpus (the recent 42-day detention win came on the back of a lot of media-driven ignorance, and is the latest in the long line of attacks on liberty generally).

    There is, to summarise, an enormous network of causality to this problem, which people are in general neither educated to recognise, or engaged to discuss properly (though the blog post makes an good start). Much of the criticism of the current disaffection gripping the nation only touches the surface – economy slowdown and fuel prices – so it is hardly surprising that the government is not under sustained pressure to tackle the underlying issues. People will become happier when the inequality arrow starts to point the other way. I don’t expect the government to start doing this, of course, as there is not (yet) the pressure for them to do so, whilst they are under constant pressure to be “business-friendly”. But a transfer of wealth from the extremely rich to the distressingly poor is necessary if anyone is interested in making us all happier.

  72. Tracy

    There are so many good points that have been said, although, I think the MP’s point was a general one and I don’t doubt he understands there are people who have a very difficult life. While there are a lot of things that contribute to a miserable society I can’t agree more with Bernie. When the family breaks down and there isn’t a mum or there isn’t a dad in the home it really makes a difference, although this situation can be unavoidable. Then a lack of discipline (I know it’s curse word for some) and kids not being taught to say please and thank you, but rather expect everything with open hands. It is easy to understand the kids going this way when you have rude adults. Does it take a second to say ‘please’ when asking for something or ‘thank you’ or raise your hand to the driver that let you cross the road. Oh, that’s right please and thank you are not necessary as we are all entitled to everything. I think some people believe the government is there to give handouts so they don’t have to get off the couch and if they can’t afford the new gadgets the government isn’t giving them enough because, good grief, they couldn’t possible go without. Like the MP’s comments this is a general statement about the condition of Great Britain and there are people who are polite and hardworking and still struggling to keep their head above water. The government has a lot that is wrong with it and I have plenty to write about that I don’t like, but it is made up of humans and no one is righteous. I think we all have to start assuming some responsibility and not act like innocent victims of a tyrannical government.

  73. David Parsons

    The reason we’re ‘so bloody miserable’ is that this Government is totally out of touch. It taxes us at every opportunity; it lies to us – making promises that it renages on; and treats us like children or idiots. The Lisbon Treaty isn’t the same as the Constitution? Honestly, who do you think you’re fooling? The differences are only cosmetic. Why is it that the great British public have all the common sence and politicians are totally devoid of it?

  74. Mark

    Dear Tom,

    We’re miserable because misery is a relative thing. We feel less good now than we did last year, and our memories don’t stretch back to the ‘good old days’ you so fondly recall to make a comparison.

    But the more significant reason is that the ‘zeitgeist’ of our age is deep cynicism born of hard won experience of a world of plastic values, pointless rhetoric and unprincipled, low quality, leadership.

    Promises are broken by crooked or just plain inept politicians; ‘great advances’ turn out to menace us; so-called ‘honourable men’ turn out to be either feckless, on the make or just despicable; ineptitude generally is hidden or, worse, feted; talentless oafs are rewarded and praised while hard work is despised; the notion of excellence is scoffed at; everyone must have a prize even though it is synthetic, meaningless and utterly, utterly worthless; worthy policies turn out to provide the advantaged with further advantages (think of how ‘environmental measure’ has come to mean ‘making customers pay and reducing business costs’); ‘ambition’ means fame, not ambition for something better and never for anyone else; ‘challenge’ is a dirty word associated with potential failure and therefore disreputable; double-think is well and truly here with the pronouncements of our so-called leaders; leadership as such is polluted by the experience of (again) ineptitude, incompetence, lying, deceit and low cunning in so-called ‘leaders’; everyone has ‘a valid point of view’ even when it is destructive, self-interested and vain…do I have to go on?

    Tom, is this really all news to you?

  75. Dan

    I think the answers for this are pretty simple but complex to solve.

    Firstly the Rat Race… Very few of us are cut out for the modern approach to buisness. Go to any office in the country and you’ll be bombarded with the concepts of profitability, people will be rewarded via statistical functionality, not so much for thier contributions to the social and atmosphere of the working environment.
    This coupled with peoples inability to relax, destroyed by the constant need to be one a head… you just can’t take time off to relax if eveyone is in a race with everyone else.

    It all seems very inhuman.

    Other basic details of the world we live in, such as the obese monster that population has become.
    There are simply too many of us, all working our arses off against each other.

    So,
    A reduction in population.

    A move away from worth being judged in productivity.

    Less government intrusion into our private lives (CCTV, identity cards, smoking bans etc. etc.)

    Governments should be controlling buisness and the media rather than throwing money at monitoring the population.
    Make stricter laws about the kind of advertising and media that is out there. Consider the adverse effects that a constant “i need” ideology has on the mental health and well being of the masses.

    We cant all be wealthy, live in huge houses, famous etc.
    The media has to stop selling us the lie that we can. Because millions of shattered dreams and dissapointment at having “not made something of our lives” is a revolting thing to peddal to the public.

    Almost every happy moment i’ve had in my life has been free.
    It’s been when i’ve decided to live on less in return for more free time.

    Simplicity and freedom to relax are the keys to real happiness.
    However in a social environment that considers both as Lazy and pointless (or most importantly unprofitable) that’s never going to happen.

    Something simple like banning high street trading (and other sectors) on a Sunday would do wonders for peoples ability to relax.
    Would it ever happen?
    Not under a Conservative or Labour government in my opinion.
    What are the alternatives though?
    Liberals (maybe, they’d be my choice as i’ve lived through both alternatives and it’s worth giving the third a shot)

    Or something new…
    Now that WOULD be something.

  76. Why are we miserable? Well, when we’ve got an idiot like Macavity in charge of the country, what else do you expect? Tosser.

  77. Alan Slevin

    I’m miserable because a certain prospective mp in the cathcart area lied to me in 2002 when he said he would campaign to ensure we did not go to war with America. Also, he then sent me hansard briefings to try to justify the lie that there were WMDs in Iraq. In short, he was only in it to join the gravy train and would do anything to get aboard. People like you make society miserable and have poisoned politics for everyone else. Why should anyone take your comments seriously when you obviously lost touch with reality a long time ago. Still, safe seat eh?

  78. David

    “Why are we all so bloody miserable”

    What a question, well where to start, lets see….

    1. Everyones cost of living has gone through the roof (except for MP’s of course).
    2. You mention post war optimism – well since your government has ratified the Lisbon Treaty, thus giving away some of the freedoms that millions of men gaves their lives to fight for most people are thinking things can only get worse.
    3. We cannot send terrorists home in case they get tried for being a terrorist, so instead the taxpayer gets to pay to keep them here, and wrap them up in a big blanket of benefits and free housing. This also links to our life expectancy, which is in serious danger of being shortened by the above mentioned terrorists – what about the victims right to life?
    4. The hard working are having to work harder to pay for the millions of people who do nothing, as well as subisdise a free home for each MP so they can avoid a ten minute walk to work, pay for new kitchen and wages for their nannies, subsidised retaurants and massive pay rises.
    5. Truck drivers are given a 14% payrise! £42,000 a year to drive a truck – what the hell is that all about!

    The list is endless really, due to the complete mess that Gordon Brown has made of things and he onyl been in power a year.

    The conservatives summed up why we are so miserable very well. Though I’m sure we will all cheer up once we see Gordon Brown packing his bags along with the rest of the Labour Party when you lose the next election.

  79. Scrumptious

    Its a free country and you’re entitled to the opinion you have expressed. However, you invited the debate and I am exercised enough to enter into it, if you please…
    You might be interested if you have time, to visit the AOL message board, for a more ‘Anglo Saxon’ perspective of your thoughts.
    I agree, Britain is miserable currently. I can’t speak for everyone, but from my family’s perspective, that has a lot to do with war, rocketing fuel prices, loss of important personal data, negative housing market and so on. These and so many more, are issues that don’t make me happy.
    If you delve more deeply, I believe that there is a more fundamental problem – that of lack of pride in Britain at the moment. That will only improve when strong leadership takes place, with a government that will listen to its people, who want tougher law and order, with more concern for the victim than for the perpetrator, better control over immigration and the issues around terrorism etc. The current Labour government are not achieving this to my mind.
    I’m not proud of my country at the moment and I have always been a staunch patriot.
    FYI, I am a married, middle class mother of two.

  80. Glad

    Tom, I think you have hit on a far deeper issue than you realise. I think the issue is not one of politics but of spirituality. With the decrease in spiritual involvement and its integration into a person’s life there is no cause of hope. People have nowhere to turn for respite and become less optimistic. I can do no better that to quote from Cornel West, Professor of Religion, Princeton,

    ‘Optimism and pessimism don’t exist for me … (I am) a prisoner of hope, and hope is a qualitatively different category to optimism. Optimism is a secular construct, a calculation of probability… hope wrestles with despair, but it doesn’t
    generate optimism. It generates this energy to be courageous, to bear witness, to see what the end is going to be. No guarantee, unfinished, open-ended. I am a prisoner of hope. I’m going to die full of hope.’

  81. OD

    Message from my son in law:

    Transport minister Tom Harris in his blog says “people in Britain are richer than they have ever been, why are they all so xxxxxx miserable?”

    Myself and my partner both work for the NHS thanks to the governments Agenda for Change have not had a pay raise since 2004.
    Our gas/electric bills are soaring, food shopping bills are shooting up at a shocking rate, I pay more tax now than I ever have, I may as well be pumping liquid platinum in to my petrol tank (I am sure that it would be cheaper) and my flat is now worth less than a first class stamp.
    We can’t afford a holiday or new clothes, eating out is a foreign concept, we take sandwiches or leftovers to work, I seem to vaguely remember what alcohol tasted like and new shoes are now a “considered purchase”
    I drive an old banger as I can’t afford a Chinese meal let alone a newer, cleaner vehicle which I would dearly love to own.
    Our disposable income is Nil, zero, nothing, s*d all – so savings of any kind are nothing more than a pipe dream.

    Remind me again how rich I am?

  82. wisematriarch

    Why are we so bloody miserable?
    We are treated like children. A million petty laws restrict and confine us. We can’t drive here without paying; we can’t park there – at all; cameras follow and spy on us wherever we go; we mustn’t live on our own land; we can’t change the style of our windows without permission, the list is endless. And for people who are actually children – we can’t get together outdoors without adults getting annoyed/afraid; we can’t wear certain garments without being assumed we have criminal intent; we mustn’t play loudly, or with a ball in certain places. How can we be happy when we are not free?

  83. Abigail

    To me, the problem is a micro-managing government, which cannot allow professionals like teachers to act in their clients’ interests, which has a Play policy, forsooth, which makes nursery workers write everything they do down, so that they cannot actually do their jobs they are so busy writing, which will not allow citizens to live their lives. For every problem, the solution must be Government Action!

    The British character is summed up with the phrase “Do not tell me what to do” very closely followed by “Do not F***ing tell me what to do”.
    We hate you!!

    No, you weren’t telling people to cheer up; but surely you realise we cannot be happy, and also controlled by New Labour.

  84. JD

    Why are we miserable?

    In addition to the excellent comments posted above, I feel miserable because, post-war capitalism gave an an illusion of prosperity and freedom. This now appears to be culminating in a regression to the Enclosure Acts where our liberty is curtailed by the growing grip corporations have on goverments across the globe and subsequently me. Our freedom is in fast decline and the sheep-like public are more than happy to give away every ounce of freedom they have as they are sold ever more tyrannical and intrusive legislation that promote fear. Gated communities, war on terror, the oil shortgae blah blah blah. In my case constant accountability (as I work in education) over matters really out of my control. If I don’t get results then we will be turned into an academy and I answer to the coporation which is only concerned with profit. If the government does not back industry then funding is put into another economy. All social inequality can be solved by manegerial responses and climate change solved by techn-centric solutions. Money money money Nuclear power now that the solution to a greener more sustainable for our planet is it not? Constant messages of “you will be happier with the latest bit of technology” driving us into a fickle and throw away society – in the name of profit. Mortgage rates, interest rates, inflation, fuel prices are these the man-made non-figurative staples of capitalism that control our lives? I am not advocating another political ideology just the things that make me miserable. My solution is to sell my home that hopefully will not enter negative enter, grow a beard and move to a hot climate where I can grow my own food and education my children and avoid the propaganda that we are constantly bombarded with. Nice one Eddie, I’m off fpr a pint. JD.

  85. Elijay

    Genes have a lot to do with it. I was born with a positive personality and I’m usually very happy. Luckily for me I’ve nothing much to worry about. I’m healthy and I’ve enough money to get by. When negative thoughts invade my brain I just give myself a good talking to.

    My older sister is very different. She’s miserable and has been for as long as I can remember. She believes that a state of happiness can be achieved with a quick consumerist ‘pleasure’ fix.

  86. Nick Slater

    I can’t aford to go to af ootball game, international cricket match or gig very often. Could have done in the seventies and eighties, relatively afordable then. You don’t know what it’s like mate. New Labour my arse.

  87. NickS

    Have one for me JD, good post.

  88. These are the days of the open hand
    They will not be the last
    Look around now
    These are the days of the beggars and the choosers

    This is the year of the hungry man
    Whose place is in the past
    Hand in hand with ignorance
    And legitimate excuses

    The rich declare themselves poor
    And most of us are not sure
    If we have too much
    But we’ll take our chances
    Because god’s stopped keeping score
    I guess somewhere along the way
    He must have let us alt out to play
    Turned his back and all god’s children
    Crept out the back door

    And it’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate
    Hanging on to hope
    When there is no hope to speak of
    And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late
    Well maybe we should all be praying for time

    These are the days of the empty hand
    Oh you hold on to what you can
    And charity is a coat you wear twice a year

    This is the year of the guilty man
    Your television takes a stand
    And you find that what was over there is over here

    So you scream from behind your door
    Say “what’s mine is mine and not yours”
    I may have too much but i’ll take my chances
    Because god’s stopped keeping score
    And you cling to the things they sold you
    Did you cover your eyes when they told you

    That he can’t come back
    Beacuse he has no children to come back for

    It’s hard to love there’s so much to hate
    Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of
    And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late
    So maybe we should all be praying for time

    (“Praying for Time” Written and recorded by George Michael)

  89. John Jackson

    In a nutshell, we have had a 10-year consumerist binge based upon cheap imported goods, cheap imported labour and cheap imported credit. The binge is coming to an end and we are now left with the hang-over.

  90. Phil

    Tom, I think I would be happier if I had a say in where my road tax is spent. I understand that most of it is not spent on roads and transport.
    I think we are unhappy because we have lost control of issues that affect us. Material goods, TV, drinking to excess and religion distract us from society. I think we are alienated in a system we have no control and labour ceaselessly to survive in an endless cycle of meaningless activity.
    It would make me happy to see a form of Direct Government where we can vote on issues such as the Treaty of Lisbon, how much we will spend on the NHS this year or Defence or Transport.

  91. alan taylor

    This self-satisfied MP wonders why so many people these days are unhappy. Was he brought up in a home large enough for his family to sit at a table and eat together? Were he and his father both able to earn a family wage in return for pursuing a good education and career? Did he live in a community where other families with children could afford to live and play? I expect so. Nowadays the working and middle classes can expect to own all sorts of luxury goods thanks to our relatively high disposable incomes. But that’s nothing to smile about when you’re working yourself half to death to house your children in a rented hovel more befitting a nineteenth century miner than a modern family. But perhaps that miner and I aren’t so different. He worked himself, perhaps literally, to death in order to line the pockets of a privileged class. But where do the lines of division between have and have not lie in Britain today? Whose pockets am I lining in return for my rent? It’s nothing to do with class, education, location or even occupation (save for the obvious city bankers, lawyers and so on). In an age where young middle class families are renting the second homes of their parents’ generation, not to mention paying taxes for pensions we can only dream of, I’m forced to conclude that we are getting a rough deal. The family homes of our youth are silent save for when the grandchildren come over just for a taste of what it’s like to play in a garden or eat a meal at the table. But forget about playing in the street. No, it’s not that we’re paranoid our children won’t be safe. It’s just that there are no other children living there for them to play with. And another thing, we aren’t living longer – you are! This current generation of young adults is the first to see a drop in life expectancy. So what should we do? Personally I’m tempted to move anywhere I can afford to house my family and live in peace, so that’ll be a long way from here. I’ll take my Ivy League degree, my professional qualifications, my socially responsible job and my family somewhere they’ll be appreciated. Good luck with the economy. So long and thanks for all the processed fish.

    Alan Taylor

  92. Steve Knowlson

    Tom,

    I know why I’m so bloody miserable – I’ve got to use the execrable First Great Western to get to work.

    As Rail Minister you foisted this dreadful lot on us and you refuse to take them to task over their repeated breaches of their franchise.

    How about spreading a bit of happiness and relieving us poor West country commuters of FGW?

    No? Thought not.

    Therefore I can only conclude that the reason why I am so bloody miserable is because of Tom Harris, MP.

  93. Molly

    This is such an important debate – so many people feel empty and sad so much of the time. It’s clear we are an unhappy society – and there are of course many different reasons for this. I work in the media – in tv and radio news- and I find myself mentally exhausted by the information that is thrown at me 24 hours a day. I feel really depressed by the pointlessness of so much of it – of the constant fear mongering and hysteria perpetuated by all the newspapers and the BBC. John Humphreys’ comment about ‘crisis what crisis’ was so juvenile, I couldn’t believe it. I sought this blog out because the facile nature of the way it was presented on Today made me want to find out more. So many journalists are cynical and totally out of touch with ordinary people – they can’t belive that most people are good, help their neighbours and want to get by with joy and pleasure in their life. And I would wholeheartedly agree with all the comments here about government interference. The comment from Dan about being happy when we are free is on the nail. MR Harris, I am sure you will read these comments. Can’t you use your influence to fight against these state intrusions into our private joys and pleasures?

  94. Firstly, what a good question to have asked! I do believe that we were happier in the 50s and 60s than now – and I believe that this is due to the comparative differences between ‘externally imposed pressures’ then and now. Modern governments seem to be increasingly intent on ‘demanding’ from people, rather than bringing the people with them. This is commonly seen at the point of interaction between governments (and their authorities) and their electorate. Demanding, rather like may happen when this is done by a child, leads only to a change in state from the open viewpoint to the closed and negative. In terms of governmental interaction with its electorate this might be imagined as a friction generating ‘heat’. To illustrate the point I should like to select just one aspect of modern life (it could be almost any aspect today) and explore the notion of governments either directly generating, or allowing their authorities to generate, heat. I’ve selected car parks as a typical example – but sadly, as said, it could have been almost anything.

    In days of yesteryear council car parks were often free. This generated a good feeling (and if you want a happy electorate then this is how it should be) but it probably wasn’t such a good plan good in terms of the cost to the ratepayer. So charging for car parks became the way forward. So far so good. But now, we’ve moved from free car parks to ones that have signs legally forbidding the passing of an unexpired ticket to another motorist. The space has already been paid for until a given time and no proportional refund is offered in return for an unexpired ticket, so why not give the ticket to someone else? It’s an act that used to be met with delight from the recipient and, and this is the whole point – it generated happiness. It was good to give, and you felt pleased to receive. Everyone won – even the council since they’d already been paid for the place. Another example – still with car parks – is that fact that many councils now purchase ticket machines that don’t give change or don’t even extend the time within their permitted times bands to reflect what money has been paid in. This means that people feel cheated, pressured into having the correct money (or lose the difference), and what’s achieved? Just more small pressures on people, more heat. Why not insist that all car park machines must provide a ticket timed to be proportional to the money paid in (within their permitted maximums) – or must give change, or the option? It would be a breeze for modern equipment to achieve this. And then there’s height restrictions on car parks. These became popular to keep out caravans and other people intending to park overnight – but in a stroke made life impossible for people with vans or other legitimate means of transport such as motor caravans etc that were taller than the norm. To stop the few – the many have been allowed to be inconvenienced – because of the few! This is a re-occurring theme in modern governmental thinking and contributes greatly to the generation of heat. The perception is (at least amongst the law abiding many with taller vehicles) that the easy option has been taken once again and the many have been inconvenienced to avoid dealing with those few. So, the simple ‘car park’ serves, I hope, to make my point. Other examples might include the fact that we used to talk regularly to the local bobby as they walked around the town. We knew their names and even perhaps, where they were going on holiday. Now many people will meet them for the first time as the blue lights flash through their rear windows. Not a good way to meet ‘friends’ for the first time and yet more heat is generated. Or perhaps the fact that modern governments allow adverts to go out on television that threaten the populace that unless they’ve paid their TV licences or their road tax that someone unpleasant will be knocking on their door – but ignore the fact that the populace is sufficiently intelligent to know that they can only appear on the database if they HAVE paid road tax or their TV licence sometime in the past! The implication is once again clear that the ones to be targeted are actually the forgetful rather than those that have never paid any such bills and never intended to. Once again, soft targets, and perceived as a threat against the law abiding many rather than the few that never intended to contribute. This sort of list is unfortunately endless today. Let’s not even explore the perception of one law for one etc with regard to perceived or real government collusion with the violation of what were thought to be inviolate rights over Guantanamo Bay. What is needed now is a sea change in government thinking. A return to fairness, openness, a strong support for personal rights and a deliberate and positive move to ensure that the happiness factor is seen as the means to halt the frictions driving society apart – not just something getting in the way of extracting more money, more quickly and for less service. So, insist that your administrators ensure car parks have fair ticket machines offering fair charges; that the height barriers are removed to give access to the many and that the few flaunting the newly placed pleasantly and inclusively worded directions on intended use are removed and dealt with promptly, and the pleasure of handing your car park ticket to a grateful and plucky car driving pensioner is restored. But then, this is not just about car parks is it. Four legs good! Oh, did I say how good it was to be asked? Thank you.

  95. I’m not miserable as I feel I could not afford to be.

    So people as miserable because there is a hike in petrol costs or the beer has gone up, but lets look at this in a different light. I have adopted this mindset to survive the world economy crisis “yes world economy crisis” some people would have you believe that this is all down to New Labour but the reality is IT’S NOT…..anyway back to my survival mindset instead of using the car to visit the park with the kids I walk to the park with the kids “more quality time with my children due to petrol cost, you can’t put a price on that”. Exercise is now free of charge no need to be a gerbil on a treadmill just get out and walk “another saving no gym costs”. I am meeting my neighbours more often now as they are taking the same mindset alas community spirit in on the increase.

    It is all to easy to blame someone else for the state of affairs but look in the mirror and honestly ask yourself do you really need that expensive gadget that will end up in a drawer and sold at a car boot sale?

    Let’s wake up from the marketing nightmare and take steps towards the new you. If you value your worth then you will take life one day at a time and put into that day what you want for tomorrow. In bleak economic times we need to stand by our government and support them rather than listen to the hecklers who try to score points without any possibility of giving a solution.

    We should also remember that we are all citizens of the world and we are in a much better shape than many of our fellow citizens.

    So stop being miserable and get involved………..

  96. One word answer: Iraq. We have destabilised the world. How can I feel happy? I feel guilty and bad that it happened on my watch, that it is my generation who have allowed this to happen. We all feel guilty. You’re the MP. Do something about it.

  97. patrick

    This is an easy line for a representative of a highly subsidised populace to take. I would not be miserable if I had no topped-up tuition fee laden student loan to pay, somethig that Scots graduates in Mr Harris’ constituency benefit from. I may even be able to purchase one of these high definition TVs that are apparently flying off the shelves.

    Further, if I was able to vote in Parliament for motions like tuition and top up fees, notwithstanding that they will never affect my constituents, and so are really none of my business, I may feel a little more chipper than the hundreds of thousand of of graduates and their families across england and wales who have been so burdened.

    And if I voted for a war in Iraq that killed other people in other countries, innocent and ordinary people like my own constituents, with no danger to me or my own constituents, if I was that removed from the consequences of my own actions, I might feel more optimistic about my place in the world than the million people who marched on London to point out that killing those people might be a bad idea.

    If I could claim a new fitted kitchen on expenses, or even treat myself to a £300 rug from a public purse to which scotland makes a net debit from every year and then vote against (or not even turn up to debate) motions proposing a transparent parliament that would open my recouperable bouts of spendthiftery to the scrutiny of the people who pay for it, rather than having to pay for things beyond my means or credit cards like everyone else, I’d fell pretty good.

    And I’d struggle think, from my paid-for second residence in the heart of one of the most expensive places to live on earth, why anyone else would feel any different.

    But out here, in this very real, very expensive, very unstable world, I feel miserable. And not without good cause.

    “Gnothi Seauton” – Juvenal

  98. Auntie Flo'

    So, Mr Harris, you think it’s a bit of a laugh, eh, to sit there – on your £92k pa salary, £156k tax free expenses and gold plated pension – and take the rise out of us, the workers, the ones on the sharp end of the recession?

    Why are Britons so bloody miserable?

    Because of MPs like you who treat us out here with contempt.

    And because we are sick of being:

    Over taxed

    Over regulated

    Over controlled

    Over crowded

    Over scrutinised and watched everywhere we go

    Our civil liberties eroded

    UK ‘black listed’ by privacy International

    UK a surveillance state

    Run by a corrupt, unaccountable elite in Brussels

    Our elected parliament a rubber stamp of the unelected EC

    EC’s accounts not signed off by auditor in 12 years

    People of UK tricked by EU ‘trading agreement

    Then dragged, screaming, into a remote,Federal EU

    Far too many MEPs & MPs defrauding the public purse

    England refused a referendum & parliament

    Unaccountable quangoes

    Prices through the roof

    Shafted at the petrol pump

    Rule of law and social values breaking down

    Social cohesion ditto

    Our democracy eroded

    Endemic debt – individual and public

    Millions against illegal invasion of Iraq – ignored

    100,000s killed or maimed in Iraq for nothing

    Government lies – e.g. 10% tax band, 45 minutes & WMDs

    New Labour’s hegemonic political correctness

    England’s NHS almost bankrupt

    While England subsidises Scotland’s NHS

    England’s cancer patients denied treatment that’s routinely given in Scotland

    Shrinking pension entitlement

    Increasing violence and drunken disorder

    Criminals set free, prisons like holiday camps

    Sentencing a disproportionate joke, prisons full

    Bureaucratisation damages our police force

    Your ‘joke’: why are Britons so bl**dy miserable?

    It’s like Sunny Jim all over again:

    Crisis, what crisis?

  99. Dave Leighton

    Why has my previous (polite) message been censored?

    Dave

  100. Auntie Flo'

    Hang down your head, Tom Harris
    Hang down your head and cry
    Hang down your head, Tom Harris
    How dare you ask us why!

  101. I think you’re absolutely right about this Tom.

    To hear my father, who lived through the winter of discontent, complaining of new Labour running the country down, leaves me absolutely stumped.

  102. Alan

    IS THIS A SERIOUS QUESTION OR ARE YOU HAVING A LAUGH…. if it serious then heres my response

    Firstly id like to say thank you very much for opening this topic Thank You and in way if this wonderful government took message from this then they should realise that indeed people would be a lot happier if they were not forced into things by a PM so blind and deaf to the nation that if one day he woke up in real world and listened then people would maybe start to feel better now the question I’m stuck on is were to begin

    OK I’m going to try keep things as short as possible

    first The country now has a PM that’s word means nothing and lies so often he no longer realises the truth if it took baseball bat to his head and hit him

    ( this treaty for example oh we have referendum let everyone have there say and if one country says no it thrown out erm thought Ireland said no now he trying to find back door and forgets his word)

    2 why do fuel go up then as basically they budgeted for a set amount fuel price but as barrel price gone up government getting billions it didn’t expect but instead of reducing it as is logical turn round say it not my fault EU say we mustn’t reduce it as wouldn’t be good for environment (not wanting to swear to much here but that total f****** b******) if that true well all of EU fuel should be increased to our level and excuse me for pointing this out if labour is meant to be the UK’s government why arnt the governing and why is some ponce in another country laying down the laws (if you cant run the country do us all a favour and just quit because if you cant do the job you employed for then you no dam good to the country and to use Alan Sugars line YOU ARE FIRED )

    3 this a classic please all bear with me and i hope this offends no one if it do I’m truly sorry but i hope you all see the point
    single parent family 2 kids the youngest a boy has been systematical bullied beaten robbed assaulted over a two year period the house has been stoned egged dog pooh thrown at by a group of lads between ages of 10 and 18years old police been brilliant they have actually done nothing at all and have been called so many times I’m surprised BT haven’t put in an extension to the house one example two youths 18 year old 17 year old punched 10 year old of his bike stole it police called and response was we will send someone in next three or four days to take statement (death threats issued if you get police involved we will kill you) OK i not going to list the rest but i hope you get the plot OK …. there’s around 13 to 15 kids in this gang OK picking on what was a 10 year old but nows a 12 year old and it still going on
    ……… Now for the point of this This wonderful police department has website like all big police stations on this site OK …. Police has this week launched a new hate crime helpline in a bid to encourage victims to come forward.Hate crime is generally under reported because victims fear that they will not be taken seriously or treated sympathetically.
    Community Cohesion Officer said: “Hate crime can have a devastating effect on the quality of life of its victims and those who fear becoming victims. An incident that might normally have a minor impact can become an intimate and hurtful attack that is likely to undermine the victim’s quality of life.”

    In short rambles on and on saying they don’t tolerate it and they take everything serious and will sort it sounds really good and impressive so far don’t it but there is a catch

    for this team to respond take it serious get out there sort things out unfortunately you have to i quote from the site……….

    any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person:
    any incident which is perceived to be motivated because of a person’s religion or perceived religion by the victim or any other person;
    any incident which is perceived to be motivated because of a person;s sexual orientation by the victim or any other person;
    any incident which is perceived to be motivated because of a person’s disability or perceived disability by the victim or any other person;
    any incident which is perceived to be motivated because a person is trans gender or perceived to be trans gender by the victim or any other person.

    IS THIS NOT RACISUM SEXISUM ETC JUST THE SAME WHY IS IT OK FOR THIS TO HAPPEN TO A FAMILY NOT OF A MINORITY GROUP IS IT THIS FAMILYS FAULT THAT THEY NOT OF MINORITY HENCE IT OK TO ASSULT STEAL THREATEN BEAT BULLY WHY IS IT THIS GOVERMENT WONT COME CLEAN AND TAKE THEMSELVES TO COURT AND BE CHARGED WITH RACISIUM WHY IS THIS POLICE STATION NOT CHARGED WITH THE SAME AND THEN SOME OVER PAID POLITITION THAT CLEARLY NOT DOING THE JOB THEY OVER PAID FOR ASKS DAM STUPID QUESTION WHY ARNT WE HAPPY WELL THE ANSWER IS THIS COUNTRY IS RUN BY A LOAD OF BLIND HYPACRITES WHO MAKE AND BREAK RULES AT DROP OF THERE OWN HAT AND DONT DO DAM THING TO RITE WRONGS IF YOU WANT ME TO BE HAPPY AND YOU WANT MY VOTE THEN LISTEN AND RESPOND OK NOT JUST DO AS YOU SEEM TO ALLWAYS JUST HUMM THAT HARD QUESTION TO ANSWER WE WILL IGNORE IT HOPE IT GO AWAY BIT LIKE THE POLICE SEEM TO AND LABOUR SEEMS TO AT EVERY OTHER PROBLEM THEY REALY HAVE HAD EXCEPT GIVING THEMSELVES PAY RISES AND LARGE EXPENCE ACCOUNTS

    ok im going to leave it there for now and see if i do get responce i wont hold my breath though thank you for this opertunity you want details contact me ill give you full details

  103. Nick D

    You’re right, we are a miserable bunch. We’ve lost our joie de vivre.

    I moved to Seattle from Manchester two years ago and I must say that the locals here are a lot happier generally. In fact, I’ve married a local girl and have taken her to visit the UK a couple of times now – she enjoys it, but has noticed that everyone seems miserable.

    I must admit that she first mentioned it when we were in a service station off the M6, so probably not the most enjoyable place to be, but it’s definitely noticeable wherever you go.

    I can’t put it down to consumerism, the US has got to be more consumeristic. Not only that, but also the gap between the rich and the poor is undoubtedly greater here. I can’t put it down to Iraq or politics in general, Seattle is definitely as unhappy about the policies of President Bush as the UK, probably more-so, as we’ve got to put up with his domestic policies too.

    People do seem to be stuck in a rut. There is a sense of hopelessness, that there’s nothing you as an individual can do to make things better. I used to work with people who’d complain about their jobs every day, but would never look for a new job. I’m pretty sure the job market wasn’t that bad at the time.

    I also think that the British malaise is catching – iyou work or live with people who are miserable, then you’re likely to become miserable yourself. On the plus side, if you work or live with happy people, you’re much more likely to be happy, so it can be overcome.

    I don’t really have an answer for “why? though. Looking at the comments, the miserable people complaining don’t even have much to complain about in the grand scheme of things. Over 40 million people in the US don’t have health insurance, for example. Petrol in the US may be cheaper than the UK, but it has increased in cost at a much quicker rate than in the UK. Also, you have to remember that the US is a big place – the average commute is more than double the UK’s average commute and there’s not a lot of public transport to use instead.

    So, perhaps the British people have lost their sense of perspective. Everybody is doing okay, there’s no “well, at least we’ve better than those people”. I suggest you compulsory send the entire population of the UK to various different countries around the world to live for a year, to see if they want to come back. I bet nearly all will, with a renewed sense of optimism. Just don’t send them to Seattle, I left to avoid that bunch of miserable whiners!

  104. Paul Birch

    Repeating what so many have said, our misery is nothing to do with our wealth. I’m a miserable GP because of the incompetence of the Department Of Health and the imposition of a target driven health care system, but these targets are not measuring good health care delivery to patients; rather they are measuring good use of inadequate resources. This makes it more and more difficult for me to give treatment based on individual need. In other words I cannot do my job properly. Since I spend most of my life working this makes me miserable.

  105. Hi tom, you raise some interesting questions, I’ll try to answer them honestly from my point of view.

    “So where did it all go wrong?”
    Times + values changed. We’ve had a lot of time to change, Watergate was 1972 for starters.

    “So why is everyone so bloody miserable?”
    Everyone isn’t, but a large chunk are. Entertainment, security, cars etc don’t bring long term happiness, really just a distraction.
    So why are people miserable?
    – House prices + instability.
    – Loosing 71% of the week to 9-5 + as you have to pay off the house, loosing that for 30 years.
    – Fuel prices with no real choice but to pay it. Please fund electric cars, but of course that won’t happen as it’s against the market.
    – NHS double standards. Maybe funding NHS research into drugs will save having to pay so much for them?
    – No real choice in our 5 yearly election + then implemented by the same people behind the scenes.
    – Lying to get elected. Shouldn’t manifesto pledges actually be legally binding?
    – Lying MPs. Written to my MP before + was able to count the lies in the reply.
    – No idea how taxes are spent. A website to break it down would be very nice.
    – How taxes are spent. Hear the one about unnecessary military spending whilst ignoring things that would keep troops safer.
    – ID cards without being able to secure data.
    – Increased knowledge + increased stupidity.
    – Unnecessary wars? Ok maybe it was needed, hate to think what our relationship with America would be if we hadn’t have agreed.
    – Unknown laws passed that make large chunks of society criminals. Also known laws that make large chunks of society criminals i.e. speeding.
    – Selective enforcement of laws + police targets rather then letting them do their job.
    – No say
    I could keep on going, but there’s enough lists of what’s wrong.

    “Are our crippling levels of cynicism and pessimism simply part of the human condition?”
    Yes, but they can be overcame.

    “Were we always like this?”
    To some point yes, through nature vs nurture, if people are kept given reasons to be cynical they will do.

    “Or is a consequence of the “instant gratification society” that, having been instantly gratified, we must resent the society that manipulates our desires in this way?”
    Not sure the consequence of the “instant gratification society” has to be manipulation of desires, yes it happens, but not always. Also not everybody resents it, through personally not a fan of the manipulation.

    “But what happened to that post-war optimism”
    War happened to post-war optimism.

    “and commitment to common values?”
    On values we have so many value systems available to us, its more a case of choosing your set of values. Through what do we define as common values? Do we take the unelected legal system to be our values? The churches values?

    “Are they gone forever and if so, why?”
    Pretty much. Why? Too many other value systems.

    “If not, how can we bring them back?”
    Can only think of 2 ways
    Another world war
    or
    Lead from the top, let the media do its thing, it will regardless. We see members of parliament lying, misleading, heckling, sniping, back stabbing and twisting words to name just a few. Want morals? Start with the people who run the country.

    Endnote: I’m a 24 year graduate programmer and have been fascinated by politics for years. Sorry for all the awful spelling and grammar. Good luck

  106. The problem is summed up in five words:

    “No such thing as society”

    To have a society you need to feel both a sense of belonging, and a sense that you are having your say in what goes on, even if at only a local level.

    What many of the excellent blogs above have said points in this direction.

    One of the constant gripes by both parties, and the right-wing media, is the fact that there are more people on “the sick” than there are unemployed:

    http://cep.lse.ac.uk/textonly/research/mentalhealth/DEPRESSION_REPORT_LAYARD2.pdf

    David Smail explains the reasons for this at:

    http://www.davidsmail.freeuk.com/talk01a.htm

  107. Bob

    For an elightened analysis take a look at the book ‘Affluenza’ by Oliver James

    I named it the “affluenza virus” and its symptoms are characterised by the placing of a high value on money, possessions, appearances (physical and social) and fame.

    It results in an obsessive, envious keeping-up-with-the-Joneses state of mind that increases our vulnerability to emotional disorders, and is responsible for rising levels of depression, addiction, violence and anxiety in the developed world.

    How to tell if you have affluenza

    Do you agree with any of the following statements?

    – I would like to be a very wealthy person.
    – I want luxury in my life.
    – I often compare what I own with what others own.
    – Shopping or thinking about what to buy preoccupies me greatly.
    – I’m less concerned with what work I do than what I get for it.
    – I admire people who own expensive homes, cars and clothes.
    – My life would be better if I owned certain things that I don’t have now.
    – The things I own are an indication of how well I’m doing.
    – I like to keep up with fashions in hair and clothing.
    – I would like to hide signs of ageing.
    – I would like to have people comment on how attractive I look.
    – Possessions can be just as important as people.
    – If a friend isn’t of use to me, personally or professionally, I usually end the friendship.
    – I would like my name to be known by many people.
    – I would like to be admired by many people.
    – I would like my name to appear frequently in the media.

    Diagnosis

    If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, then you have, like most people in the English-speaking world, contracted the virus. The more you answered “yes”, the more infected you are and the greater your likelihood of becoming emotionally distressed.

    The decisions concern matters unconnected with your core, true needs, leaving you with the feeling that you are an actor in a play rather than living a real life. Sounds familiar?

  108. Keith Lindsay-Cameron

    Posted on the Guardian today.

    http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/news/2008/06/are_you_happy_today.html

    I’m 57 years old and for the first time in my life I am two months behind with the rent, I am unable to pay my gas or electric bills, my car has been off the road for six months because I cannot not afford a service and MOT, I am also disabled and my car is my life line. I have lived comfortably on the same income for twelve years, but this year has reduced me to not knowing where to turn or how to pay the next bill.

    Tom Harris obviously does not live in the same country as me or even on the same planet, has probably never suffered a debilitating illness and certainly never experienced the planet Earth as a real place where real people live out their daily lives.

    The transport minister is clearly a party toad with not one independent cell in his body. The chutzpah and ethical decrepitude it takes to remain a member of the Labour party today, let alone a member of parliament, is simply staggering.

    I am at my wits end, does that mean anything to Tom Harris? I am, to the best of my knowledge, a real person, born and raised in England with a career in public service behind me, experiencing the very real terror of poverty overwhelming me with not one thing I can do to change it as far as I can see.

    I have never in my life felt so lost alone and afraid, ‘never had it so good’, I have never had it so bad.

    I am, as they say these days, fucked, and to hear this mealy mouthed polit-speak yet again from from a member of the party that should be facing Nuremberg trials for its dispicable action in Iraq is the most disgusting, despicable and personally violating experience.

    Words fail me, but then Tom Harris would probably see that as apathy. Modern politicians always blame those they fail and in the same breath wonder why the country is falling apart.

    This country, my country, MY COUNTRY, Tom Harris, is falling apart precisely because people like you still exist and hold positions of power for which you remain entirely unaccountable. People like you make my position a hundred times worse than it already is because you are so ludicrously, ridiculously and unutterably blind.

  109. AndyB

    I’ll tell you why we’re so miserable; this is no longer a particularly pleasant place to live.

    We have, in no particular order;

    – A crippling level of personal tax.
    – The prospect of ID cards.
    – The prospect of a DNA database.
    – A country riddled with what are laughingly called “safety cameras” but are actually valuable revenue earners for the local constabulary.
    – A national health service that has swallowed enormous amounts of money and is still riddled with problems.
    – A power-generation system whose fuel supply is effectively controlled by a country that is now run by what used to be the KGB.
    – Illegal wars that we can’t afford.
    – the erosion of an ancient right not to be held without charge for an unreasonable length of time. 28 days is already unreasonable, 42 days is sickening. What makes it worse is that the reason given is effectively that the government is not prepared to pay for enough police officers to get the job done any quicker.
    – A government that thinks it’s always right

    What we’re going to end up with eventually is an analogue of East Germany, complete with a fully integrated police state. At the first sign of a serious crime, the police will arrest everyone who has a matching DNA signature and work out what to do with them at their leisure.

    Would I emigrate, if I could? Yep. Where to? Almost anywhere is better than here. And, as a member of the governing party, you ought to take some responsibility for the state we’re in.

  110. You are right! Finally it is beginning to dawn on people that more and more material ‘things’ will never make us happy. Neither is it any Governments’ responsibility to make us happy. Nor could they, even if they wanted to. Happiness is an inner attitude that we need to cultivate. And it begins by appreciating what we already have.

    I have just returned from a trip to Nepal and India and if most people in the West could see first-hand how the other half live, we’d stop moaning and be very grateful for what we have and be more wiling to extend a hand of friendship and support to others.

    It is our inner world that makes us happy. It is our ability to develop a rich inner experience for ourselves, to face ourselves, and to stop seeking things outside of ourselves to fulfil us. It is our ability to find fulfillment within ourselves and to take responsibility for our own personal development, that brings inner peace, if not ‘happiness’.

    We really are very, very well off.. and our constant egoistic search for ‘more’, bigger, better, is largely responsible for the state the planet is in at present.

    We should never be content easily, that would lead us to stop developing and growing, but our search for improvement should be on the inner plane, not the materialistic one.

    I was so relieved, on one level, to return to the lap of luxury that we live in, in the UK. To be able to go to a tap and drink water, knowing it is safe. And at the same time it struck me how most people don’t view it as such. We live like kings and queens and yet moaning has almost become a national sport. People in the world are dying for lack of water and we moan if we have to wait 10 minutes in a queue for petrol. We are like spoilt children.

    We are too used to having are own way and we are addicted to our misery. I cannot believe the violence, aggression and misery that is put out nightly on TV. No I’m not talking about violent movies, I’m talking about Eastenders and Coronation Street. The language is violent, aggressive and miserable. Every scene goes from moan, to moan. The characters ignore all the good things they have (jobs, money, comfortable homes, friends) and just whine, moan, bitch and complain at each other. And a generation of viewers copy the habit.

    People are not learning appreciation for all that is wonderful in this country and all the many, many things we have to be grateful for. Fresh, clean drinking water comes out of my tap every day. I have a wonderful clean, warm, bed to sleep in every night, which I get all to myself. And I have never missed a meal, let alone had to go a day hungry. And if I am sick there is a wonderful health service waiting to support me.

    Thank you for having the courage to speak up with some well-needed common sense at a time when the world has gone mad.

    Thank you.

  111. Stephen Mallon

    From someone who represents the people from southside area of Glasgow, I find your comment,s hard to take. The credit squeeze as you call it, has had an impact on every household in the country.The rising cost of fuel,gas,electricity for the greed of the establishment or goverment coffers if you like. There is no justification for the price hike in these essential commodities that every household needs to keep going from day to day.

  112. Leon

    I am amazed at the number of contributors that will happily blame all their ‘ills’ on anyone or anything else, with an indignant vociferousness that say far more about *them* than it does about the points you have raised in this blog!
    Some people seem to think that life owes them something, and that if it is not instantly available then they pout and sulk like School Children. Sad really!

  113. James West

    Hello Mr Harris

    I heard you on Radio Scotland yesterday and was intrigued enough to look this up. First of all I do not share your politics – but I’ll try not to make this party political. Secondly congratulations for raising it – I think it’s the difficult questions that help our understanding of each other, and too many people avoid asking them because it’s easier.

    I have read maybe a third of the comments above and the one highlighting the car parking issues was a very good one. Continuing on that theme there has been a gradual breakdown of the social lubricant in society – meaning many interactions now grate and cause friction rather than being pleasant. Shopping has never really been that pleasant an experience for me, but as shops have become ever more innovative at liberating our money, people’s suspicions have grown. Instead of bringing pleasure a big purchase brings so many anxieties- “Could I have got it cheaper online?” “He really tried to rip me off with that extended warranty- but what happens if it breaks down?”

    Where this is perhaps most obvious is in suspicions across the generations. As a child I used to see my Granny 2-3 times a week. I spent a lot of time with older people. My children see their Granny maybe once a month. They spend very little time with older people. This has widened the gulf until generations simply have lost contact and have about as much trust in each other as in aliens newly disembarked from a space ship.

    Bringing all this into focus is the baby boomer generation they – (and I am one myself, being at the tail end of the baby boom) have been indulged and pampered in a way that has totally distorted the entire fabric of our society. They were much wanted and loved by a generation who had come through the war. They got new schools, colleges and facilities as they were growing up. They got better health care and nutrition than those that had come before. They got grants to go to university. They had new and exciting career opportunities such as IT consultants. They built up big final salary pension pots. Then after they had scaled these giddy heights they pulled up the ladder behind them. They withdrew grants. They withdrew final pension schemes. They borrowed both nationally and individually to fund a lifestyle none of us can afford to maintain. And they did it on debt, debt which will have to be repaid by the younger generation. As they retire they will agitate for more pension rights. Because there are so many of them they will get them as well – yet it is their children and grand-children who will have to fund that. Because of the breakdown between the generations I mentioned earlier, they don’t really care. A baby boomer had a good chance of being taken to the football by his father. Yet he is more likely now to be going with his friends whilst his teenage son cannot afford a ticket.

    So simply speaking people are miserable because they do not have hope. In the fifties young people were sure there would be a better future. Now young people are not. All they can see is a long string of liabilities; student loans, unaffordable housing, squeezed job oppotunities, massive national debt, an ageing population to be paid for and looked after. Can you blame them for being battle weary before they start?

  114. Adam Brough

    Post-Imperial depression? Could that be it, that our nation’s history effects our nation’s psychology?
    Could it be that the once powerful and progressive psychology of British Imperialism is finding it hard to accept the the “good old days” have gone?
    Our empire stradling psychology much be feeling pretty cramped by now. I know I certainly think that England feels so claustrophobic to me.
    Perhaps that’s why I live in Spain, and perhaps why I appreciate the feeling of a larger European identity. And also why I work for the “good new days” instead of nostalgically looking back at the “good old days” and wallowing in national self-pity.

  115. Nigel

    The reason that the British ARE miserable now is that for generations Governments (in league with big business) have pursued the aim of wealth above all else, ignoring the ‘happiness’ of their people. There is a fundamental flaw in modern thinking that ignores this basic human need.

    Yes as a society we are wealthier than ever but we are NOT happy. Mrs Thatcher aimed to dismantle ‘society’, opening the free market, promoting the individual, greed and selfishness in the pursuit of wealth. Her philosophy was flawed. We now have far TOO much of everything, yet STILL envy those who have more. … Tv’s, cars, bigger better homes, technology, gadgets, fashion… none of it brings happiness if society is in social meltdown

    Our wealth comes at a massive cost… to the planet, to our environment, to the third world, to those at the bottom of society, and to all of us.

    Once close communities are now in tatters, living in fear, ignorance and distrust of one another. In cities most people don’t know their neighbours, care about the locality they live in or go out after dark.

    Our houses are now commodities not homes!

    Children are losing their childhood .. urged to become mini adults far too soon in preparation for the treadmill of life they are destined for (now well into old age). Many brought up in fear of everything and everybody and tested in ‘target driven’ schools to the Nth degree!

    We constantly have our decision making neutered by Government … Disallowed from making our own choices as grown adults… we can’t smoke, mustn’t drink. We’re too fat, or too thin, not dressed well enough. We’re banned from everything and anything that the dull grey suit brigade may disapprove of, and to top it all off… we’re all now considered prospective criminals under proposed Government legislation!

    Is there any wonder that our youth are despairing and rebelling?

    The culprits The Media, Successive self serving Governments ping-ponged under a corrupt and UN-democratic system……. and finally ourselves …. for being stupid enough to fall for it all and selling out to greed, marketing, spin and selfishness!

    Misery we deserve it!

  116. Jamie

    I think people are miserable with the government because they never listen to anything we say, and treat us like children.

    We say we are against the wars, we don’t think they are just, and we don’t want to fund them. The government goes ahead anyway. Our government seem to just follow the whim of the American government, who appear corrupt and hated across the world. Together you have wasted a fortune, which could have been used to improve quality of life elsewhere.

    This farce about terrorism. We are made to feel literally terrified every moment, and readily give up all our social freedoms in the name of protection. It feels like smoke and mirrors, designed to control our movements. The stupidity of airports, stopping you from taking liquids on board and wasting huge amounts of money, yet they haven’t caught a single terrorist yet. Oh, and did I mention ID cards?

    The whole time the government is keeping secrets from us, trying to make us feel unsafe, lying to us, and removing our social contacts. And for some of us it feels like there is nothing we can do to get you out of government, because of so many idiots voting for parties whose policies have long ceased to represent their interests.

    That’s why we feel miserable.

  117. singlewhitemale

    Why are we miserable? Typical comments from a minister. No surprise. I’m a white working class male born in England, therefore I’m automatically demonised by the media and treated with contempt from the Government. I have no voice.
    I am taxed to the bitter end and feel let down by my own country, so must so that I want to leave. Mr Harris, if you understood just a little of what the people of Britain go through in their daily lives, I would hope that your comments may be a little more sympathetic. But I guess that’s too much to expect from an MP. You, Sir, frankly do NOT represent ME.

  118. Tom, try reading Benjamin Barber’s ‘Consumed’, and you’ll see why consumerism cannot make people happy.

  119. Many have mentioned Iraq can I point out that the Iraq conflict originally started under a conservative government and Labour inherited the American coalition “we should keep these things in mind befor casting our stones”.

    I have noticed that workers in non Union workplaces seem more miserable than workers in workplaces with an active recognised trade union, has anyone else noticed this?

    I would suggest giving back proper rights to the British work force that are set in stone rather than having rights that are open to perception as is the custom comments made by many workplace managers “it’s your perception you are being bullied and harassed”.

    Being miserable is a state of mind and if statistics say that 1 in 5 people suffer from mental ill health then maybe there is a connection. What triggers the mental ill health? Again these issues have been about long before New Labour so just maybe we are seeing the real damage that Margaret Thatcher & John Major’s government created.

    Some definitions of miserable : All words used and developed by the conservative party.

    very unhappy; full of misery; “he felt depressed and miserable”; “a message of hope for suffering humanity”; “wretched prisoners huddled in …
    hapless: deserving or inciting pity; “a hapless victim”; “miserable victims of war”; “the shabby room struck her as extraordinarily pathetic”- Galsworthy; “piteous appeals for help”; “pitiable homeless children”; “a pitiful fate”; “Oh, you poor thing”; “his poor distorted limbs”; “a wretched life”
    abject: of the most contemptible kind; “abject cowardice”; “a low stunt to pull”; “a low-down sneak”; “his miserable treatment of his family”; “You miserable skunk!”; “a scummy rabble”; “a scurvy trick”
    deplorable: of very poor quality or condition; “deplorable housing conditions in the inner city”; “woeful treatment of the accused”; “woeful errors of judgment”
    characterized by physical misery; “a wet miserable weekend”; “spent a wretched night on the floor”
    measly: contemptibly small in amount; “a measly tip”; “the company donated a miserable £100 for flood relief”; “a paltry wage”; “almost depleted his miserable store of dried beans”

    Looks like a conservative manifesto does it not?

  120. Dave Leighton

    Hi Tom,

    It’s also been quite a release to be able to ‘vent my spleen’ on a web site where someone in office may even read it.

    For that, I thank you Tom.

    Dave

  121. Andrew

    Hi Tom,

    You’ve no idea how happy having family Sunday Roasts again has made us.

    Best New Year’s resolution in years!

    All the best,

    Andrew (aka the roast potato king)

  122. themethatisme

    I’m still happy.

  123. Hamish

    I had to smile when I read the media’s “considered” response to your contemplation of perceived misery. Never apply reason when a knee-jerk reaction is available seems to be the mantra and it typifies the low standard of a profession ranked near MPs in the public’s affections.
    Perhaps one of the examples you used is an illustration of the problem as I see it. What sense of achievement is there in buying a plasma television when you haven’t had to save and go without other luxuries to buy it? There may be a feeling of relief that you have enough money in your bank account to pay the credit card bill, but the chances are owning the television accompanies the ownership of more debt. If you fancy a new car, a holiday in the sun etc, you can have it because you don’t need to pay for it straight away. Everyone else is enjoying them, so why can’t you? Would you enjoy it more if it was a long-term goal and you had to make sacrifices to get it? Very probably.
    A study, a few years ago, confirmed the popular appeal of body sizes varied with the health of the economy. In austere times a fuller figure was considered more desirable and in times of plenty, a more diminutive figure was admired, though size zero is perhaps an unattractive extreme of that. This is not necessarily a conscious discrimination, but I draw your attention to the newly-proclaimed “fattest nation”, Australia, which is truly a land of plenty in contemporary, resource-hungry times. I expect size zero will become more desirable there than ever. Having just read an article about the discouragement of Fathers’ Day celebration in Scotland’s schools, I suggest there is considerably more scope for misery than joy amongst our administrators too. Must those children from a traditional two parent family be subdued to prevent offence to those from single parent homes? Can you really condone the notion that if everyone can’t enjoy something then nobody should? I hope not.
    Some years ago, an agreement was reached between the Scottish Football Association and junior football organisers to allow a losing team to add players to their team to even-up the contests. What sort of message does that send to the players on the other team? Winning is to be discouraged, as the odds will be deliberately stacked against you. Even a casual sports enthusiast should consider that simple cheating. What about discouraging the award of gold, silver and bronze, or their equivalents, at school sports, or restricting the participants to three, so even the least able wins a medal? Is the discouragement of aspiration really to be commended? I cannot accept that, yet that is what is occurring across this country. You need merely stand beside any devoted football fan at a match to discover how much he/she/it wants their team to win. Look at the celebrations of Scotland’s achievements against France in qualifying for the European Championships. The English looked on with envy, purely because our team was winning and playing at a level beyond our expectations. Look at the crowds for the English team’s victory in the rugby World Cup or the Ashes. People celebrate achievement and take pleasure in their own. Could it be the socialist aspiration, as represented by the misguided (a generous description) Ed Balls’ recent comments on schools, to seek the lowest common denominator as the standard that has made us miserable? Your party claims it desires excellence for all, yet, despite this illustrating an inability to comprehend the meaning of excellence, the very opposite is created by a barrage of bans.
    It almost echoes through the hills when the Daily Mail is published, “political correctness gone mad”, but, if you objectively consider the implications of that, is likely someone is denied liberty, employment or simple happiness due to someone else craving offence or an excuse for suspicion. We live in a time of suspect thy neighbour, as you lot tell us they might be terrorists, money launderers, paedophiles (is there really one lurking behind every hedge in every park?) etc etc etc and there is a constant requirement to prove your innocence. We also are now reaping the real reward of your administrations reliance of unsustainable borrowing to finance the “economic miracle”, an empty wallet. Yes, heaven knows we’re miserable now, but the austerity we will all have to endure will give some that feeling of achievement when they emerge from the other side. Sadly, others won’t survive. Your government must accept substantial responsibility for that.
    I don’t think your timing was bad in raising this point, I suggest that you have failed to recognise the source of much of the misery lies with your contemporaries and political sympathisers. Increasing debt does not equal increasing wealth, a basic understanding of how GDP is calculalted would confirm that.
    Ask yourself this simple question, why do we resent others’ patriotism? Scotland is not, by nature, extrovert, but it has a tradition of quiet determination and drive, your party should not have tried so hard to undermine that.

  124. Ynda

    I feel this overwhelming sense of being lied to. That’s why I am so depressed. It’s the War on Terror. I don’t know whether 9/11 is an Inside Job or not. What I do know is that there was pre-knowledge of th event, that there has been no scientific explanation for the towers to fall the way they did, no mention of WTC7 (the third tower), no aircraft crash investigations, no serious criminal investigations or prosecutions. All the evidence we have is from what politicians said on the day and what has been extracted by torture.

    Shades of the WitchFinder General. Everything that has happened this decade has been a direct result of Bush’s suspect election and 9/11. And the UK government is 100% behind him. That’s why I am depressed.

  125. Tom, you would have been my MP if I still lived in the UK. So I’m interested in what you have to say.

    People in Britain ARE miserable. The responses in the comments just illustrate the UK’s culture of blame, moaning about taxes, their low wages (Mr Sullivan…).

    It is refreshing though the volume of response you get on your blog, the level of engagement. I live in Australia now, and there is approximately zero interest in politics from the populace. It is close to a taboo subject.

    Keep up the blogging Tom.

  126. Stuart

    Tom Harris, MP asks “Why are we all so miserable?”
    Let me explain, Mr Harris.

    First off, Mr Harris, why did you need to ask? Read the blogs from real people over the last few years – they are full of cynicism and bitterness. Over the last thirty years, young people have become more and more disenchanted with Britain: far too many do not see a future worth having. We have been pretty miserable for a long time, but few in power were (or are) interested. No wonder we are still so miserable.

    Of course, the immediate problem is an economic one: that is enough to make anyone miserable. But there are far more deep-seated problems. Too many people in Britain see our society as unfair, shallow, hypocritical, mechanistic and greedy.

    Far too many people who love Britain and who work hard see less and less point in doing so. Many honestly believe that working hard is a mug’s game because the skyvers are rewarded, and the workers foot the bill. No wonder we are so miserable.

    Many people believe that the law is more interested in dealing with the soft and easy targets than with big crime. When the majority of law-abiding people in Britain regard the national system of law-enforcement as a joke, is it any surprise that we are so miserable?

    If any of us want to do some serious thinking about issues of right and wrong, we are largely on our own – Coronation Street or Eastenders might possibly help, but sadly, religion, politics and the law no longer connect with real people. No wonder we are so miserable.

    If we want to feel safe on the streets of Britain, tough. It ain’t going to happen. Far too many people, young and old, do not feel safe. In 2008, there are actually no-go areas in Britain, just as there were a couple of centuries ago. No wonder we are so miserable.

    In 2008, young people and not-so-young people want to know what the rules are. The bad news is that there aren’t any rules that reflect what we believe about the way we do things in Britain. In Britain we seem to have abandoned them, in case they upset someone. Sadly, the absence of any obvious underlying rules ends up by upsetting everyone. No wonder we are so miserable.

    The vicious slagging-off that goes on in ‘Big Brother’ is described as ‘reality TV’. Is that what real life is all about? Is that why TV is celebrating it? Is that what we should be aiming for? No wonder we are so miserable.

    We are fed the details of the glamorous lives of ‘celebrities’ on TV and in the press. Should we be trying to mimic their lifestyles? The trouble is that if we do, many people discover, too late, that their bank accounts don’t match. No wonder we are so miserable.

    Mr Harris’s question deserves serious thought. The initial response was cheap party political jibes. That sort of knee-jerk political claptrap from MPs is part of the problem. It is their time-honoured way of ensuring that difficult questions are ignored. No wonder we are so miserable.

    Oh yes, and on top of all of that, the one group of British citizens who can vote themselves a massive pay increase (apparently, because they are worth it) are MPs. The rest of us look on with a mixture of disbelief, contempt and anger. No wonder we are so miserable.

    The trouble is that we are not miserable enough.
    Only when we become so miserable that we become seriously angry will change happen.

    Until then, we shall ensure that our children inherit a society in Britain that is characterised by shallowness, greed, hypocrisy and fantasy.

    Perhaps our young people will grow up and be miserable enough and angry enough to do something about it. Come to think of it, perhaps the growing number of knives and guns on the streets of Britain indicates that they already are.

    I hope, Mr Harris that that is an answer to your question. Our question to you, is what are you and your colleagues going to do about it?

  127. Fred Haigh

    3 things …

    1. I remember the latter years of the ’70s – 3 day weeks and power cuts, strikes, afros and Austin Princess’s! People were not happier then, its lazy and inaccurate to compare people’s ‘happinness’ from then to now. Inaccurate as its impossible to measure and lazy because as times goes by ones memories filter out the bad times.
    2. Flat screen TV’s and PS3’s?? I have a flat screen tv but it doesn’t make me happy – don’t be so arrogant as to assume the more ‘stuff’ people have the happier they are. It only demonstrates you yourself believe in the consumerist ideals we’re battered with.
    3. There’s not much a govt can do about Global credit crunches or oil prices and people will become miserable when feeding their children and getting to work becomes more difficult, but people feel more miserable as they feel their own govt is not standing behind them! Announcing big increases in Car Tax, MP’s demanding massive pay increases demonstrate what everyone knows – that we’re administered by greedy, distant, uncaring and hateful professional politicians.

  128. Fred – “don’t be so arrogant as to assume the more ’stuff’ people have the happier they are.”

    Did you actually read my post? My very point is that buying stuff doesn’t make you happy, that even those who are relatively well off seem to have trouble achieving personal contentment.

  129. Joe B

    “it harks back to the innocence of a childhood utopia that probably didn’t actually exist”

    Oh yes?

    I have absolutely no doubt that children today are materially better off than those of my time, who played in bomb sites, endured food rationing, accepted beatings from parents and schoolteachers, slept several to a room, and wore hand-me-down clothing.

    What I also remember distinctly is walking to and from school with my little chums, from the age of four, and playing in the road. The roads in those days were not for vehicles, they were for people. The word “transport” provoked thoughts of railway trains and trolly buses, and perhaps the local grocer’s motor-van if not his horse and cart.

    By contrast, I would suggest that “transport” today typifies the cause of public discontent. By historical standards, your voters can have anything they want but the trouble is, they can’t enjoyably use it.

    Private motor cars, ready meals, colour TV and holidays overseas are not satisfactory rewards for work ethics that, while being visibly more sanitised today, are generally just as demanding — often more so — and far less obviously productive compared with anything of the industrial revolution era, or of the agrarian era that preceded it.

    Equally, governmentally-applied legislation, rules and regulations are no replacement for the naturally developed family and local community ethics that government now attempts to formalise, enforce and replace.

    The problem you allude to would be better addressed, I submit, if professional politicians were to think more of the nation as a large-scale community for which they would accept overall responsibilities in the global context and less as a vast pool of votes that can be bought with promissory trinkets.

  130. Well Mr. Harris from confessionofaclutterbug.blogspot.com I salute you! I don’t necessarily agree with everything you said in this particular post but I respect your guts for raising the issue.

    Whether our parents and grandparents were happier is a worthwhile debate but a seperate one. The debate regarding society’s current happiness, or lack thereof, is however a matter of urgency. A comparison to the life and times of older generations can help fuel this debate but it cannot answer it as we are living in different climes with different issues.

    As many of the other commenters have pointed out we have many reasons to be miserable but surely we have just as many reasons to be happy (some of which you pointed out in your post). So why is the emphasis on the misery? This is my issue. If we were to focus on the positives I believe the negatives would lose their impact. There is a two pronged approach to this shift in emphasis, personal and societal.

    On a personal level individuals should accept who they are and do what they love to do. They should forget about buying into images and keeping up with the Joneses. Shopping for HD TVs and handbags, eating out and holidays are not going to bring long term happiness. Feeling good, grateful, positive and abundant will.

    As a society we should celebrate our successes. Everday, every hour on the hour we have a slot on the radio and tv, we have daily publications and what do we discuss; the hardships of life. I must confess to not reading all the comments on your post but the majority of the ones that I did read had an element of whining to them. But then again here I am moaning about people moaning!

    Wake up and smell the roses people! Life was good in the 60’s & the 70’s and it is still good now. We have our problems – we always had. We should not allow ourselves to be defined by them.

  131. Overtaxed

    The fact that you even need to ask this question says how utterly out of touch you are. Then again, I guess on your wages and expense bill, you couldn’t be anything but out of touch. Try living with us commoners for a few months and see how well you do.

    I run my own business and am finding it more and more difficult to make ends meet due to your party’s incompetence, all my bills are rising but I am unable to pass this rise onto my customers as there is only a certain amount I can charge for my services and this hasn’t changed much since the 1980’s. Also, the rates at which I can claim back mileage costs have not increased along with the price of fuel as you would expect, especially as this amount is supposed to be the minimum cost to business of running a vehicle.

    As a highly skilled person, I have given serious thought to working and living elsewhere just to have a better standard of living and there will come a point where I will have to do this as I will no longer be able to survive in this country.

    I drive a diesel as the mileage is better than on most hybrid cars, yet in the last few years, since that clown of a leader decided to put the duty on diesel up, it has become more and more crippling to fill up my car, the price per litre is currently £1.32!! The fact is that most of this is made up from the tax. I had to laugh last week when the slimy little hitler Milliband was on newsnight saying the government got less now per litre than it did a year ago! Does he or any of your party really expect anyone to believe this?!?

    I will never vote Labour and rued the day 11 years ago that the country voted this shower of incompetents in. Then I was incredulous that they were voted in twice more and suspect that there must have been vote rigging taking place as reported in a few areas.

    The shower that passes for a Labour government need to seriously consider their tax and spend policies or at least get a chancellor that can add up and has some nous on how to run a business, unlike the last two incompetent fools.

  132. Dear “Sir?”,
    Can you please tell me why we have, according to our comments book, i.e.”THE BEST MEAL IN SCOTLAND and also,not too surprisingly, THE BEST MEAL IN EUROPE!.
    We work our asses off only to pay the VAT.
    I cant afford a weekend break, WHY?
    I will tell you why. This government needs to rethink their policies otherwise I predict anarchy, Iwill be there to support other “British “peoplle when this occurs,
    Hope you enjoy your weekend off, knowing that I pay part of you salary.
    Have a good one!
    S

  133. Tom,

    I support you!

    I know your pain, people arent taking responsibility for their personal happniess!

    Life will always be a struggle, but we need to cheer up and make our quality of life better.

    I just want you to know, you’re not alone. I take responsibility for my own happiness and don’t blame it on anyone else.

    Happy times 🙂

  134. the steve kelly

    tom

    you are a puppet of the repressive system which is the main cause of social misery.

    the “very real threat of terrorism” (aye right) is not nearly as depressing as the very REAL terrorism you have assisted to impose upon the society that idiotically elected you, with the removal of their civil rights in the name of their “protection.”

    you continue to contribute and add to this misery every day, simply by playing your bit part in the capitalism cabinet whilst maintaining the ancient, outdated mode of government that presides in the uk.

    perhaps, in 2008, people are miserable because unimaginative, cerebrally bland persons such as yourself continue to believe that a governmental model over 100 years old is the best one to endorse and continue with.

    i pity your ignorance, but envy your bliss.

    here

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/01/22/opinion/edblond.php?page=1

    go and learn something, you can always put your blinkers back on again afterwards.

    happy times.

  135. Alex Brodie

    Mr Harris:

    Here is another perfect example of what is making people miserable, from today’s BBC website:

    “MPs to outline expenses changes”

    “One option is likely to be a top-up payment, thought to worth up to £24,000 a year, to replace their second homes allowance.

    Currently MPs can claim about £23,000 a year to run a second residence – the average claim is £19,500.

    A flat grant would mean MPs avoid the scrutiny of submitting receipts – as demanded by a recent Freedom of Information battle. ”

    In other words, the response of MPs to public criticism that MPs’ expenses are too high and not properly audited is to allow themselves A HIGHER AMOUNT (£1,000 according to this report) with the added greedy little self-serving bonus that it makes it MORE DIFFICULT TO AUDIT.

    This is being paid for BY THE PUBLIC! Remember them, the people YOU think should cheer up!

    People will only cheer up when this parliamentary gravy train is derailed for good – and the sooner the better.

    In the meantime, what about doing something useful to help ordinary people – the people you are supposed to be helping in the first place?

    If you were doing that perhaps you wouldn’t have time to write idotic comments on blogs.

  136. My I put the blame on politicians & the media.

    To quote Mencken “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

    If you read Michael Crichton’s State of Fear you will see something similar.

    The reason people are depressed rather than hopeful is because “opinion formers” say there is no hope, that the future is going to be worse than the present & that we are all doomed to global warming, peak oil, SARS, Y2K, destruction of the ozone layer, global ice age etc. etc. all of which are nonsense.

    Back then they couldn’t go to the Moon but they could see a future when they would be able to. Nowadays we can (or would be able if we tried) but are told we must make do with windmills. Then the BBC would produce the hokey but exciting Tomorrow’s World. Today every news contains something about how global warming/eating salt/obesity/passive smoking/letting the sun touch your skin is going to kill us all.

    This allows a massive expansion of the nanny state to protect us from all these false threats & in the interim push up the costs of everything (eg the next Forth Bridge is to cost 13 times, after inflation, what the last one cost & the Dome cost £690 million after the bureaucrats had had their cut but only £46 million to build).

    If we had leaders who were willing to say that we have nothing to fear but fear itself, that things can be done & sweep away the nannies & have media which reported factually we would not only have colonised (oops can’t say that word) Mars but be a lot happier.

  137. simon dennis

    Tom

    Might I direct you to the lyrics of American singer-songwriter James McMurtry (son of Larry and one of America’s most politically astute social commentators) in his song “We Can’t Make it Here”…..it’s becoming more and more applicable to life here in the UK.

    Check it out on U-tube.

    Remember all political careers end in failure.

    Simon

  138. Paul Miller

    We are miserable because the dour Dr Brown is our prime minister. The people you see buying plasma TVs are MPs using their allowances to stock up for leaner times. I am looking forward to Scottish independence when Scots like you cannot meddle in English affairs.

  139. Dee Bee

    Moral here,

    If you are a politician think carefully before you start a blog, especially if you are in a Party that is deeply unpopular because of its ability to continually raise tax but spend with little regard for Prudence.
    Whatever happened to Prudence?

  140. Mike H

    Tom Harris asks “so why is everyone so bloody miserable?”.

    If he’s actually interested in the answer, I hope he has taken the trouble to read at least a few of the responses to his blog.

    If, like many politicians, he is not interested in the opinions of his electorate unless there is in impending election, he will have ignored them.

  141. Mrs Cook

    Worth checking this out for some thinking on this:

    http://www.storyofstuff.com

  142. Ruth S

    Goodness! Not just misery in your comments but anger, cynicism, hatred, vitriol and more.
    There is no doubt that it is almost impossible to be bright and optimistic under certain circumstances, such as following bereavement, redundancy, divorce, or when in dire financial straits. In other words, at times of stress. But I don’t think Tom Harris was talking about these circumstances. I think he was talking about people who are miserable despite leading comfortable lives.
    Now, there seems to be so much more to be stressed about than the big problems that everyone encounters at times in life. Television programmes that tell us how clean our homes should be, what we should wear, how well behaved our children should be, whether we are too fat, old looking, unfit just remind us all how imperfect we are and how hopeless it is trying to do it all. Cue depression. Add to that the envy aroused by house purchase programmes where people are looking to spend huge sums of money on not just one but two properties, both of which have to be perfect, remind us of how impossible it is to have it all. More depression. And what is now the point of getting up each morning, going to work with pride and putting in an honest week’s work for an honest wage, and paying an honest man’s tax when groups of people make obscene amounts of money in the city just by gambling other people’s money and taking little responsibility for their losses and excesses. And then avoid paying their fair share of tax? And don’t get me started on the celebrity magazines that are either inducing envy for expensive unattainable lifestyles, or slagging off anyone who is less than perfect in that world.
    Yes, materialism is partly to blame. So is the stress of modern expectations. So is the feeling of a lack of control over aspects of our lives. And much of this starts with very young children, pressured to have the “right” possessions, to pass increasing numbers of tests and to cope with splintered families.
    However, I think we should learn to count our blessings. There are still millions of people in the world who go to bed hungry, children who do not experience happiness in childhood, whole communities who live in constant fear.
    And for real happiness don’t look to material things. Look at the sunset, the rainbow, the birds, listen to music, laugh with friends, eat ice-cream. It just might work.

  143. Why are we all so miserable? Don’t include me…
    I’m happy that I have plenty to eat, unlike the starving in the world.
    I have a great wife and kids that respect people and do well at school (well, the kids anyway!)
    We both have good jobs and don’t rely on state benefits. We pay our bills on time and don’t drink to excess,
    Happiness is a state of mind, as is being miserable.
    Change the way you look at things and find how wonderful life really is.

  144. Alex Brodie

    Tom – Here’s another good example of why we’re all miserable and utterly sick of corrupt, thieving pig MPs with their snouts in the trough:

    “A review by the Commons Members Estimate Committee had recommended the additional costs allowance (ACA) be replaced and an end to the so-called “John Lewis list” – the use of public money to pay for items like new kitchens and household goods such as TVs.

    However, MPs voted by a majority of 28 to retain the ACA and the list, and to have their spending looked at only by internal, rather than external, auditors. “

  145. Pingback: e-Democracy ‘08 - a good day out « Spartakan

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