Matt Hancock is Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and is MP for West Suffolk.
Politics is about lots of things, but when it comes down to it, a good measure of how a country is run is whether we are building a happier nation.
We may disagree on how to do it and, of course, it’s not everything. Making sure everyone gets a fair shot and tackling injustices are mission critical, too.
But for Conservatives, whose political philosophy is less built on some grand plan and more on supporting people to make the most of their own lives, it’s about as good a goal as you can get.
And there’s good news. Despite the shrill voices of the hard left and the comments on social media, the figures point to a happier Britain. Since 2010 the ONS have measured happiness directly, and though not a perfect measurement – after all this is peering into peoples’ souls – the latest figures out last week tell us that national happiness is on the rise.
Life satisfaction, overall happiness, anxiety levels, and the feeling that what we do in life is worthwhile – these are what really matter, and what make up these figures.
And there are good reasons why we should be paying this wellbeing report more attention, and taking the GDP figures with a slightly larger pinch of salt. For one, charting a nation’s happiness is a vital metric for measuring the success or failure of an administration – but it’s simply not captured by GDP.
For another, as I set out in another piece for ConHome recently, how GDP is measured is far from perfect, and fails to reflect our productivity properly, not least because of the changes brought on by the digital revolution. Not only does GDP fall short of properly capturing our economic wellbeing, but it fails to capture what we Brits are feeling at this time about the way things are with our country.
So these figures are important. But what about their findings? How can this report be telling us something so starkly different to those who would have us believe that Britain is going to the gallows?
Well, when you look at the evidence, it absolutely makes sense. Jobs are at a record high, unemployment at a record low, we’re living longer than ever, and just last week we hit a huge milestone: public spending finally went into surplus – a core part of the Conservatives’ pledge to bring public finances back into order after years of Labour’s irresponsible open-floodgate spending.
This isn’t to say we don’t have our challenges, because we do. And this isn’t to say that we can sweep these challenges under the rug – because, of course, we can’t. We’ve got a lot of work to do to build on these results and make a country that really works for everyone.
But when we’re doing something right that is benefiting people’s lives, it’s important that we can say so. And these figures help us do just that: we’re building a Britain that’s not only fit for the future, but happy going into the future.
We’ve got a lot to cheer about here in Britain, now and in the future. We’ve got another year of brilliant cultural and sporting celebrations coming up. Of course as Culture Secretary, I’m biased, as I’m responsible for the department for the things that make life worth living. And we’re never happy – as they say – because there’s always more to do.
But we should sit up and take note: Britain is getting happier, and it’s worth shouting about. Because at the end of the day, it’s human happiness – of all our citizens – that matters most.