Prioritising the wellbeing index is one of the few progressive things this government has done

Cameron needs to develop a progressive policy landscape fit to meet the challenges of our ecological overshoot and wellbeing undershoot.

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Jules Peck works for strategic innovation consultancy, Flourishing Enterprise

So the results of the first annual survey of UK wellbeing are out. As with Nef’s Happy Planet Index (HPI), the survey maps levels of wellbeing across the UK.

happyOn the Happy Planet Index, we in the UK score very badly – so how do scores vary within the UK?

Well, Blackpool – despite its Pleasure Beach – comes out bottom on some of the measures. York comes out top for life satisfaction and Scottish Islands do well also.

According to the Independent’s headlines, if you want to be happy, get a job, be a woman and move to my hometown of Bath.

opined on Left Foot Forward in 2010 that this ONS process in motion is one of the few visionary and progressive things the government has done. Even the prime minister has championed this work in the face of protests from regressives.

On that regressive note, it is no surprise that amongst the news coverage on the survey this week, the Daily Mail had a stereotypical rant. It is also a shame that those on the left are still snotty about such a progressive agenda.

In echoes of the Taxpayers Alliance, shadow cabinet office minister Michael Dugher derided the ONS project as a “a statement of the bleeding obvious” and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The survey shows that, as one might expect, it is no fun being unemployed. Our current (for how long) work experience chancellor has more and more to answer for on that count.

The survey shows that what really matters to people are what think-tank the New Economics Foundation (nef) calls the five-ways-to-wellbeing. What matters, and what we need our politics and economy to support, are things like flourishing relationships, a sense of community, being able to give back and help others, enjoying nature and learning new skills.

And yet our politicians mostly seem to have an impoverished vision of what ‘good lives’ are all about. They seem bent on blindly following what professor Tim Jackson sums up so well in his Ted talk as the ‘insatiability doctrine’:

“We spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to make impressions that don’t last, on people we don’t care about.”

When things get bad they exhort us to ‘go out shopping’ rather than punish the socially useless or do anything but carry on with business-as-usual.


See also:

The left and right of happiness 22 Apr 2012

TaxPayers’ Alliance make a mockery of themselves by denying wellbeing evidence 28 Jul 2012

Cameron’s well-being index could help transform lives for the better 26 Nov 2010

Cameron’s Happiness Index is welcome news for progressives 15 Nov 2010


Sir Gus O’Donnell, until recently head of the civil service and ex-head of the treasury in the UK, said he thinks that within ten years wellbeing will be the economy’s headline indicator and that our wellbeing will be the fundamental thing we are measuring, with GDP a subsidiary indicator. I’d welcome that.

It’s important we don’t just measure these things for the sake of measurement and government uses what we are learning about the nature of ‘good lives which don’t cost the earth’ to alter policy. We need this new policy direction to support a shift in our economics and social values which can improve wellbeing and shift us to a Sustainable Wellbeing economy.

We can only hope that Cameron and his ministers will continue to champion these measures and use the work of the ONS and Nef to develop a progressive policy landscape fit to meet the challenges of our ecological overshoot and wellbeing undershoot.


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