By Ray Fleming

ONLY a prime minister shielded by background and education from the hard knocks of most people's lives, and surrounded in his Cabinet with similarly shielded millionaires, could think of launching a “well-being” survey of the nation. This idea is considered by Mr Cameron to be “one of the central political issues of our times” and he has asked the independent Office of National Statistics to prepare proposals for launching the idea next year. There is, of course, nothing wrong wih the kind of opinion sampling on specific issues that goes on all the time in government and business, but to ask people whether they are more or less happy than a year ago is to delve into an incredibly complex area of psychological analysis. How much does “well-being” depend on government policy and how much on the minutiae of individual lives? Does the government want to probe into whether people are happy with their personal relationships as well as whether they think the most recent Budget was fair to them? This is very dangerous territory from several aspects, one of which is whether the size of the sample questioned could ever be large enough to reflect accurately the mood of the whole nation.

ANYWAY, isn't this what elections are for? Unless a survey of this kind can be shown to be 100 percent accurate -- which is impossible -- it will become a political football to be kicked about aimlessly the whole time.


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