The Politics of Happiness

The Politics of Happiness

The following happiness article was recently published in the Daily Mail:

David Cameron has ordered his shadow ministers to apply a ‘politics of happiness’ test to new Tory policies.

Ideas for the next General Election manifesto will be examined to see whether they promote ‘wellbeing’ in society and help social mobility.

A group of the party’s young stars – tipped for a seat in Mr Cameron’s first Cabinet – have been told to cut across domestic departmental briefs and look to the ‘broader horizon’ of what policies would make voters happy.

The initiative builds on a speech Mr Cameron made a year ago in which he said his Government would prioritise ‘general wellbeing’ and not just Gross Domestic Product or national wealth.

But it could risk another row for the Tory leader, dismaying traditionalist MPs who are already alarmed at the direction in which he is taking the party.

It is a further attempt to break with the tradition that the Conservatives are chiefly concerned with accumulating wealth. And it follows the row over academic selection in which Mr Cameron and his education spokesman David Willetts argued that city academies were better than grammar schools for promoting social mobility.

The group of young Turks, which has already met several times in private, consists of those who Mr Cameron sees as the most talented from the 2005 intake of MPs.

They include housing spokesman Michael Gove, charities spokesman Greg Clark, shadow police minister Nick Herbert and shadow welfare minister Maria Miller.

A ‘happiness’ test will be applied to all ideas which emerge from the party’s six policy review groups which are being published this summer.

A source said the MPs were looking at broad-ranging issues to promote the ‘politics of happiness’ including opportunity, social mobility, responsibility and accountability. Ideas include ways to help the young get on to the property ladder, encouraging people to work rather than live on benefits, and promoting the work of charities and the voluntary sector.

A senior Tory insider said: ‘This exercise removes the departmental blinkers, raises heads and looks towards the broader horizon. It’s about the big issues the country faces – opportunity, social mobility, social responsibility – the politics of happiness.’

Tory MPs refused to comment publicly on the plan, but many said they had no idea of the new happiness test.

One right-wing senior MP said the idea sounded ‘nebulous and woolly’.

He added: ‘It is all very well saying you need policies to promote social mobility, but to apply a smiley face to everything sounds a bit hare-brained.’