Junior transport minister and Glasgow MP Tom Harris has raised a rumpus by causing his countrymen 'bloody miserable' on his blog. He said Britain had never had it so good, but that had not made Britons any less grumpy.
'There are more two-car homes in Britain today than there are homes without a car at all,' he said. '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 access to the worldwide web which we use to enable more spending and for entertainment. Crime is down.'
'So why is everyone so bloody miserable? 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?'
The Tories made quick use of the posting with shadow treasury chief secretary Philip Hammond saying, 'The short answer to Mr Harris's question asking why everyone is so miserable is "We've got Gordon Brown as our prime minister."'
There's no doubt that some people are finding times hard at the moment. And there are persistent poverty problems in many parts of Britain: Alexi Sayle was claiming on his programme about Liverpool last night that 41 per cent of the population of the city were below the poverty line. But I am old enough to remember the Age of Austerity and people were not more cheerful then, community values or not. Indeed, they could be downright miserable.
It may be that there is something in the Australian caricature of 'whingeing Poms'. Sometimes it seems that Brits are never as happy as when they are complaining. A typical comment one hears when there is some disruption on the railways is 'It's like a third world country.' One wonders if any of these people have ever been to a third world country or used the trains in Bombay or Calcutta.