Nigel Hastilow: What will make you happy now?
Surveys suggest that British people are not enjoying life at the moment – and who can blame them?
That famous old saying that money won’t bring you happiness seems to be borne out by the latest Government survey of how we’re feeling at the moment.
There are reasons to be cheerful: pay has risen above inflation, household spending is on the up and unemployment is still very low.
So why is it that, according to the Office for National Statistics’ latest survey, there has been no increase in our happiness or our sense that life’s worthwhile?
Of course, personal happiness is all about friends and family, love and affection and so on.
But it seems we expect the economy to get worse in the next 12 months and our own finances to decline sharply.
And why is that? The answer has to be Brexit. Love it or hate it, the last two years have been dominated by this tedious subject and not a day passes without another dire warning about how terrible life is about to get.
It could be the ludicrous suggestion by former Labour MP and Mayoral hopeful Lynda Waltho that, after March 29, the bus services in the West Midlands will grind to a halt.
Or maybe the claim by the owners of a Hull trawler that there will be a national shortage of fish and chips.
Or perhaps the news that Nissan has cancelled plans to build a new car in Sunderland. Blame it on Brexit, never mind that the company’s boss is in jail and sales of diesel cars have slumped thanks to a new round of environmental hysteria.
These and all the other doom-laden claims we’ve had to put up with over recent months – from queues in Dover to vegetable shortages – are enough to give even the most optimistic of us pause for thought.
It’s amazing our sense of well-being hasn’t deteriorated. It’s surprising we are still feeling so sunny when we are supposedly about to enter the bleak nuclear winter of life outside the European Union without Mrs May’s precious deal.
The scaremongering knows no bounds. It goes far beyond what is reasonable or likely.
Most dismaying of all the Project Fear horror stories being churned out by people determined that we will never leave the EU is the news that the Government is preparing for a state of emergency.
The Royal Family will, allegedly, be evacuated to an unknown destination far from the madding crowds should a no-deal Brexit provoke riots.
Why such a thing is even thought possible is beyond me. Do they seriously expect people like Tony Blair, Lord Mandelson and Alastair Campbell to march on Buckingham Palace while ripping up paving stones and bashing police officers on the head with them?
Is Lord Adonis in danger of teaming up with the French legion d’honneur recipient Dominic Grieve, Sir Vince Cable and Dame Margaret Beckett to man the barricades?
Does the Government really believe an irregular army of CBI bosses, left-wing university lecturers and BBC luvvies would threaten the Queen just because we’ve rejected the Irish backstop, refused to hand over £39 billion to Brussels and face a temporary shortage of Mars Bars?
Come off it, the chances of civil unrest are less than the odds of England winning a Test match in the West Indies.
Yet we are supposed to take this stuff seriously. Does the Government despise and mistrust its people so much it’s preparing to impose travel bans and curfews?
Where do they think this is? Venezuela? France?
It’s shocking enough to learn Tony Blair’s Government gave itself the power to impose martial law. It’s even more outrageous to think Mrs May is seriously contemplating the use of those powers if a few people get a little upset were we to leave the EU without a deal.
Evacuating the Royal Family wasn’t necessary during the Second World War, when German bombs rained down on London and they might have taken refuge in Worcestershire. We are not living through the Blitz.
And the imminent threat of a no-deal Brexit cannot seriously be compared with the possibility of nuclear war breaking out. This is not the Cold War either.
All this demonstrates is how frighteningly out of touch the Government, especially its civil servants and propagandists, have become.
And, as we all know, leaving without a deal will never be allowed to happen no matter how close to the supposed cliff edge we are told we have got, more’s the pity.
If there were ever to be riots, they’re more likely to occur when it turns out that, whatever arrangements the Government finally reaches with the EU, we aren’t really leaving at all.
But that’s just as unlikely and anyway it doesn’t fit in with Project Fear’s aim of terrifying us into accepting our fate inside the EU.
We will keep calm and carry on, no matter what the outcome of this Brexit farrago. But even the Office for National Statistics can’t seriously expect us to be happy about it.
Down in the mouth - The deputy Labour leader Tom Watson is campaigning to banish Tony the Tiger and other endearing cartoon characters from advertising sugar-laden food which decays children’s teeth.
Given there’s a such a shortage of dentists they allegedly refuse to treat people even when they’re in agony, the MP for West Bromwich East may have a point.
The West Midlands is the most extensively fluoridated area in the country but it doesn’t seem to have stopped the rot – more children than ever are having all their teeth whipped out. Maybe fluoridation isn’t the miracle cure we were told it was.
All out of love - Various dissident politicians in the Labour and Conservative parties, united in their loathing of their leaders, are contemplating the formation of a new party.
They have supposedly pencilled in February 14, Valentine’s Day, for the creation of this new middle-of-the-road organisation.
That would certainly be the sort of decision that might have been described as ‘courageous’ in the old TV series Yes, Minister.
Sir Humphrey explained: “Controversial only means this will lose you votes; courageous means this will lose you the election.”
The dissidents should avoid any announcement next Thursday otherwise it will be remembered as a political St Valentine’s Day Massacre.
Stealth tax - As councils across the country throw their hands up in horror at their latest annual grants from the Government and whinge on about ‘austerity’, we should look back in anger.
For, according to the Taxpayers’ Alliance, the poor, starving local authorities are not nearly as hard up as they would have us believe.
Some council tax increases in the West Midlands have been way above the average.
Generally it’s Conservative-run councils which are the most willing to impose excessive increases. No doubt we can look forward to another round of rises this year.