Page last updated at 06:37 GMT, Friday, 20 June 2008 07:37 UK

Minister defends 'miserable' jibe

Harold and Albert Steptoe
Mr Harris wondered why Britons weren't happier with their lot

A UK Government minister has been criticised for asking why Britons are "so bloody miserable" despite the current economic problems.

The comments by Glasgow South MP Tom Harris first appeared in his blog on his website.

Mr Harris, a transport minister, told BBC Radio he was comparing this generation with previous ones, who were not so healthy or wealthy.

However, he apologised if how he made his comments had caused offence.

In his blog post titled Heaven knows we're miserable now, Mr Harris said: "There are more two-car homes in Britain today than there are homes without a car at all.

Tom Harris
If you read the full article I hope you'll understand that what I'm trying to do is actually make a serious point
Tom Harris MP

"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 fast access to the worldwide web, which we use to enable even more spending and for entertainment. Crime is down.

"So why is everyone so bloody miserable?"

Speaking to Radio 5 Live, the MP defended his posting.

He said: "If you read the full article I hope you'll understand that what I'm trying to do is actually make a serious point.

So many people are miserable because they have never experienced life when it wasn't so easy
Nigel, Dundee

"Even if I accept that that phrase 'why is everyone so bloody miserable' - I wrote that in a humorous vein - I understand that if people want to take that as offensive, I apologise, that maybe it should have been phrased differently."

He added: "I'm not belittling the genuine problems people are facing. I do think there is a more deep-seated cultural, even possibly spiritual problem that we have in this country where, is it about consumerism, is it about the instant gratification society, are we finding that buying stuff just doesn't make us as happy as we thought?"

But the comments were denounced by shadow treasury chief secretary Philip Hammond, who accused him of living on a "different planet" from ordinary hard-working families.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific