Every year, the National Centre for Social Research publishes the Social Attitudes Survey, giving us a fascinating glimpse in the national mirror.
Since it began in 1983, it has allowed us to track how we feel, as a country, about a whole range of issues.
The latest findings were published earlier this month and some of them make for very encouraging reading. For example, 70 per cent still think Britain is a good country to bring our children up in.
But other parts show just how uncertain we are about the future. More than half of us expect to see child poverty rise over the next year and three-quarters of us think there is too big a gap between rich and poor.
As an MP, some of the most worrying statistics were about people’s faith in our democracy.
The formation of the coalition government after the last general election was a great moment in our political history. Two parties with very different priorities and experiences came together in the national interest and agreed a programme of legislation which was arrived at through mature compromise.
Sadly though, only 20 per cent of people trust the government to act in the national, rather than party, interest. More worryingly, 18 per cent don’t think voting is ‘worth doing’.
Government is more than just legislation and taxes though, and to lose faith in our democracy is to lose faith in what we can achieve together.
Many people still ask what we mean when we talk about a big society. What we mean is not withdrawing into a ‘me first’ individualism but coming together, helping each other, meeting the needs we see around us.
There are a tremendous number of people up and down the country who would like to do more, who want to get involved.
The National Citizen Service is one such way. It will give young people the chance to see what a difference they can make in their local community, helping them realise they have a big part to play in our society.