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Keywords:

  • agenda setting;
  • well-being;
  • multiple streams;
  • British politics;
  • quality of life

Well-being has recently risen rapidly up the political agenda in Britain and beyond, signalled most clearly by Prime Minister Cameron's announcement in 2010 that well-being measures developed by the Office for National Statistics would be used to guide public policies. Here we seek to explain why well-being has risen up the British political agenda, drawing on Kingdon's multiple streams approach. While this approach has considerable merit, it does not acknowledge the complexity of multi-level governance in which policy, politics and problem streams can operate at different territorial levels. As such, we argue that the match between policy, politics and problem streams has to be not only temporal, but also spatial. The consequence is that, while in relation to measurement a paradigm shift may be taking place, in terms of decisive action there is some way to go before well-being can be described as ‘an idea whose time has come’.