The Centre for Cities, the thinktank recently devolved from the ippr, has put out a report, saying that Aldershot might be the best place to live in Britain. They measured things like average earnings, employment rates and population growth.
So some papers (well, the Guardian) are hailing the rise of 'mini-cities' like Aldershot, Reading, York and Oxford. Big cities such as Liverpool and Glasgow fared much worse, with more working-age people out of work and, notably, more economic inequality.
Government adviser David Lock is also quoted as saying of mini-cities:
"They are big enough to support an interesting cultural life, a lively social life and a choice of schools, but they are small enough for people to feel they might bump into a friend if they are out for a night. Big cities are simply more lonely."
But the metropolitan snob in me simply can't accept that Aldershot is a desirable place to live. If Lock appears to be relying on anecdote, I can think of plenty of (admittedly quite dull) anecdotes where I bumped into someone on the tube, or around my area of north London. There's certainly enough 'sense of community' to go round in my local Turkish supermarket.
Talk of economic inequality is admittedly more worrying. But it's unsurprising, when high-tech employers like TAG, Nokia and Microsoft are setting up in Aldershot or Reading, attracting probably already quite well-off, skilled and mobile workers. This group generally doesn't include very poor Liverpudlians and Glaswegians. Or Russian oligarchs.
I'm reminded of the episode in the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy where an alien planet successfully tricks its entire population of management consultants, telephone sanitizers and hairdressers into relocating to another world. The other parts of society waved them off, promising: "we'll catch you up ... !"