ONE MINER, who battled with the police during Arthur Scargill's disastrous 1984 strike, told the BBC anniversary documentary last month that, after the inevitable defeat, he decided to leave his doomed pit village for "a better life" in Milton Keynes. And that, though not always so melodramatically, is the story of this extraordinary social and urban experiment, established in the middle of the Buckinghamshire countryside.
As Mark Clapson points out in his punctilious retrospective on MK's first 30 years, this culmination of the New Town movement offered jobs and houses, space and freedom. On a site designated in the late 1960s, it embodied the best aspects of that decade's passion for starting everything afresh. There was no dogma then that aspirations could be best met by cramming new homes into former industrial sites in the darkest corners of old cities.
Mild, everyday success is difficult to sing passionate songs about. MK (the acronym pays homage to Los Angeles' influence on the layout) is a kind of Anglo-American suburbia, as Clapson says: a green Arcadia for all. Its jobs are predominantly in the burgeoning service sector. MK is as typical of late 20th-century England as the Art Deco factories of the Great West Road were for that century's middle years. What's so wrong with that?
The devil always has the best tunes, and you could call Milton Keynes the Slough of today. If Betjeman returned, he'd pen a poem against it. Bill Bryson and Christopher Booker both derided it. …