The Third Leader: Greetings from behind the hedge

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The Independent Online

Good day. Could you spare a minute? Thank you. Are you commuting? Have you come far? Then you will not be surprised to learn that it's on the increase. A dedicated team of Danish researchers has discovered that commuters in this country are travelling longer and longer distances to work.

There are many interesting implications in this. I, personally, am glad to know at last why the M6 is always so busy: there is, apparently, a commuting corridor between London and Liverpool and Manchester, although I'm puzzled how anyone gets home before it's time to leave again, what with all the business on the Thelwall viaduct and that bit near Sandbach.

What it also means, of course, is an ever-increasing expansion of the suburb. Now I am aware that it has never been unfashionable to sneer at the suburb, but we should at least acknowledge that it has thereby furnished many a reputation, from Sir John Betjeman to Anthony Aloysius Hancock, and stimulated many a career: listen to any new comic on Radio 4, for example, and you can pretty much guarantee that they were born within the sound of the lawnmower, the tee shot and the slam of a carriage door.

So perhaps we should not only acknowledge but encourage the suburbanisation of Britain, and salute the source of so many of our traditional, temperate values: a liking for privacy, dislike of a fuss, a taste for pleasures which can generally be undertaken in a cardigan, all seasoned with an invigorating dash of gentle hypocrisy and mild envy. In brief: can you imagine Margot Leadbetter binge drinking? Exactly.

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