The news that Westminster Gardeners are tasked with the removal of leaves from some of the 145 trees in their estate, as being a more efficient method than waiting for nature to take its course and for the leaves to drop raises all sorts of fascinating thoughts. “If we waited for the leaves to fall off it would waste a lot of time raking them up. It is more time efficient.” The problem with deciduous trees is that they do drop their leaves and all of us are affected by this, however it allows us all to observe the passing of one of our seasons. Sometimes our trains get delayed by the leaves on the line, and indeed Network Rail invests substantial sums in cutting back trees and on equipment that removes the leaves before they cause a problem. However there are no practical problems caused for the grass in Westminster if the leaves are allowed to fall naturally. It is fascinating to think that someone took the time to ask someone to remove the leaves from one tree in order to calculate the saving likely to be offered from such a strange idea. However why stop at the removal of leaves, why not chop the trees down altogether. Lets go further what about paving over the area so there is no grass to mow! It seems that efficiency and husbandry of our plants come from very different disciplines to the idea of pleaching trees for human satisfaction and only in a bureaucracy that was focused on cost rather than value could such an idea emerge.
Of course the real opportunities for efficiency are far too difficult to deal with and so will be ignored, just as they always are. Despite the National Debt we continue to have one of the largest number of representatives in our Parliament compared to other democracies. The House of Lords is particularly out of step having grown even more in the last 4 years, but even the Commons is far larger than is necessary. If some pruning was carried out here perhaps the issue of leaf pleaching would seem less important. All Governments seem to promise to reform their structures, yet all fail to do so. Yesterday Graham Allen MP was speaking about new ways to encourage people to engage with Politics. When questioned he conceded that the real barrier for many of us is that we dislike and mistrust our Political classes, not that the barrier to voting is really insurmountable. However his select Committee only has responsibility for looking at when and how we vote and what changes to the mechanics they could introduce to make it easier to vote. All the while Graham is calculating how best to remove leaves from trees, the bigger questions are being ignored.