The Third Leader: Desk jockeys

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Some concern in the Leader Department, I must report, about this new "lean" efficiency programme for tax and customs offices, demanding that desks be "clean, tidy and free from clutter" to promote "efficient business processing".

As you know, writers on this page are never short of an opinion, and the forcefully expressed consensus is that (I paraphrase) an empty desk speaks volumes for the owner's mind. And, as I cast an eye over my colleagues' "work stations", "well-stocked" is an expression that comes to mind.

For example, the Political Leader Writer, whose desk boasts silver-framed photographs of all three party leaders, argues that an autographed one of a smiling Mr Brown on every tax and customs desk would have a startling effect on productivity.

The Defence Leader Writer claims that her desktop's fully-working scale models of HMS Illustrious and a Trident missile concentrate the mind wonderfully and can barely be heard above the Economics Leader Writer's abacus, the Science Leader Writer's Newtonian balls and the Environment Leader Writer's desk-mounted wind turbine anyway.

The Religious Leader Writer is believed to be there, behind all the tracts and synod working party reports. As for down here, we are, as you might imagine, a little leaner, although the Archaeological Leader Writer has expressed an interest in the pork pie recently uncovered near the Mark Oaten campaign stickers.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm half way through a very exciting game of desk basketball, and then I've got to clear some space for a case of the Beaujolais Nouveau.

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