The New York Times today had an amusing story about the growing problem of neighbourly disputes over hedges in England. The article contains all sorts of wonderful factoids about hedge wars. Did you know, for example, that there is an organisation dedicated to lobbying on behalf of those aggreived by nuisence hedge-growers? It’s called Hedgeline. A lengthy legal dispute by the organisation’s founder led to the case of Stanton v. Jones, which “established for the first time the formal definition of ‘hedge’ in British common law.”

Oddly, the hedge story also provides some background into the workings of Parliament:

But there are two sides to the story. “For every person who’s against a high hedge, there’s someone who’s in favor of it, because otherwise they’d chop it down,” said Christopher Chope, a Conservative member of Parliament.

Mr. Chope recently helped defeat a bill that would have given local governments a broad right to order residents to trim their over-high hedges. People need hedges for privacy and independence, he said, adding that the legislation might have resulted “in the complete destruction of the English countryside as we know it.”

This minor struggle in Parliament was recently highlighted by Richard Allen, the blogging Liberal Democrat MP, who recently mentioned the hedge bill. Apparently the Conservative effort to rerail the hedge bill nearly interfered with his own Private Members bill about looted cultural artefacts:

Yesterday morning I found that some of the Conservative MPs had put down a series of amendments to my Bill which caused a modicum of panic. It turned out that they were really after making sure that we did not get to a later Bill that seeks to do something about High Hedges (i.e. people who grow massive hedges that shut light out from their neighbour’s gardens and cause major rows – yes this is the stuff of high politics).</p> It’s also a good illustration of how the routines of journalistic practice meant that the agenda of the state translates into that of the media — no matter how tongue-in-cheek the issue seems to be.