Did you catch Eric Pickles’s speech at the LGA conference last week? I say “speech” when really I mean “comedy routine”:
You’ve been a prisoner of regulation, chained to the radiator with red tape, for too long. I want to liberate you…
And I can announce today, as I promised to a fringe meeting here two years ago, we’re also abolishing the TLA. The three letter abbreviation…
If I just wait around, it’s a bit like saying I’m going to abolish the death penalty, but then saying, everyone on death row must be executed so that we can have a clean slate…
Like the law from 1919 which says that when councils want to buy new land for allotments, I’m supposed to sign it off. After all my years in politics, I finally get to choose who gets to grow carrots and who doesn’t. But there’s a problem. As Mrs Pickles will tell you, I’m not a dab hand with the trowel. So what skills am I supposed to bring to this job? What searching questions can I ask the applicants. How big are your marrows?
Now a few years ago, when myself and Mrs Pickles came down to Bournemouth, it was raining, so we went to the cinema. And we saw this film: Jerry Maguire, with Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. And they had a phrase that stuck. ‘Show me the money’. That’s what we need to do.
Now, over the past few weeks, it’s been clear that there are various things we can learn from the German nation. And various phrases have entered our language. Deutschland vier, Argentinien null.
Sure, there was some important stuff in his speech as well, but I personally found it a bit distasteful that a Secretary of State can be as flippant as Pickles was in his speech.
It’s therefore hard to disagree with Patrick Butler’s analysis in his (excellent) Society Daily bulletin (and I’m not just saying that because he quoted me!):
I followed Communities secretary Eric Pickles’ speech to the Local Government Association conference yesterday on television. If there was a serious message in there somewhere, it was crowded out by a procession of terrible, over-rehearsed jokes, and a truly awesome smugness. Pickles looks like he ought to be a natural wit[,] but this was glib, Daily Mail-pastiche, stuffed with cliche and mixed metaphor.