Apr-May: Good knight, and good luck

So, farewell our Eric. It's finally all over at DCLG for the man who, to Pickleswatch, will always be known simply as the Chief.

Now, we're is going to stick our neck out and surmise that Eric provoked vigorous reactions in all he encountered during a turbulent five years making local government take its medicine from Whitehall. To say he hated you lot and you hated him right back might be a touch vinegary - but, let's face it, whatever you thought of the Pickles regime, he wasn't going to change for you or anybody else.

Indeed, in the finest traditions of many a son of the great county of Yorkshire, Eric carried on his robust approach to affairs of public concern right through to end of the show.

Let's take an example from that distant era known as Before the General Election. Even on the eve of polling, there was no let-up from Eric, who was busy putting the squeeze on Tower Hamlets, where, as the election court ruled, he had been right all along in his campaign to rein in the mayoral administration of Lutfur Rahman.

With Rahman booted from office for corruption, still fiercely denying any wrongdoing and planning an appeal, Pickles beefed up the intervention powers of commissioners sent in to oversee things at the London borough.

"There can be no place for rotten boroughs in 21st century Britain," he declared, exiting on a not insignificant victory for I-told-you-soness.

Eric will now take his tough cop act to being the Government's anti-corruption czar. They need someone because the Audit Commission was closed down. By Eric. Watch out, evildoers!

Then, of course, there was the small matter of the election itself - and Eric threw himself into the melee with typical gusto.

Whether former 'friend' or foe, no quarter was given. Eric was furiously tippity-tapping away on Twitter during the Question Time leaders' debate, revealing that Nick Clegg had thrown around daft ideas like giving councils tax-raising powers, ending the single person discount on council tax and introducing new taxes on road pricing and workplace parking. To which, conjuring images of cabinet meetings sounding somewhat like a Little Britain sketch, "Conservatives said no".

On the big night, Eric increased his majority in Brentwood & Ongar to a whopping 21,810 as the blue tide swept all before it, except in Scotland, Wales, London and those bits of the country where they used to have this thing called "coal mining". It was a stunning victory that none of the pundits, pollsters, spads, spinners or other assorted hangers-on had seen coming.

But what's this? Donal Blaney, chief executive of the Margaret Thatcher Centre, revealed that one soothsayer had foreseen three weeks earlier that the Conservatives would snatch victory from the jaws of, er, not quite winning but being the biggest party and probably ruling as a minority government or maybe cobbling together another coalition with whoever wasn't Labour or the SNP. "The great man was right. Again," he gushed. Who was this sage sayer of, er, sooths? Step forward, "Mystic" Eric Pickles. And how do we know? Because Eric, palpably giddy on the "perfect day" that greeted the nation on 8 May (or at least 24.3 per cent of it), modestly posted the evidence on his Twitter feed. Bravo!

And then, just like that, it was over. The big news of the first Conservative majority Government in nigh-on two decades was that Eric would not be part of it.

The PM was effusive in his praise, paying "special tribute to the work you have carried out bringing down the cost of local government" and "delivering cost-effectiveness to local residents while protecting services".

You might think that councils would have just been happy to have played some small part in Eric's local government revolution (the, er, local government bit). Yet, to the last, the relationship remained somewhat rocky. That is to say Eric's departure from DCLG was greeted in some quarters with the euphoric delirium usually reserved for the toppling of great despots.

Meanwhile, Greg Clark (he's from Middlesbrough, you know) was greeted as a dashing prince of devolution here to save the betrampled masses from five years of Picklesian punishment. Well, we'll just see.

But who had the last laugh? Just call him Sir Eric. That's right, the Chief left cabinet with a knighthood safely tucked in his We'll Miss You card, meaning he now gets to go jousting, rescue damsels from dragons and is pretty much guaranteed a good table at Claridges. Result.

With the Sirship in the bag, can the call of the ermine and red leather of the Lords be far off? It surely can not! Who's laughing now, eh?