Jan-Feb: A hard day's Pickles
You can't please all of the people all of the time. But how many of them can you hack off? Quite a few, it seems.
It's been a busy couple of months for the secretary of state for communities and local government, offending, erm, communities and local government.
Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson, for one, is not exactly feeling the love for Eric's efforts to just make the world a better place. The Chief's decision to kibosh a flagship regeneration scheme in the Welsh Streets area of Toxteth, which would have involved the demolition of old terraced houses including the former abode of a young Ringo Starr, went down about as well as a Norman Tebbit dynamiting the Three Graces to open a bike shop. With that effortless common touch of his, Eric even cited protecting "Beatles heritage" as one of his reasons for intervening.
A fuming Mayor Anderson laid into Pickles in the New Statesman for interfering when he's "never been near" the damp, cramped homes of the Welsh Streets and for prioritising a headline about saving Bungle's old pad "at the expense of prolonging the misery of an entire local community".
The whole episode, Anderson thundered, illustrates a much bigger problem with "the worst local government minister in living memory" - he doesn't "get" localism and prefers "dabbling" to actually helping local government through cuts that have "decimated" services.
"His inability to fight his corner in Whitehall has cost us dearly." Oof, now then.
Anderson may have an axe to grind because Liverpool's budget will have been cut by 58 per cent by 2017 - and he took said axe and embedded it firmly in the Pickles Legacy Projects (TM). The Great Man's brainstorm about 15-minute parking on double yellow lines? Dropped, cried Anderson, because everybody hated the idea. That £250m fund to encourage weekly bin collections? No one - that is, not one single council, anywhere - signed up for it. The only one that was going to take part, Stoke-on-Trent City Councill, pulled out because it would be too expensive. Something about "massive budget cuts".
"I get by with a little help from my friends, sang Ringo. With 'friends' like Eric Pickles, local government doesn't need enemies," Anderson seethed.
But the Pickles charm offensive, emphasis on offensive it seems, is not just floundering in the hostile environs of the Labour heartlands.
The High Court, no less, hauled Eric over the coals after it ruled he had "discriminated unlawfully against a racial group" by using ministerial powers to single out greenbelt planning applications from Gypsies and Travellers.
"These are not to be dismissed as technical breaches," Mr Justice Gilbert summed up.
"Although the issue of unlawful discrimination was put before the minister by his officials, no attempt was made by the minister to follow the steps required of him by statute."
So, er, whoops on that one. Faithful Brandon Lewis stood up for his boss - the Government makes no apologies for trying to "bring a sense of fair play to the planning system", said he. Shame it turned out to be a discriminatory sense of fair play.
Then there was Eric's entirely well intentioned but it's safe to say not entirely well received letter calling on faith leaders to tackle Islamic extremism. Who could possibly argue with that, right? Well, the Muslim Council of Britain wasn't best pleased at the suggestion that imams show young people "how faith in Islam can be part of British identity". Primarily because it, like, already is.
Deputy secretary-general Harun Khan said: "Is Mr Pickles seriously suggesting, as do members of the far right, that Muslims and Islam are inherently apart from British society?"
This time the PM himself leapt to Eric's defence.
"Anyone reading this letter who has a problem with it, I think really has a problem," said Dave, so eloquently reminding us all that the way to show the bad guys we're united is by using more language of division. Hang on, that can't be right.
Even a bit of friendly advice seemingly fell on deaf ears. Eric told town halls there's no need to raise council tax, cos they've got loads of cash just lying around in reserves haven't they? And, even though local government could teach Whitehall a thing or two about it, maybe they should get their act together on arrears and fraud.
Yet only 114 councils took the Government's generous offer of a freeze bung grant this year, down from 251 last year.
You just can't help some people.