July-Aug: The unshuffleable Mr Pickles
Eric Pickles: the man they couldn't reshuffle. Westminster rumour mill be damned, the Chief is still very much at the helm at DCLG. Let the bells ring, fetch the bunting (we have) and cue rejoicing throughout the land.
It was looking a bit ropey there for a while, mind. Speculation mounted that a shuffling was very much in the offing after an uncharacteristically lacklustre display from the big fella at the LGA conference. Say what you like about what Eric says - and many do - but he's normally good value as he imparts that special brand of folksy wisdom. No sign of that in Bournemouth. The Guardian's delegated Pickles-watcher at the seaside, Hannah Fearn, fretted that he cut a "sad figure", bereft of fight and just waiting the removal men's ding-dong at the DCLG door.
A year earlier, the secretary of state had breezed into the LGA lion's den and told them all to hike council tax if they didn't like having their funding cut, only just stopping short of outright double daring them to. Take it to the people in a political suicide charge of a referendum, was the cry.
This time Eric just seemed to bumble and stumble through a loosely strung together collection of the Conservatives' already cringingly well-worn election soundbites - hardworking families this, long-term economic that - looking like he was half wondering about what to have for tea or if he'd left the iron on.
He did muster a half-hearted bashing of Lib Dems flip-floppishness - but frankly where's the sport in that nowadays?
But cometh reshuffle day, cometh the man. As big beast Ken Clarke was shuffled off to the test match, William Hague jumped ship at the Foreign Office with impeccable timing and Michael Gove's unnervingly puritanical zeal earned him a promotion to a demotion, Pickles pronounced that this was one pale male who was going nowhere.
His powers recharging, the Chief even relieved "Dave" of the task of informing the nation (well, social media) that he was staying on, taking to Twitter to announce he'd had a bit of a chat with the PM and the upshot was DCLG simply wouldn't be the same without him. In fact, it was a bit hard to tell just who had informed whom that the Pickles era was far from over.
And just like that, Eric was back to his old self. With trademark understatement, he told the Independent that the Local Audit & Accountability Act would stop local government acting like "Putin's Russia" by saying nyet to filming, tweeting or blogging from the inner sanctum of the council meeting.
Signing the parliamentary order battering down the chamber doors for the digital brigades, Eric even waxed lyrical about carrying on the work of the Iron Lady on Earth. For surely it was a young Margaret Hilda who back in 1960 had championed written reporting of council meetings by the press.
Eric was also back to battling the scourge of renewable energy blighting this green and pleasant land with renewed vigour. Okay, so the High Court may have found a "fatal flaw" in his decision to ignore the local plan, steamroller the Planning Inspectorate and reject a 24MW solar farm at a former airfield in Suffolk - with Philip Selwyn of applicant Lark Energy accusing sinister-sounding "elements" of the Government of being against big solar schemes.
But no matter, Mr P still canned another public inquiry-approved project - a wind farm at Haversham near Milton Keynes - with gusto. See you in the High Court, hippies!
And now Eric is set for a starring role after the Government launched the bidding for the hottest thing in town - at least until the tap water starts igniting - drilling licences for fracking. Mr P will take the final decision on many of the applications that could potentially open up to half of Britain to shale gas exploration. Will the same passion for the sanctity of the environment and "muscular localism" that strikes down so many large-scale renewable schemes be evident when oh-so-popular fracking comes to town? The sighs of relief from relief from Barton Moss to Balcombe would scarcely nudge a pinwheel, never mind an unlikely-to-be-approved wind turbine.
The Guardian's head greeny Damian Carrington even branded Pickles a "petty dictator" who only believes in localism when it happens to coincide with his own beliefs - like fracking being an economic miracle in waiting.