Mar-Apr: Trash talk

When it rains, it pours. Fresh from wading into the blame game over half the country disappearing under a murky deluge - and not exactly coming out smelling of roses - Eric has found himself beset on all sides by critics and complainers.

Where to start? Spring had barely sprung when one of The Chief's own DCLG lieutenants, parliamentary undersecretary for something-or-other Stephen Williams, went rogue at the Lib Dem spring conference. It wasn't so much that Williams told a fringe meeting that the New Homes Bonus is "unfair" and he is "not a fan". It's not even that he pooh-poohed council tax referendums as "absurd". No, it was that the cuddly-wuddly Lib Dem gloves came off and Williams made it personal by, the Yorkshire Post reported, declaring any comparison between him and Eric is a "grievous insult".

I say, I say, I say...Lord Kinnock gears up for another rib-tickler. Pic: Olya & RichardBut if that seems a touch strong, it was made to look positively playful by that famed wag, er, Lord Kinnock. In a letter to shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan offering to sponsor him for the London marathon, His Lordship joshed that the dashing member for Tooting should "get Pickles to go with so we have a helpful by-election". Ho ho. Khan tweeted the Baron Windbag's "witty" rib-tickler before realising that publicly arf-arfing about our Eric kicking the bucket, presumably in some outlandish fancy dress, could be interpreted as not entirely statesmanlike. An apology was forthcoming - and quite right too. Kinnock, of course, has form for dabbling in the darkly tragic-comic - remember all that "well alright" stuff in 1992? Shudder.

Eric's a tough cookie, of course, and he can take a bit of bashing from those pesky Lib Dem and Labour sorts. But he must surely have been wounded by the friendly fire hurled his way by none other than the Daily Mail.

That Mr P found himself in the sights of Paul Dacre's shock-troops over seemingly one of his favourite crusades - that of enshrining the weekly bin collection in the Magna Carta (or something) - could only have made it that much more traumatic.

Pickles, the Mail thundered, had called weekly collections a "fundamental right" of every Englishman. Yet the number of councils switching to fortnightly collections has accelerated on his watch. Betrayal!

The Mail...won't someone take out the rubbish? Pic: Jem StoneMore cornflakes were duly spluttered across breakfast tables the length and breadth of Mailland when the paper revealed that Pickles had been "forced to admit" that he is powerless - powerless! - to bring back the good old weekly pick-up. There was even a little box of other "high profile promises" on introducing a 15-minute grace period for parking, banning CCTV cameras and letting sheep eat grass instead of the council cutting it (remember that one?) that have so far come to nought.

The less said about the reaction Eric got from the Mail's famously measured, reasoned and in no way crackpot online comments section, the better. Although, to be fair, the "Marxists" running town halls across this once great land, the granola-munching lunatics who suggest we "re-cycle" and, yes, foreigners did not get off entirely scot-free.

It's enough to make you wonder who your real friends are. At least Mr P can always fall back on that "very deep and loving relationship" he has so tenderly nurtured with local government. You guys won't let him down...right? 

Wrong! It turns out you're just like the rest of them. A survey by professional services bods BDO found that councillors share "almost universal displeasure" with the Pickles regime at DCLG - and even a majority of Conservatives are not exactly kissing a portrait of the great man each night before bed.

In a report that read more like a break-up text, three-quarters said he doesn't listen and 79 per cent wailed that he just doesn't understand their needs.

But chin up, Chief. Someone still wants your sparkling company.

Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman, whose administration Pickles has repeatedly described as being at the centre of a "worrying pattern of divisive community politics" - and possibly worse - extended an invitation to pop down the old frog and toad for a full and frank top hat after Eric sent in the inspectors to probe allegations of fraud and financial mismanagement at the London borough.

Now won't that be nice?