Sept-Oct: Pickles to the Max

Never mind Devo Max. The real greatest living Yorkshireman talks Picklesian power to the people.

The annual gathering of the Tory tribes in Birmingham was buoyed by a wave of not insubstantial relief that the Conservative & Unionist Party faithful weren't picking through the wreckage of the United Kingdom.

Even the very real prospect of making David Cameron cry could not tempt Scotland - a nation where there are famously more pandas than Conservative MPs - to give the Union the old heave-ho. Davs Cams's name-dropping clanger over the Queen's purr, a couple of unhelpful defections aside and Brooks Newmark's paisley pyjamas, erm, incident, the mood was far from blue.

Days earlier, the tears had barely dried on the vanquished Alex Salmond's pillow when the PM bounded out the door at Number 10 with bright and breezy promises of greater powers and fairness for, er, England. To be fair, he re-promised the promised Devo Max for Scotland (promise) but many commentators still found it remarkable how quickly the big issue became "fairness" for England.

And Dave wasn't the only one pondering the English Question (which is not, by the way, how many pints are enough pints to make a kebab for breakfast okay).

Yes, the Scottish debate got the pulses racing on the D-word. Up went the cry from all quarters: Let my people go! Or at least give them a bit of a say over some spending and stuff!

The PM ponders the West Lothian question. From the Core Cities to the Key Cities to think tank ResPublica's pitch for the splendidly named "Devo Manc" - Greater Manchester becoming a completely devolved city with total public spending devolved to its combined authority - everyone seems to have idea for how the nation could be better run.

LGA chieftain David Sparks called for a Constitutional Convention to thrash out the same sort of powers being promised to Scotland for England and Wales. The County Councils Network warned that without "radical" devolution, local government finances are headed for the abyss. Cornwall Council even ran up the Baner Peran and prepared to march on Westminster with demands to "shape our own destiny".

Yet, somewhat underwhelmingly one might argue, the PM's newfound passion for devolution seems to extend not quite as far as total local fiscal freedom. It extends as far as Westminster, in fact. Or rather, searching out the "decisive answer" to the age-old West Lothian question - how come Scottish MPs vote on stuff that doesn't apply to them, like?

"English votes for English laws" is Dave's mantra, much to the horror of Forgetful Ed. The cynical might suggest the shining opportunity for a "new and balanced settlement" is rapidly descending into a party political bunfight, with the Tories trying to kibosh hostile MPs north of the border and Labour protecting its electoral heartlands. And the cynical might be right. To be sure, there's been not a lot of natter in the centre about the role for local government in this brave new still mostly United Kingdom.

And whither the local government secretary in all of this? This is Pickleswatch, after all. Surely Eric would stride forth and use his address to the massed ranks of Tory faithful to fight the corner of councils?

William Hague, greatest living Yorkshireman?

"The time has come for change," said he. Sounds promising.

"The time has come for English votes on English laws." Ah.

"In the mother of parliaments, we can't have Platinum Card wielding Scottish MPs who can vote for measures in English constituencies, but not in their own Scottish seats," Eric declared.

But, hey, the Chief is down with devolution.

"My purpose in Government has been to bring power to the people," he modestly confessed, rattling off his achievements - Neighbourhood plans! Enabling councils to share services! Freezing council tax!

That's right! Billions in Whitehall wonga to 'persuade' town halls to freeze council tax - a policy the head of the independent Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy, Rob Whiteman, described as "hollowing out the local tax base" and increasing an "already disproportionate dependence on central government grant" - is Picklesian passing power to the people in action.

If it really is now or never for local government to grab a new deal on running in this fair land, one senses they certainly have their work cut out for them.

Mind you, Eric's spectacular stretching of devolutionary logic wasn't by any means the most baffling utterance at conference. Oh no. Step forward, Dave.

With Keighley's favourite son in the hall, the PM pronounced William Hague "our greatest living Yorkshireman".

Pickleswatch demands a referendum!