Yesterday was the Second Reading in the House of Lords of the Government’s large and sprawling Localism Bill. My colleague, Lord Jeremy Beecham, made a characteristically witty speech during which he made the following comment about the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government:
“The Government’s approach seems in many respects to be driven by a belief in an apparently inexhaustible appetite on the part of citizens to vote-for elected mayors or police commissioners, or in referendums called by a fraction of the electorate, a neighbourhood forum, or a handful of councillors. This assumed insatiable thirst for Athenian-style democracy-and Mr Pickles is, after all, only two letters short of Pericles-is matched in ministerial minds by a demand on the part of the public directly to manage local services.”
A few minutes after his speech a Liberal Democrat Peer, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, bounded up to me in the Peers’ Lobby and said that Jeremy Beecham had just made a rather fine joke about me in the Chamber. When I looked baffled, he repeated it, saying my “name was only two letters short of Pericles”. Leaving me puzzled, he wandered off.
Slowly the awful truth dawned……
Two lessons: Eric Pickles is so boring that Liberal Democrat peers can’t remember whether he has facial hair or not … and perhaps I might usefully lose a few pounds in weight.