Eric pickles

Eric Pickles interview: multiculturalism is to blame for Tower Hamlets electoral fraud

Sir Eric Pickles looks every bit the diamond Tory geezer. As we sit down in a room overlooking Big Ben for his first interview since leaving the Cabinet, the 63-year-old MP for Brentwood and Ongar has dressed for the occasion: purple braces, monogramed shirt cuffs, pocket square and a golden Rolex. Yet his demeanour does not match the bling. Pickles’ laid back Yorkshire conversational style and dry wit are not what you would expect from a politician responsible for slashing millions from the budgets of local councils. But there is nothing relaxed about Sir Eric’s attitude towards his new assignment: tackling corruption, both in finance and politics. As the government’s new

Lord Sewel, you’ve made me proud to be British

The Lord Sewel scandal makes me feel proud to be British. For here, thanks to some glorious John Wilkes-style dirt-digging by the Sun — in your face, Leveson! — we have a proper political scandal. This ain’t no yawn-fest about MPs claiming the cost of a Kit-Kat or accidentally favouriting a gay-porn tweet: sad little pseudo-scandals which in recent years have tainted the good name of ignominy. No, the fall of Sewel is a full-on, drugged-up, peer-and-prostitutes scandal, of the kind Britain used to be pretty good at before the square Blairites and cautious Cameroons took over. The disgracing of Sewel is a reminder of British politics at its saucy

Mary Portas’ awkward train encounter with Ed Balls

When the Conservatives won a surprise majority in the election, many businesses breathed a collective sigh of relief that the two Eds would not have a chance to implement their ‘anti-business’ policies. Retail expert Mary Portas appeared to express her own personal relief when she appeared at Hay this week to discuss her memoir. Portas, who was appointed by David Cameron to head a review into Britain’s high streets, recalled an awkward encounter she had with Ed Balls on a train: ‘I saw Ed Balls on the train once and he was so pleased that he’d negotiated a mammogram centre in an Asda in his constituency. I thought ‘quelle horreur’. Can you imagine getting your boobs out after

Just to confuse matters, the Tories have launched two very incongruous policies

With every policy launch during an election campaign, it is worth asking why a party has chosen that policy and why it is launching it on that particular day. This is generally because answering those questions helps you work out what message a party is trying to send and whether they are on the defensive or offensive. But today it is worth asking this question simply because it would be nice to get an answer: why have the Tories launched two completely unconnected policies which don’t sound very Toryish on the same day? One of these policies is the freezing of rail fares, which begs the question, why did the Tories expend so

The myth of the housing crisis

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Simon Jenkins vs James Forsyth on the housebuilding myth” startat=1215] Listen [/audioplayer]There is no such thing as the English countryside. There is my countryside, your countryside and everyone else’s. Most people fight just for theirs. When David Cameron told the BBC’s Countryfile he would defend the countryside ‘as I would my own family’, many of its defenders wondered which one he meant. In the past five years a national asset that public opinion ranks with the royal family, Shakespeare and the NHS, has slid into trench warfare. Parish churches fill with protest groups. Websites seethe with fury. Planning lawyers have never been busier. The culprit has been planning

Rotherham urgently needs a chance to recalibrate its moral compass

One would have thought that it was impossible for the Rotherham sex abuse story to become even more depressing. But it has. The Times, which has led the way in exposing this scandal, alleges that a police office and two councillors have been accused of having sex with the victims of this terrible scandal. The newspaper claims that one of the councillors involved is still serving. If this was not grim enough, the Casey report into Rotherham Council, published today, reveals a council that still won’t accept what has happened. Casey warns Rotherham Council is: ‘In denial. They denied that there had been a problem, or if there had been, that it

It’s all kicking off in the Islamic world. Nothing at all to do with Islam, of course

They have been burning churches and murdering Christians again in Niger. You’d think that they’d have more immediately pressing concerns than worrying about a cartoon, Niger regularly winning the award for being the worst country anywhere on God’s earth, and the poorest. But nope, it’s kill-a-kuffar time once more. Some 45 churches set alight and at least five people killed and 50 injured. Adherents of the Religion of Peace (© all UK politicians) included in their pyromania a Christian orphanage, which was thoughtful of them. There have also been massed rallies and protests and the usual effigy-burning business in the vast and dusty Islamic desert rat-holes next door, Mali and

Portrait of the week | 22 January 2015

Home More than 1,100 imams and Islamic leaders received a letter from Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the communities minister, saying: ‘We must show our young people, who may be targeted, that extremists have nothing to offer them.’ Imran Khawaja, from Southall, west London, who had posed for a picture in Syria with a severed head before trying to re-enter Britain, pleaded guilty to four terrorism offences and will be sentenced next month. Sir John Chilcot confirmed that the report of his inquiry into the Iraq war, which took its last evidence in 2011, would not be published until after the election. A workers’ dispute

Rod Liddle

Good news for travellers (and static travellers). Green Belt land is up for grabs!

Excellent news for Britain’s travelling community (and indeed those who aren’t travelling very much at all and are therefore known, officially, as ‘static travellers’). A judge has decreed that the government’s approach to planning applications on Green Belt land by gypsies is discriminatory. Henceforth, applications to build on the green belt will not be summarily rejected, but passed on to the planning inspectorate. Of course there should be no building of any kind on green belt land, but it’s nice to think that we’ll now be able to enjoy viewing those lovely prefabs the travellers prefer. And, of course, the immense tidiness and cleanliness of the surrounding site. Are the

Why are the MCB complaining about Pickles’s letter to Mosques?

Eric Pickles’s letter to Mosques is pretty anodyne. It is hard to see how it could be objected to. But the Muslim Council of Britain is busy complaining about it. Its deputy secretary general Harun Khan is quoted in The Guardian saying, “Is Mr Pickles seriously suggesting, as do members of the far right, that Muslims and Islam are inherently apart from British society?” Now, if you read the letter it is very hard to argue that this is any way what Pickles is saying. He writes, ‘British values are Muslim values. Like all faiths, Islam and its message of peace and unity makes our country a better and stronger place, and


Chuka his toys out of the pram

Uh oh, looks like Chuka Umunna hasn’t been doing his homework. The shadow business secretary walked out of a live television interview on Sky News after he was asked his opinion on a letter Eric Pickles sent to Muslim leaders. The Labour MP, who was invited onto the show to talk about the economy, appeared distressed to be questioned on the issue as he had not read the controversial letter in question. His response was to wave his arm around in a fury before walking off air, as Steerpike’s gif helpfully demonstrates. While Mr S is all for playing fair, surely Chuka should be reading his party’s own detailed media briefing that it sends out

Eric Pickles puts John Prescott’s surplus stationery to good use

Since 2010, every government department has tried to highlight the profligate spending of their predecessors in the most imaginative ways possible. In return, Labour have been on the look out for the slightest whiff of waste upon which to jump in order to claim they have changed their ways. Parliamentary Questions are placed, diaries tipped off and John Prescott is still denying that the civil service credit card billing at his local Chinese was anything to do with him. This latest letter that I have been passed, however, takes the metaphorical biscuit. After a story appeared in the Sun on Sunday about glamorous Russian fans demanding photos of Eric Pickles, it seems

Politicians’ pyjamas: Cameron wears satin, Balls prefers a string vest and Hague, a kaftan

Let’s talk pyjamas. Specifically, let’s talk paisley pyjamas. Never mind what poor Mr Newmark had hanging out of his; concentrate on the garment itself. You never think of politicians in pyjamas. Although now I’ve started, and I just can’t stop. David Cameron, I suspect, used to sleep in tracky bottoms and a Smiths T-shirt until really quite recently. These days, though, it’ll be a suit of something expensive and slinky, maybe black satin, or green. While Ed Miliband’s pyjama situation you just know will be chaos. Possibly he still wears the now tight and farcical Thomas the Tank Engine ones he had when he was 11. Keeps meaning to buy

Eric Pickles: The Conservatives are building houses – and bringing power to the people

A great country is built on strong communities. And strong communities are built on the shoulders of individuals – ordinary people doing extraordinary things. As Communities Secretary I am privileged to witness this at first hand: proud residents confronting anti-social behaviour at their own personal risk; community leaders speaking out against sectarian divide; families refusing to be cowed by racist hatred. My priority in Government has been to fight for these people – to bring power to them and help them make their part of the world a better place. Devolution is not about new names for old quangos, as Labour did, but real power for local communities. And we’ve

The theological illiteracy of Eric Pickles

It is worrying that Eric Pickles is in charge of religion for this government. I first came across his footprints in Bradford, where in the Eighties he was as much responsible as any other politician for the introduction of ‘multicultural’ policies into English cities. He understood that there were Pakistani Muslim votes at stake, and introduced policies to gratify their sensibilities, something conveniently forgotten once he moved down to Essex. The central flaw in this policy was not that it encouraged Islam but that it locked Pakistani machine politics into the indigenous machine politics of local government. Labour turned out to be the main beneficiary of the process, though you

Tower Hamlets: more allegations of obfuscation and electoral malpractice

Will investigators ever get to the bottom of what’s going on in Tower Hamlets? London’s most dubious borough has several ongoing inquiries into the alleged misuse of funds, electoral malpractice and voter intimidation. The first of these appears to be encountering some issues. Following a Panorama programme on the borough’s mayor Lutfur Rahman, the Department for Communities and Local Government sent in auditors to find out whether funds were being inappropriately used. This afternoon, Eric Pickles told the Commons that Tower Hamlets council has been withholding information from PricewaterhouseCoopers and their investigation will be extended — with a larger bill for Tower Hamlets: ‘In April, I instructed inspectors to launch

George Osborne has won over the IMF to austerity. Now can he win over Eric Pickles to planning reform?

Fresh from celebrating the Tories’ victory in Newark, George Osborne is continuing a very joyful day by celebrating the International Monetary Fund admitting that it got it wrong on austerity. Christine Lagarde today conceded that ‘we underestimated the growth of the UK economy in our growth forecast a year ago’. The report the IMF published today contains its usual mix of things that all parties can celebrate: plenty of compliments for the Government such as ‘the economy has rebounded strongly and growth is becoming more balanced’, along with criticisms that Labour finds useful for its press releases. Osborne has very little to worry about immediately from the main criticism, which

Lutfur Rahman and Tower Hamlets — an example of why elected mayors don’t work?

Is Eric Pickles about to send government troops into Tower Hamlets? Last night’s Panorama examined Lutfur Rahman, the borough’s independent directly elected mayor, who is accused (amongst other things) of mismanaging public funds to purchase influence within certain communities. The programme outlined how Rahman has allegedly ignored the advice of his own officials on distributing money and more than doubling funds to projects in Tower Hamlets’ Bengali community— of which more than two thirds were responsible for electing him in 2010. Rahman has denied all of the allegations against him, calling the BBC Islamophobic, a charge the BBC has in turn refuted in vigorous terms. Part of Panorama’s aim was

Memo to the Environment Agency: humans have needs too

It is not surprising that the Environment Agency (EA) have come under attack for the flooding in South West England. What is surprising is how long it took people to catch on to the fact that if anyone was to blame, it was the EA, not Owen Paterson.  As this week’s  leading article in The Spectator says,  ‘the unprecedented scale of this mess is not just due to nature. It is a disaster that has resulted from a deliberate policy followed by the Environment Agency since, 18 years ago, it was given overall responsibility for river management and flood defences throughout England.’ The agency decided – perhaps mistakenly – that wildlife

Isabel Hardman

Government flooded with confusion on line to take on floods

In the past few days it has become increasingly difficult to tell what the Number 10 strategy is for responding to the floods. As one Tory MP remarked to me earlier, ‘there is a whiff of the Hurricane Katrina about Number 10’s handling of the floods. It’s the inconsistency of government comms and policy. First it was the Environment Agency’s fault, then rain, then the EU, then EA again. The the Army were helping, then not, then were. Then Pickles arses it on Sunday and ministers start falling out!’ Eric Pickles gave a sarcastic interview to the Mail on Sunday this weekend in which he said Chris Smith ‘has to