Richard Kemp – a LibDem councillor at the Local Government Assoc, but I try not to hold that against him – has described Eric Pickles and Grant Shapps as Laurel and Hardy and Bob Neil as Minime. Not to be outdone, I’ve been trying to think of a famous foursome in order to include Gregg Clark, the Decentralisation Minister, as he is helping, if only by default, to kick the stuffing out of local government.
Gregg Clark is not as guilty as the others of banging the Localism drum with one hand, whilst waving the latest ministerial directive to local government with the other, but if you lay down with dogs you are bound to catch fleas.
I suppose if you leave out Gregg for the time being the other three could be collectively grouped as the 3 Stooges, which wouldn’t be a bad description, given their bumbling, slapstick approach to the job.
However, I also think the Marx Brothers could be quite an accurate description for this government quartet. They, the Brothers, also seemed particularly good at leaving a trail of chaos in their wake and they had a smart mouth called Groucho, who puts down anybody who challenges his view of the world, with a sarcastic and witty remark (Pickles can manage the sarcasm, but humour seems beyond him).
I think Gregg Clark would probably be the one who doesn’t speak, in the quartet, because although he does have quite a lot to say, unlike the others, what he says tends to be focussed on his role as a minister and not on taking a swipe at local government whenever the opportunity presents itself.