I followed Communities secretary Eric Pickles' speech to the Local Government Association conference yesterday on television. If there was a serious message in there somewhere, it was crowded out by a procession of terrible, over-rehearsed jokes, and a truly awesome smugness.
Pickles looks like he ought to be a natural wit – my colleague Peter Hetherington uses the epithet "engaging" to describe him – but this was glib, Daily Mail-pastiche, stuffed with cliche and mixed metaphor.
Local government he said, was "a prisoner of regulations... chained to the radiator by red tape." In Pickles's world, one does not merely reduce bureaucracy but light a "bonfire of the inanities". Rules and regulations are never anything other than "barmy" and planning strategies are invariably "Soviet-style". Council job titles he didn't recognise or understand were, inevitably, "non-jobs".
As Rich Watts tweeted at one stage:
"Is Pickles going to say anything serious or just make crap jokes/one-liners all day?"