Conference sketch: The Eric and Allegra Show
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government
Union leader warns over train fare rise
CIH delegates left the most-awaited speech of their annual conference with just one question on their lips: Why couldn't he catch a later train?
Eric Pickles, that charming heavyweight in charge of the Department for Communities and Local Government, breezed into Manchester, spoke forth and scarpered.
Your sketchwriter swears he said he was off to Whitby.
Well not before a speech laden with detail and a sofa chat with BBC's Allegra Stratton.
Delegates would have loved to ask more than four (or was it five?) truncated questions to Pickles and it's a mystery why, if he really did have to get the train, that the timings of the session weren't adjusted to suit this? Instead, it was proportioned maybe 45-45-10, namely Pickles' speech, followed by Stratton asking perfectly intelligent questions, and a rapid Q&A with the audience constantly being reminded of the blessed choo-choo.
You never know, the DCLG may have refused to take many questions though Pickles loves a good fight. Stratton's a tough and experienced journalist but there's really nothing you can do if the minister puts his foot down. And at the risk of being weightist, his foot would hurt quite a bit.
A missed opportunity then. And a shame as Pickles is a genuinely funny man who thrives in taking on an audience.
A delicious postscript would be if Pickles made the train only to find himself surrounded by SHOUT council housing activists in the same carriage. But it remains a sad reflection that the ticket conductor on Pickles' train probably had more chance of an answer than delegates at the conference.
Unless the great man told the conductor "he had a conference to catch".