Eric Pickles: did you realise he was fat? and other fascinating facts

An interview with Eric Pickles – who seems to be a Mail-reading, simple-minded Tory MP – appears on the Mail website today and it is a strange interview. Firstly, it took two people to conduct it / write it up; secondly it is only being conducted because Pickles is just the sort of ignorant reactionary simpleton that perfectly embodies the Daily Mail agenda; but finally, the interview refers to his weight repeatedly as if this was more important even than his attacks on Daily Mail targets.

The headline implies that this is going to be a fawning interview in which the Mail deifies Pickles for tackling the issues that it really cares about: ‘Every Englishman has a right to put the bin out without waiting for it to be collected, by Eric Pickles’. Yet the article spends the first 10 paragraphs or so discussing his ‘girth’; which just seems a bit odd because Pickles really is attacking every target the Mail wants attacked, yet they still cannot resist their obsession with weight. It is as if the interviewers were keen to point out to Pickles that he was fat, as if he didn’t realise – and nor would the reader unless they pointed it out, over and over again.

The rest of the interview is to be as expected: Pickles is being given a platform to repeat the sort of shit you normally see in a Daily Mail editorial:

I fully support all those households who are demanding the restoration of the weekly bin ­collection.

‘It’s a basic right for every English man and woman to be able to put the remnants of their chicken tikka masala in their bin without having to wait a fortnight for it to be collected.’

At a time when the government is introducing the most draconian cuts imagineable Pickles’ actually thinks that what people really want is their bins emptied weekly. Seems to have his priorities a bit skewed. On a personal note: who are these people demanding that their bins be emptied weekly? My local council empties my bins once a week and most weeks I have nothing in my waste bin – I have even had a smaller bin issued by the council because I just do not generate the waste. I think the clue is in the next part of his opus:

He also doesn’t see why everyone should have to use slop buckets for waste food. Another bugbear is the amount of packaging that ­manufacturers produce. Urging them to cut back, he says: ‘It’s ­frightening and becoming utterly ridiculous.’

Yes, packaging does need to be reduced but packaging is also largely recyclable which is why my bin remains so empty each week: I recycle. As for the mention of the infamous ‘slop bucket’, how many times does this have to be repeated: there is no such thing as a slop bucket. I have a food waste bin, it is small, sealed and perfectly hygenic. I put food waste into it (thus cutting down on the likelihood of rats / foxes getting at food scraps which he moves onto) and my kitchen remains a lovely place to be. Every time I see the Mail use the term ‘slop bucket’ it makes me want to repeatedly smash the ‘journalist’ around the face with my food waste BIN until they finally realise that the two are in no way similar.

Anyway, back to foxes and rats:

‘By ending the weekly collection, Labour has ­doubled the ­country’s rat population since 1996 (to an estimated 80 ­million). We are only 20ft away from a rat any time.’

Pickles also blames the withdrawal of weekly refuse collections for the increase of foxes in urban areas.

As a commenter points out: how are foxes and rats chewing their way through solid plastic wheelie bins? Furthermore, food waste bins (at least the ones used by my council) have a metal clip to seal them, meaning even if a determined fox (or group of rats working together) overturned the bin nothing would fall out to feed them. Pickles clearly does not believe in food waste bins given that he believes it is a fundemental human right of ‘Englishmen’ (not women, the Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish who deserve no such luxury) to put ‘the remnants of their chicken tikka masala in their bin‘.

I think Eric Pickles is personably responsible for the supposed (I’ll come back to that in a minute) increase in rats. My first piece of evidence comes from the Daily Mail website in 2008: ‘Britain’s rat population could treble to 200 million next year as councils axe pest control‘. The article is illustrated by the following picture:

Chicken Tikka to blame for increase in rats

This appears to be rats feeding on the ‘remnants’ of Chicken Tikka that have been misplaced into a traditional bin, rather than a food waste bin. Eric Pickles’ fundemental right for all Englishmen is leading to the direct feeding of rats.

As if this wasn’t enough evidence of Pickles’ clear guilt, let me present exhibit two, a recent article taken from the BBC Website: ‘Bradford faces huge explosion in city’s rat population‘. How could this be linked to Pickles? Well, as the Mail article points out:

Pickles knows all about local ­government, ­having run Bradford Council in the Eighties. He pioneered privatisation and ­outsourced much of the town hall’s work…

On a more serious note, the BBC story actually identifies the cause of the increasing rat population as people pouring fat down their sinks (which congeals into an energy-rich food source for rats) and increasing amounts of litter above ground. Furthermore, the Mail’s scary number of rats reaching ‘200million’ by 2009 also seems completely false (not a huge suprise, granted) as an expert points out:

Recent Press reports of the UK rat population exceeding the human population are likely to be gross over-estimates says London expert Dr David Channon.

He says the more reliable estimates centre on the figure of about 25 Million give or take a few million.

The 60 Million figure often quoted [which the Mail based its estimates on] comes he says from a estimate made at the turn of the last century which related rat numbers to cultivated acreage and coincidently, human population.
At that time there were 20 Million acres in cultivation and an estimate was made of one rat per acre. The human population around 1900 was about 20 Million as well which lead to the rough link of one rat per person.

However Dr Channon points out that the driver for the link was acreage in cultivation and not human numbers. So, whilst the human population is now around the 60 Million mark, the cultivated acreage is not markedly different to what it was a hundred years ago.

Despite this, the one rat per person link has now achieved the status of an urban myth.

He also points out that the link between fortnightly collections and increased visibility of rats is caused by people deciding not to put the waste into their bins:

People don’t want to live alongside decaying food for two weeks and often put it out in the garden where opportunist pests like rats, pigeons and foxes can clean it up. This creates risks both for the householder and the neighbours.

So, the bins are not to blame but rather people not using them. Either way, it seems that rat populations are much lower than the tabloids would have you believe – particularly in London where sewers increasingly flood, drowning huge numbers of rats at a time which helps maintain a steady population.

The Daily Mail article is a mess of myths and ignorance masquerading as ‘common sense’ and truth, which seems appropriate in a way because this is what both the Daily Mail and Pickles represent. Even though the two are firmly aligned the Mail article cannot resist ending with another dig at his weight:

Pickles has even banned ­refreshments from being served at departmental meetings unless they go on for more than four hours.

While it’s a small and symbolic gesture, aimed at saving money, the removal of plates of biscuits might have another happy ­outcome — ­helping Britain’s Local ­Government Secretary reduce that magnificent girth.

If Pickles had any kind of self-respect he would have told the two interviewers (Amanda Platell and Andrew Pierce) where to go, rather than accepting the mocking just so he can plaster his stupidity all over the Mail website.

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