Still in a pickle on energy policy
Eric Pickles was in danger of gaining a reputation for being the kind of minister who plays to the gallery but makes little real impact.
His outspoken comments on allowing drivers to briefly park on double yellow lines; his demand that councils re-start weekly rubbish collections and his general man-of-the-people demeanour was beginning to look like populism of the worst kind; designed to improve his image but make no real difference to voters' lives since the so-called policies of which he spoke were never going to happen.
But on one of the most important and divisive issues in the West Country, Mr Pickles is clearly having an impact. Campaigners against inappropriate wind farms in the region have hailed "the Pickles effect" after at least one planning inspector, called in to rule on a bitterly opposed proposal, quoted the Communities Minister's warning that he would be watching decisions "very closely."
The inspector duly turned down the plan for a 220ft turbine at Woodford Farm, Witheridge, in North Devon, with direct reference to Mr Pickles' insistence that the harm done to the landscape would outweigh the benefit from the electricity generated.
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That will be heartening for communities up and down the West Country. It might have seemed that an apparent growing scepticism, at least within Tory ranks in the Coalition, was being watered down to the point where it made little difference on the ground. That, now, seems not to be the case.
There remains, however, a wider problem in Government with renewable energy. The tension between the two halves of the Coalition means that ministers like Mr Pickles and Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson can express their scepticism while Energy Secretary Ed Davey and Lib Dem leader and Deputy PM Nick Clegg continue to fly the flag for "green power". The result is general confusion, a piecemeal approach to renewable energy projects and both renewable developers and sensitive communities baffled and concerned.
Our energy provision – and our beautiful landscapes – are too important to leave to the whims of planning inspectors, the ambitions of landowners and energy companies and the political in-fighting of the two sides in the Coalition.
As the next election draws nearer, the political divide will grow. What's needed is a policy, in the national interest, that everyone understands. That is not too much to ask of ministers.