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Eric Pickles

Assumed office 
19 January 2009
Leader David Cameron
Preceded by Caroline Spelman

In office
27 June 2007 – 19 January 2009
Succeeded by Caroline Spelman

Member of Parliament
for Brentwood and Ongar
Assumed office 
9 April 1992
Preceded by Robert McCrindle
Majority 11,612 (26.3%)

Born 20 April 1952 (1952-04-20) (age 57)
Keighley, Yorkshire
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Irene Coates
Alma mater Leeds Polytechnic

Eric Jack Pickles (born 20 April 1952 in Keighley, Yorkshire) is a Conservative Party politician in the United Kingdom. He is currently the Chairman of the Conservative Party following David Cameron's shadow cabinet reshuffle on the 19th January 2009. He was Co-Chairman of the Joint Committee Against Racism between 1982 and 1987.


Early life

He went to Greenhead Grammar School (now Greenhead High School) on Greenhead Road in Utley, north Keighley, then Leeds Polytechnic. He was born into a Labour supporting family – his great grandfather was one of the founders of the Independent Labour Party, and described himself as 'massively inclined' towards Communism as a boy[1] – but he joined the Conservative Party in 1968 after the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia.[2]

Pickles soon rose to prominence as the chairman of the local Young Conservatives association and later became chairman of the national organisation. He also had a four year spell as Co-Chairman of the Joint Committee Against Racism.[2]

Local government

Pickles was first elected to Bradford Council in 1979.[2] Between 1988 and 1990, he served as leader of the Conservative group on the council. In September 1988 the Conservative Party gained control by using the Conservative mayor's casting vote to become the only inner-city council to be controlled by the Conservatives.

Whilst at Bradford, Pickles introduced several major changes, many of which proved controversial. A book, The Pickles Papers by Tony Grogan, was written about this period in Pickles's life.

Parliamentary career

Pickles has been Member of Parliament for Brentwood and Ongar since 1992. He is currently the Chairman of the Conservative Party following his appointment to the role on the 19th January 2009. Previously he has served as Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, having held that post since June 2007. Prior to this he served as Shadow Minister for Local Government from June 2002. Before that Pickles had served as Shadow Minister for Transport (September 2001–June 2002), and Shadow Minister for London.

At the 2001 general election, the Independent candidate Martin Bell, who had previously won Tatton from Neil Hamilton, stood against him, due to accusations that the Peniel Pentecostal Church had infiltrated the local Conservative branch. Pickles's majority was severely reduced, but he retained his seat by a margin of 2,821 votes (6.5%) becoming elected with only 38% of the votes against Martin Bell's 31.5%.

At the 2005 general election Pickles retained the seat with an increased majority of 11,612 (26.3%), nearly as many as the total votes cast for the second place candidate, and making this the second safest seat in Eastern England, and Pickles the MP with the third-highest share of the vote cast[3] in this region. Pickles polled a total of 23,609 votes (53.5%).

On 2 July 2007 David Cameron appointed Pickles to a reshuffled Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary. On December 30 2008, according to reports in The Times, Pickles unveiled plans to "purge town hall 'fat cats'". The Times reported that under the plans "dozens of council chiefs who earn more than Cabinet ministers would lose their jobs as clusters of councils merged their frontline services and backroom operations to provide better value for money."[4] Of the eight highest earning chief executives listed in The Times' report, six are employed by councils run by the Conservative party, one by Labour and one by the Liberal Democrats.

Pickles was the Campaign Manager for the successful Crewe & Nantwich By-Election in May 2008.

In early 2010 Pickles defended the First Past The Post voting system as resulting in stable government. He attacked the Prime Minister saying he " wants to fiddle the electoral system" by wanting to look at a Preferential Voting system with a single transferrable vote, similar to that used in Australia and other countries.

Pickles was asked to pay back £300 following the MP's expenses scandal. [5]

Second home

On 26 March 2009, Pickles appeared on the political debate programme Question Time in Newcastle upon Tyne. While discussing the controversy over Tony McNulty (who had recently admitted claiming expenses on a second home, occupied by his parents, only 8 miles away from his primary residence), Pickles admitted he claimed a second home allowance because he lived 37 miles from Westminster and needed to leave his constituency house in Brentwood at 5.30am in order to get to Westminster for 9.30am,[6][7] given that he tended to get home at midnight or 1am.[8] He went on to say that it was "no fun" commuting into London from where he lived. In response to Pickles's comments that he "had to be there [the House of Commons] on time", Question Time host David Dimbleby replied "Like a job, in other words?" prompting some amusement amongst the audience.

Radio show

Pickles also appears as a radio presenter on local community radio station Phoenix FM together with the Leader of Brentwood Council (and fellow Conservative) Brandon Lewis in a show titled The Eric and Brandon Show. The show is billed as non-party political, and involves the two politicians interviewing local personalities interspersed with music. It is currently broadcast live once a month on 98.0FM and via live webcam on the internet.

Personal life

He married Irene Coates in 1976 in Staincliffe, a district of Batley in West Yorkshire.



  • Grogan, Tony, The Pickles Papers, Bradford, 1989, ISBN 0-948994-04-5

External links


News items

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Robert McCrindle
Member of Parliament for Brentwood and Ongar
Political offices
Preceded by
Caroline Spelman
Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Succeeded by
Caroline Spelman
Party political offices
Preceded by
Caroline Spelman
Chairman of the Conservative Party

Simple English

Eric Jack Pickles (born April 20, 1952 in Keighley, West Yorkshire, England) is a British politician and the current Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government. He is the Conservative Party Member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency of Brentwood and Ongar in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.

He was first elected in the 1992 general election and entered the shadow cabinet in 2007. He was the Chairman of the Conservative Party from January 2009 to May 2010, when he was replaced by Baroness Warsi and was appointed the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government instead.


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