Or Chris Smith for that matter?

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Being a shadow minister has its perks. Hundreds of theatre, opera, film-premiere, preview and first-night tickets flood into Chris Smith's office every month. But, like his opposite number at National Heritage, he has no time to use them. Smith, 43 and MP for Islington, escapes the criticism levelled at Stephen Dorrell, however, largely because he has an interest in culture. He's governor of the Sadler's Wells Foundation, and is on the board of the Grand Union Orchestra. Then there's his PhD in 19th-century poetry (Wordsworth and Coleridge ballads a speciality).

On a busy day, he was 15 minutes late for his mid-morning radio link- up with Scotland from the BBC at Millbank. It's a routine chat and Smith is fluent. And he's done his homework, extolling the virtues of Aberdeen library service and mentioning that he has climbed all the "munroes" in Scotland. (Heritage includes sport.)

His day started with an 8.30am breakfast with members of the Press Complaints Commission in a private room at the Savoy. He was late for nearly all his meetings, but makes up for it by giving good soundbites. In the course of the day Smith delivers the same one "off the cuff" three times. It's about the superhighway and a vision of a community linked, and not isolated by it. In support of this he refers constantly to a schoolboy in Darlington mugging up for his GCSE who can access the British Library while doctors in Colwyn Bay can perform complex surgery under the guidance of an expert in London.

He uses this example in a speech he gives at lunchtime to property developers at the Inn on the Park. They seem to like him. (If property developers are amenable to a Labour spokesman, you know the Government's in trouble.)

After lunch, Smith goes to the House then to his office to field calls. Around four, he addresses some students in a committee room in the House. He mentions the surgeon in Wales and that schoolboy again. In the evening he's having dinner with News International. There's time for one last soundbite. "If you add up everything the Department of National Heritage is responsible for, it amounts to a bigger share of the GDP than the whole of the manufacturing industry. This department gives people jobs - about 500,000 in the arts - and makes money."

Comments