'Dear Tony, Having a lovely time in Hove, love Janet'

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The Independent Online
IT'S A hard life, being her Majesty's Minister for Tourism. While colleagues enjoyed the hottest day of the year in the stuffy splendour of Whitehall, the new Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport was packed off to the seaside yesterday to endure strolls along the beach, sightseeing and generally experience the distressing sensation of wind in her hair and sun on her skin.

Stunned by criticism that its obsession with Cool Britannia had led the Government to neglect tourism, the Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, has sent his friendliest minister on a tour of our finest coastal towns. A cynic might say Britannia doesn't come more uncool than Hove in 90F heat, but this once-dowdy Victorian spinster of a resort is now an extension of hip and happening Brighton and Ms Anderson gave it her full attention.

She met instructors and kids at Hove Lagoon Watersport Centre in a photo opportunity that would have paralysed most of her colleagues. After meeting a surfer called Vincent - "Hello, I'm Janet Anderson. Don't call me Minister, call me Janet", "Hey, right, cool" - Ms Anderson threw off her shoes and clambered on to a board, balancing for the cameras like a Bondi veteran. Okay, the board was on land, but the children were impressed.

As the woman who, in opposition, promised more orgasms under Labour, Ms Anderson is an inspired choice as Minister for Sun, Sea and Sex. While most politicians think of a flip- flop as another Government U- turn, the minister conducted her first day's visits and openings with all the unflappable polish of a tour guide. Her tour, which will cover every region of England, is part of preparations for a tourism strategy to be published later this year.

Between sightseeing and beach-combing the minister managed to get the council and the Metropole Hotel to sign up to the New Deal to help the jobless. "As the new Minister for Tourism I am determined to be its partner and champion and give every encouragement to this process."

But was it coincidence that the tour began just as the weather improved? "Of course, the weather is absolutely marvellous today, and I am looking forward to being out of parliament during the recess," Ms Anderson confessed.

One has to ask why, if Britain's resorts are so good, the Prime Minister and half the Cabinet are holidaying in Tuscany, Cape Cod and elsewhere, but the minister isn't caught out so easily. "I hope to go to the Lake District for a few days later on," she said.

With Ms Anderson set to become a seaside feature to rival stripy deckchairs and kids with ice-cream chins, one suspects the first entrepreneur to produce "Kiss me Quick" hats with the slogan "Go away Minister, l'm on holiday" will make a fortune.