Life's a beach for Labour's new minister for the movies

Perhaps it was the sight of all those yachts and designer swim wear. But it took the Cannes Film Festival to provoke a New Labour minister to talk about his socialist youth.

And that was only after bewailing the lack of disabled people in movies, and praising a film that gave carers a high profile.

Tom Clarke made his presence felt here yesterday. Britain's first ever minister for films did not exactly cut a dash on the Croisette. But as the only man in town to parade an old suit, a pate and a paunch and still be continually smiling, he turned heads.

Bypassing the glitz and the exclusive parties, Mr Clarke headed straight for the promoters of a film on Alzheimer's disease. "This is wonderful," he said, and he wasn't referring to the casting of real life daughter and mother Emma Thompson and Phyllida Law in The Winter Guest. "I'm delighted," he went on, "That one: it's about Scotland; and two: it's about caring, because carers have felt left out."

It demands considerable dexterity to move from Scottish spokesman to shadow disability minister to minister of state with responsibility for films and make it a seamless progression. Mr Clarke is nothing if not dextrous. He told a British Film Institute meeting here there must be more disabled actors, directors and producers. And when asked about great acting he singled out Euan McGregor's roles in Trainspotting and Jane Austen's Emma to pronounce: "He has a great talent in mastering that English accent."

New Labour has brought a new attitude to film. Two years ago Steve Dorrell as Secretary of State for National Heritage came to Cannes and made the wonderful gaffe of thinking the beautiful French actress Jeanne Moreau was a man.

Mr Clarke on the other hand is not only a minister who knows his films, he has actually made one and entered it for the Cannes Film Festival, albeit the Cannes Amateur Film Festival.

Back in 1972, the then 30-year-old president of the British Amateur Cinematographers Society directed Give Us A Goal, a 15-minute short about Scottish soccer teams Queen of the South and Clydebank. It was not easy to find any of the world's movie makers here yesterday who could recall it. But then it is not easy to find anyone in the stands at Queen of the South or Clydebank who can recall it.

David Lister - Cannes