The poem that stops Chris Smith's clock

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The Independent Online
Chris Smith, Britain's first openly gay Cabinet minister, reaffirmed his determination to remain up front about his sexuality yesterday when he revealed his favourite screen moments at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.

If he were to be cast adrift on a desert island with only one thing to watch, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport would choose the scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral where the actor John Hannah publicly mourns his male lover with an emotional recital of W H Auden's "Stop All The Clocks".

"This is the bit that always moves me when I see it," Mr Smith told an audience of television executives gathered in the General Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland, an institution which has never celebrated sexuality of any sort, least of all homosexuality.

The minister also voiced regrets about allowing a newspaper recently to probe him about his personal life. He described the interview in the Sunday Times as his "most uncomfortable experience" with the press since taking office in May.

Simon Sebag-Montefiore had "come along and asked me the most personal of questions, which I think he wouldn't have dreamed of asking any other member of the Cabinet." (Mr Smith was asked to name which of his Cabinet colleagues he most fancied.)

Reflecting on the experience yesterday, he said he had contemplated stopping the interview, adding: "I think in hindsight I should have."

He swiftly stressed that he has nothing against robust political interviews when he picked Jeremy Paxman's relentless inquisition of former Home Secretary Michael Howard as one of his all-time television favourites. But he said the most powerful interview he had seen in recent years was Melvyn Bragg with Dennis Potter shortly before the controversial television playwright died from cancer.

Mr Smith also paid tribute to ITN's coverage of John Smith's death. A keen hill climber - he used to bag Munros with the late Labour leader - Mr Smith lauded a BBC documentary series about mountaineering, entitled The Edge.

He reiterated his commitment to keep the "crown jewels" of British sport on conventional free-to-air television by selecting a clip from the England v Germany penalty shoot-out in Euro 96.

The man in charge of reviving the British film industry also revealed that he is engaged in talks with the Motion Picture Association of America aimed at ensuring that British cinema-goers get the chance to view more British films.