Three bad hands for Chris Smith

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Pity poor Chris Smith. Over three years beavering away at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has led to grudging respect from much of the hard-to-impress arts establishment.

Pity poor Chris Smith. Over three years beavering away at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has led to grudging respect from much of the hard-to-impress arts establishment.

But now each element of his tripartite brief seems intent on ensuring sleepless nights for a beleaguered Secretary of State. First, culture. This covers, of course, that cursed Dome. Never an enthusiast for the Greenwich project, Mr Smith has nevertheless been lumbered with it.

There is next to nothing he can do with this Mandelsonian legacy except grin and pretend that the big tent is fun. Then the Millennium Commission. No sooner had Mr Smith declared his undying support for Dame Helena Shovelton over the commission's treatment of Camelot, than she quit her post.

Doh! Now sport. Following the final match yesterday, the new plans for Wembley Stadium come under Mr Smith's purview, but have been dogged from the start by "hallowed turf wars" between those who want a football-only arena and those who wish the stadium to double up for a putative Olympic bid.

But it is in his media brief that Mr Smith has been most conspicuously outmanoeuvred. The shock announcement that BBC1 is to move "the Nine" to 10pm as of next Monday was a bolt from the blue. In bypassing Mr Smith with their opportunistic decision, BBC governors may well have hastened their demise. But they have probably also hastened Mr Smith's.

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