Published  15/01/2002

Farewell then, Chris

h1> Farewell then, Chris

Another trauma with a quiet ending was the dastardly removal of the highly successful Minister for Culture, Media, and Sport. Was it that Smith too readily favoured art over sport, reversing the interest of the majority of voters in this art-uncrazy nation? Or that he was too fair and balanced in settling media interests on a level playing field instead? Anyhow, he went, with dignity and a major reputation impressively intact, to rumination on the back benches. Tessa Jowell, his successor as Minister, seems hardly likely to catch those mysterious votes, either. Smith took with him the respect of museum directors, architects, theatre directors, the film world, and above all the media world. Greg Dyke notably rooted for him as he went. Smith could listen as well as legislate, was bereft of any arrogance, and rated as his two major achievements the freeing of Channel Four of its onerous 400 millions levy for ITV, and the freeing of the public from museum charges. He presided over culture, media and sport during a dramatic period of growth in performance and attendance throughout the nation. Perhaps his success was the cause of his downfall: he reversed the marginality of the portfolio he inherited, turning it into a government winner. The problem is that the credit is all his, and no one else’s. A traumatic disappearance off field, and no equivalent replacement.

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