Many will pay respect to his passing by honouring his substantial acting career, however we should also record Pete's commitment to working people and progressive politics. role in the Labour Parties final 1997 General Election party political broadcast, when he played a cab driver who turns out to be an angel. A PPB that sent many of us off to the polls with joy in our hearts and on to a glorious Labour landslide victory.
Why is that PPB not on You Tube ?
Pete's performances inspired me to teach children about climate change and to help rebuild mining communities
I first saw Brassed Off – the tale about the troubles faced by a colliery brass band, following the closure of their pit – in June 1997. The story, loosely based on the Grimethorpe Colliery Band was moving but it was Pete Postlethwaite's speech right at the end that had a deep effect on me.
His character, band leader Danny, after spending his life wanting to win the national brass band trophy, symbolically turns it down because he knows it's the only way he can get publicity for the 1,000 miners who were sacked from his pit.
The line that got me was: "This government has systematically destroyed an entire industry – our industry. And not just our industry – our communities, our homes, our lives. All in the name of 'progress'. And for a few lousy bob."
You can watch it here. I defy you not to cry.
These communities had their heart ripped out by successive Tory governments. 200,000 were thrown on to the dole and were just left to rot. That led to increasing rates of worklessness and despair.
It made me so angry and I thought we must do something. I then realised I was the minister in charge!
So I sat down with English Partnerships and ordered them to compile a programme targeted at regenerating these mining communities. I then went to the Durham Miners' Rally in July 1997 and told them we were taking action.
It helped rebuild some of those former mining communities and, according to English Partnerships, has brought public-sector investment into the coalfield communities worth more than £400m.
Pete's other defining role for me was his part in the environmental movie Age of Stupid.
He played a future survivor of the 21st century's climate apocalypse, who looks back at documentary footage and asks why we failed to save ourselves while we had the chance.
In my role as the rapporteur for climate change for the Council of Europe, I approached the film-makers to allow me to show the film on a school tour and in Strasbourg. I even sent a copy to Al Gore. Everyone agreed Pete's powerful performance made the film's message even more effective.
For an actor I imagine the greatest acclaim must be for your performance to be so good as to make people think. Better still, to make them get out and do something.
Pete Postlethwaite made me do the latter – twice. He was a fine actor, a devoted campaigner and a good man.
Pete will be missed but his art changed the lives of many for the better. I can't think of a better compliment than that.