Scrutinising Nick Clegg's desert island choices

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David Bowie performs at Glastonbury Festival in 2000
Image caption,
Nick Clegg picked David Bowie's Life on Mars as one of his favourite records

How would you find being stranded on a desert island with little more than a cigarette in hand, David Bowie playing on the CD player and a best-selling Italian novel to read?

If your name is Nick Clegg, and you are the Deputy Prime Minister, welcome to paradise.

Mr Clegg is the latest in a long line of senior politicians to give the highlights of their record collection a spin on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.

You might think it would be a welcome relief from the intensity of policy announcements, scrutiny and House of Commons debates.

But it is a tricky balancing act when you are a politician and your musical choices will undoubtedly come under scrutiny. The wise choice then is not too cool, but not too tacky; not too highbrow but not too embarrassing.

Perhaps that is why Mr Clegg says he was "up until 2am" picking his records.

After all, you might remember Gordon Brown once told an interviewer he was a fan of the Arctic Monkeys. But what Mr Brown could not remember was the names of any of their songs.

Meanwhile, David Cameron admitted his childhood musical hero was none other than old school comic Benny Hill - he of the 1971 chart topper, Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West).

On the positive side, an appearance on Desert Island Discs is a chance, all being well, for a politician to appear more human and more rounded than an appearance at the Commons despatch box might allow - and to admit to the odd vice.

The rules of the programme, which began in 1942, are straightforward.

Each guest has to select eight records they would take with them onto a desert island. They can also take a book, and one inanimate luxury item.

For Nick Clegg, choosing The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa - a novel about a Sicilian nobleman - as his book of choice appears to have been quite straightforward.

As for his luxury item, that would be "a stash of cigarettes".

Mr Clegg said he never smokes in public, but added: "I have a confession to make: I do enjoy the occasional cigarette.

"I can just imagine, as the sun goes down, sitting there with my beard flowing down to my knees just puffing away at a cigarette. I know I shouldn't say this and it's a terrible thing.

"In fact I hope my children don't hear this programme because they don't even know I smoke."

Politically incorrect, perhaps. But not in the same league as the actor Oliver Reed. He told the programme he would take a blow up woman with him.

Then again, Reed was not deputy prime minister.

Mr Clegg also tells the programme about the frantic week of negotiations in May that propelled him from mere leader of the Liberal Democrats to the heart of government.

And he admits he had a lot to learn about David Cameron.

"We didn't know each other, I even texted a friend of mine who knew him a bit. I just sent a single line text and said, 'Can I trust this guy?'"

The answer was yes.

"There was a genuine view that we both share that no-one had won the election, we were all losers. I sometimes think people have forgotten that."

But putting politics aside and returning to pop, there is one song that appears to make Mr Clegg wince a little when he reveals it as one of his choices.

There lying on the beach of his mythical desert island - alongside the very considered choices of David Bowie's Life on Mars and The Cross by Prince - would be this year's summer hit Waka Waka (This Time For Africa) by the Colombian singer Shakira.

The upbeat dance number was the theme to the 2010 World Cup - not an event that left many Englishmen rushing to buy the tournament's official song.

But Nick Clegg's wife Miriam is Spanish - and Spain did win the World Cup. And his youngest son Miguel, he says, absolutely loves it.

Nick Clegg's Desert Island Discs

1. Idil Biret playing Chopin's Waltz in A Minor

2. Johnny Cash and Sunday Morning Coming Down

3. Prince and The Cross

4. Cesaria Evora and Petit Pays

5. Radiohead and Street Spirit

6. David Bowie and Life on Mars

7. Shakira and Waka Waka the theme to the 2010 World Cup

8. Schubert's Impromptu No.3 in G Flat Major played by Alfred Brendel

Book: The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

Luxury: A stash of cigarettes

Nick Clegg appears on Desert Island Discs on Sunday 24 October at 1115 BST on BBC Radio 4.

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