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John McGurk thinks it's about time the BBC banned politicians from Desert Island Discs. It only encourages them…

The latest of our upstanding parliamentarians to choose eight songs and pretend that their Radio 4 appearance is an exercise in sincerity and honesty was Ed Miliband. He would have had weeks to sit with his policy team and come up with clever ways of wooing voters with smart responses and interesting choices of music.

But no.

His luxury item was a chicken tikka masala once a week, while his favourite song was the cheesy “Angels” by Robbie Williams. If ever there was a man of the people, the current Labour leader is surely trying to be a contender.

The host, Kirsty Young, showing off her political intellect by firing a series of nasty questions about his links with the unions, his real relationship with Ed Balls and how he pushed his brother aside to grab power was generally met with a hushed response “That's not right” followed by some waffle.

Slight pause, then Kirsty: “Let's have your next piece of music.”

In many ways, this illuminating appearance worked against poor Ed rather than for him as happened to Gordon Brown who was a guest when he was Shadow Chancellor.  The then host, Sue Lawley came out with “People want to know whether you're gay or whether there's some flaw in your personality that you haven't made a relationship.” As the programme suddenly grabbed the nation's attention, Gordon stuttered out his reply “It just hasn't happened”.

When Tony Blair appeared as Leader of the Opposition, he confessed he'd wanted to be an actor,  “but for some reason it didn't work out.” It wasn't long, of course, before he got his wish and turned out to be one of the best in the business.

John Major's luxury item was a replica of The Oval and a bowling machine because of his madness for cricket and his propensity to be the most boring of the lot. 

Curiously, Margaret Thatcher, despite being the longest-serving Prime Minister of the last century, never appeared on Desert Island Discs. Maybe she had the sense not to take the risk. We can only speculate about her choice of music and luxury item.  Answers on a postcard please.

Nick Clegg, whose luxury item was a stash of cigarettes, tried to bare his desert island soul not long after he did his deal to become deputy Prime Minister.  He hadn't known David Cameron at all, he said, before making a quite astonishing revelation.  He decided to find out if Cameron could be trusted so what did he do? He pulled out his mobile phone.

“I even texted a friend of mine who I knew knew him. It was a single line text saying “Can I trust this guy?”

Kirsty: “Presumably the answer was Yes?” Nick: “Yes. That's what he said!”

You couldn't make it up…

The momentous change in British politics, the deal between the Tories and the Lib-Dems came about thanks to the strength of a text message. It wasn't necessary to do much else before arranging the first coalition government in Britain since World War Two. Cameron himself is remembered for “Ernie”, the Benny Hill novelty song about the fastest milkman in the west.

Alex Salmond, almost two years ago, was mocked by Kirsty because “independence is as far away as ever”.  Oops! The boy soprano, who chose five discs by Scots, asked for a sand iron and an endless supply of golf balls as his luxury.  I wondered about that because Alex used to complain about his bad back. Adopting a hunched position with bent knees to continually swing at a golf ball is not the way to keep the spine in order.      

But none of our star politicians could top the 1960's sex kitten Brigitte Bardot.  When Roy Plomley, the original host of the show, asked for her luxury item she answered in her French accent: “A peniss”.

“Most interesting”, replied Roy. “And why precisely may I ask?” “Well”, purred Bardot. “ It's what zee world needs most... A peniss”



John McGurk is a former editor of The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday and was managing editor of The Daily Telegraph.

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