Desert island Blair fails to sing to spin-doctors' tune

Labour Party officials last night denied claims that Tony Blair's spin doctors were responsible for the records spun by their leader on Desert Island Discs.

After the fuss made of claims that Mr Blair's bouffant hairdo had been flattened to attract women voters - a claim denied on the yesterday's show by Mr Blair himself - the party was anxious to snuff out the latest rumours. Suggestions from some quarters that Peter Mandelson had had a hand in the choice were, said one spokes-man, "utter garbage".

The fact that much of the music was middle-of-the-road had nothing to do with a determination not to upset voters. "Every single record was chosen by him," said one of his aides. "He knows more about music than anybody who works with or for him.

"He has been working on the choice for several weeks and decided on the final choice last week."

The selection did, indeed, have a truly personal look about it, with records from the obscure Ezio - about an unemployed man's pleas to his lover to spend the day in bed with him - and from Debussy - Clair de Lune, his mother's favourite - holding real meaning for Mr Blair.

During the programme, on BBC Radio 4, the Labour leader told Sue Lawley of his days as an Oxford University singer with his band, Ugly Rumours, of how he met and wooed his wife, Cherie, and he revealed that he would probably send his second son, Nicky, to the opted-out London Oratory School, despite the controversy over his decision to send his eldest son, Euan, there.

"That will be a decision we'll take shortly but I see no reason why not," he said, when asked if Nicky would follow Euan. "I think it was important to do the right thing for him [Euan] and had I not done that, it would have been a betrayal of his future. I couldn't have got up and looked myself in the mirror if I hadn't. I've got an obligation to my boy as a father."

Mr Blair's choice of records raised few eyebrows. The eight tracks - in the order in which they were played - Cancel Today by Ezio, Clair de Lune by Debussy, In My Life by The Beatles, 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) by Bruce Springsteen, Adagio for Strings, op 11, by Samuel Barber, Cross Road Blues by Robert Johnson, Wishing Well by Free and Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Francisco Tarrega and performed by John Williams - were largely seen as being middle of the road.

The programme enabled Mr Blair to show a romantic side to his nature. Along with his luxury item - a guitar - he said he would take the book, Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, "one of the greatest love stories in British literature". If he could take only one record, it would be Recuerdos de la Alhambra.

Asked how he would cope with an election defeat, he said: "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it - if we come to it."

He also revealed that a man - whom he did not name - had bet pounds 25 13 years ago on him being prime minister in 2000, with odds of 500-1. The punter was named last night as George Elliott, a taxi driver from Mr Blair's constituency of Sedgefield, Co Durham, who stands to net pounds 12,500 if Mr Blair wins.

In one of the most personal parts of the programme, Mr Blair revealed how he wooed his future wife, Cherie, when they met while training at the Bar. Both were in competition for a scholarship which she eventually won. "I always remember Cherie being in the Lincoln's Inn library - when everybody else was going down to the pub for lunch, she was eating her sandwiches in there and poring over her books," he said.

He admitted it took "quite a long time" for her to become interested in him, but that, eventually, over lunch which turned into dinner, he won her over.

Music for the middle ground: Blair's choice

The full list of Mr Blair's eight Desert Island discs:

Cancel Today, performed by Ezio.

Clair de Lune, Debussy.

In My Life, The Beatles.

4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), Bruce Springsteen.

Adagio for Strings, op 11, Samuel Barber.

Cross Road Blues, Robert Johnson.

Wishing Well, Free.

Recuerdos de la Alhambra, by Francisco Tarrega,

performed by John Williams.