Desert Island Mowlam's choice

WHEN POLITICIANS go on Desert Island Discs, they try to select a choice of records that reveals a more human side. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Mo Mowlam chooses a top eight that hints at a sharper humour than some colleagues. (Tony Blair chose Bruce Springsteen's Fourth of July and Neil Kinnock opted for John Lennon's Imagine.)

Today Radio 4 listeners will hear Noel Coward's Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Tom Lehrer's National Brotherhood Week, Rod Stewart's Blondes Have More Fun, and Flanders and Swann's tribute to a London bus, The Transport of Delight.

Ms Mowlam's favourite record is Frank Sinatra's Chicago, while David Byrne's Don't Fence Me In is a comfort to her, she says, whenever she feels "enclosed" by her work and the constant shadow of security guards.

Of her position in Northern Ireland she says: "It's a job that I have wanted to do, and it is real politics, because whether we succeed or not, and I still believe we can succeed, we've saved 100-plus lives this year."

Ms Mowlam goes on to describe a difficult childhood growing up in Coventry with an alcoholic father. She tells Sue Lawley: "It was difficult to do normal things because you never knew how drunk he'd be. When I went to university, my poor sister got landed with a lot more than I did."

Her view of the media seems generous despite some of their reactions following her illness. "The press only woke up at the election when I was still fat and had a wig on... When I was described in abusive terms I didn't really blame them because they didn't know."

When Ms Lawley suggests she may enjoy a "softer billet", Ms Mowlam firmly rejects the notion. "My job is the opportunity of a lifetime. I'm happy to stay there as long as I can."

Yesterday, six years after the IRA bombed Warrington, Ms Mowlam was there to launch the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Young People's Centre, in tribute to the boys who died in the atrocity.