Don’t be an Ed Miliband on Desert Island Discs. Instead choose these eight tracks

The Labour leader has been rightly scorned for music that merely ticked boxes. He could so easily have been a lot less boring…

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When did you switch off? Jerusalem? Robbie Williams? A-ha? We can probably agree that, musically at least, Ed Miliband's stay on Kirsty Young's desert island was not an entirely happy one. The problem was not that his choices were naff but that they were formulaic, as if a committee, set up to provide the Labour leader with endearing individuality, had got it all wrong.

It was an opportunity missed. Desert Island Discs provides politicians with a perfect platform for self-presentation. Here, for ambitious future guests, is the sort of playlist which sends out the right message without being drearily predictable.

Song to remind the audience that you were once a sweet, little child:

Nelly the Elephant by Mandy Miller.

The vocals may be dodgy, but the song has an eerie, timeless quality which appeals to every generation. More importantly, it is a safe choice in these tricky times. You have avoided choosing Rolf Harris's Two Little Boys or Benny Hill's Ernie.

Song to show that you are refreshingly open to foreign cultures: Under Pressure by Oliver Mtukudzi.

More predictable politicians will go for something from the Buena Vista Social Club or Ladysmith Black Mambazo, running the risk of being drawn into a discussion about the politics of Cuba or South Africa. By contrast, this superb song from Zimbabwe will allow to riff amusingly about the way you deal with the pressures of public life with a prepared off-the-cuff anecdote.

Song to reveal your irrepressible, yet rarely discussed, sense of fun:

When I'm Cleaning Windows by Peter Sellers.

The funny slot on Desert Island Discs can be tricky. So many comedy songs (The Laughing Policeman, anything by the Goons, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life) are simply irritating. This musical novelty, recorded during an interview by Michael Parkinson, allows you to introduce a George Formby song but with a telling touch of irony.

Song to point up your patriotism and cultural sophistication: Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary by Purcell.

Traditionally, politicians like to include one stirring classical work by an English composer, preferably Elgar or Vaughan Williams. This funeral march will bring a change of pace to the programme, allowing Kirsty to go into serious mode and ask you questions about life and death which you will answer with simple, moving eloquence.

A song for the oldsters: Born Free by Matt Monro.

Remember that old people vote more reliably than the young. This song, by the “singing bus driver” can't fail: it is about animals, harks back to the imperial past, and is crooned by an Englishman.

An anthem to show you're in touch with contemporary culture:  One Day Like This by Elbow.

The show needs a lift and this will do the trick. If possible mention that you like singing this at home much to the embarrassment of the kids! Cue indulgent laughter from Kirsty.

A song for the most important person in the world to you - pause for brief surge of repressed emotion - without whom you would be nothing:

Dance Me to the End of Love by Madeleine Peyroux.

It may be cheesy but it was written by Leonard Cohen and is therefore beyond criticism. Even in a love song to your spouse, you have impeccable taste.

A song to expressed how pleased you are with yourself - without seeming unnecessarily smug: I'm Still Standing by Elton John.

Unlike My Way or Je Ne Regrette Rien, this song is not in the slightest bit self-important. It is like you: strong and yet amused by the great carnival of life; publicly defiant, yet privately sensitive.

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