In the Times (£), someone says:
For me there's no doubt that the Berlin years were far and away Bowie's best period.
This might seem am almost tenable opinion. It's not, because it's expressed by the Rt Hon Nicholas Clegg. He has no right to like Bowie.
I say this because a common strand in Bowie's career - from his long-hair activism through Ziggy, the Thin White Duke and the Berlin period to his rejection of a knighthood has been his presentation of himeself as an alienated outsider. This is why his fans have been predominantly geeks, gays and artists - the sort of people who were unpopular at school. Clegg, being the head prefect type, has no place in this crowd. As Johnny Marr said about Cameron's liking of the Smiths in the greatest interview ever on the Today programme, "We're not his kind of people."
What Clegg and Cameron are doing here - and Osborne in liking Billy Bragg - is something which reached its apogee in Emily's notorious exchange with Charley in Big Brother 8. They are all so arrogant, and so lacking in self-awareness that they can't see that there are things they'll never properly understand, that some things are closed to them.
Everybody hates a tourist, especially one who thinks it's all such a laugh. Just as I have no right to opinions on polo ponies and skiing holidays, so Clegg and Cameron have no right to Bowie or the Smiths.
I'm invoking here Polanyi's theory of tacit knowledge. Music is not just one note after another. It carries a freight of cultural meanings which are often understood only viscerally - hence the cliche that talking or writing about music is like dancing about architecture. And our backgrounds can prevent us from fully understanding some of these meanings.
You might object that I'm being illiberal here. I'm not sure. There's an illiberal strand in Clegg and Cameron's belief that they have a right to an opinion on everything. It tends naturally towards interventionist government. I'll concede that Clegg is less of a nanny statist than many Tories or Labourites. But his talk of welfare "dependency" and support for press regulation betoken an imperialist mindset.
And, of course, the same arrogant sense of entitlement that cause Cameron and Clegg to think they can like the Smiths and Bowie is what gives them the belief that they are equipped to govern us.