Why David Bowie has my vote as the most important Briton of our age

Some of you will interpret what I am about to say as sentimental pap. But the truth is that whatever I broadcast today, my first day at ITV, will feel a bit odd and less relevant than usual - because of the death of Bowie.

I still own and cherish the copy of Ziggy (and Hunky Dory, Aladdin Sane, inter alia) I bought aged 12 in 1972 (probably worth less for my almost-teenage signature scribbled on the cover).

And to get sententious for a moment, he probably had as big an influence on me as anyone, not just in respect of music and fashion, but also gender politics and identity.

Like so many of my generation, his first appearance on Top of the Pops singing Starman in that leotard was an electric shock. So many conventional ideas were challenged about what it is to be a man, or creative (and goodness, he was so sexy and stylish).

David Bowie seen in 1975. The iconic performer has died after an 18-month battle with cancer. Credit: PA Wire

His influence wasn't limited to music, fashion and art. He moved the political and social dial on acceptance of sexual and gender difference in a real, progressive and profound way.

What I love about Bowie - it is why I chose him as my Celebrity Mastermind subject in 2013 and why Changes closes an episode I recently recorded of Radio 4's "My Teenage Diaries" - is that he never stopped reinventing himself and challenging us.

How shocking (odd word perhaps, but it is how I feel) that he will no longer pop up, to delight and surprise in a new incarnation of the beautiful, androgynous boy from Brixton and Beckenham. He would have my vote as the most important Briton of our age.