YORK ON ADS: National hero plays a dangerous game

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THERE'S not much left to believe in. Royalty, politicians, public services, the Great and the Good generally are regarded with profound suspicion. Britain is in a won't-get-fooled-again mood, not daring to believe. With one exception. A young man from Leicester has come through the scrutiny that the highest public office demands, without a whisper of scandal. Pleasant, nice-looking, eternally polite, he's done everything right. In a time gone by, people used to dream of visits from the Queen. Now they dream of Gary Lineker. The nation has dared to believe in Gary for about 10 years, and it hasn't been disappointed yet.

Gary's initial appearance in the Walkers New Cheese and Onion Crisps ad is gloriously consistent with his role in the national psyche. It's his return to Leicester - straight off JAL, one imagines -in black and white, to the swell of "Welcome Home" by Peters and Lee. Men, women and infants greet Gary; he acknowledges them impeccably. It's all absolutely lovely (and much less unlikely than, say, Paul or Cilla returning to Liver-pool with "Ferry 'Cross the Mersey").

But then a little boy offers Gary a (new) Walkers Cheese and Onion Crisp on a park bench, and the screen returns to realistic, cynical colour as Gary crumbles before our eyes. He takes the lot, grabs the bag from the tearful child and walks off. No more Mr Nice Guy.

Walkers have taken a huge risk here. Gentle self-mockery is an established route for bland public figures, from Julie An-drews on, who want to give themselves a bit of an edge. But no such concerns attach to Gary; a second layer of meaning was never required. A great many people of all ages and callings will deeply resent a further blow to their faith.

8 Video supplied by Tellex Commercials.