David Thomas: Who needs a knighthood when you can be a National Treasure?

Gary Barlow was reinvented as an all-purpose Good Guy of Pop
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The Independent Online

So who were the winners from the Great British Jubilee Thing? Her Majesty has played a blinder, of course. And anyone in the bunting or Union Flag business must now be leafing through brochures for fast cars and luxury holidays. But no one, surely, has done better than Gary Barlow.

It doesn't seem so long since he was just the chubby one in a boy band aimed, in a not entirely comfortable way, at the twin markets of teenage schoolgirls and adult gay men. Then Take That split, Robbie Williams took over the entire known universe and Gary Barlow sank into an ever sadder and porkier obscurity made all the more bitter by Williams's habit of singing appalling versions of "Back For Good" at his shows, while seated on a prop toilet... or possibly a real one he was actually using at the time.

In 2005 came a bathetic TV documentary, Take That: For the Record, in which the four non-Robbie members got together to talk about the past. The idea, for which they longed with embarrassingly obvious desperation, was that their megastar mate would join them for the retrospective. But he never turned up and when the idea of the quartet getting together to record more material and perhaps even tour was then mooted, few – least of all Take That themselves – saw it as a sure thing.

I interviewed them at the time and discovered that a decade of obscurity had created a bunch of genuinely nice, humble, thoughtful men. There wasn't one of them you wouldn't want to have a beer with, and Barlow, in particular, came across as someone who'd learned a lot of lessons the hard way. I left our confab hoping that if they did decide on a reunion, it wouldn't go too badly.

It turned out there was no need to worry. Take That stormed back into the charts, sold millions of concert tickets and, in a classic showbiz narrative, their resurrection coincided with the implosion of Williams's solo career.

Even more significantly, the group became critically respectable and Barlow himself was reinvented as an all-purpose Good Guy of Pop. If you wanted someone to rustle up a charity concert, play a gig for William and Kate or use his address book to do good, then Barlow was your boy. He's become a sort of sanitised Bob Geldof: all the good intentions, but with a lot fewer swearwords and a lot more hits.

And now, of course, he's provided the official soundtrack to the national festivities by making the chart-topping Jubilee album Sing and curating last night's concert outside Buckingham Palace. As I watched the documentary-of-the-making-of the-song-of-the-Jubilee, it became clear that he is approaching the status of a British National Treasure.

This unofficial, yet unbeatable honour signifies a sort of spectacular Good Chapness, or Game Girlhood that allows people of all ages, classes, races and political opinions to agree that the holder is a thoroughly good egg. The Queen Mum was the greatest of all Treasures, of course, closely followed by her musical equivalent Sir Elton John. Stephen Fry thinks he's one, but isn't. David Cameron will never in a million years be one, but Boris Johnson already is. I think Peter Tatchell certainly should be, Joanna Lumley has been one for ages, Jools Holland is right on the cusp and David Beckham is only a whisker away. Judi Dench has a very good shout and Maggie Smith is certainly one, but only when playing that dowager in Downton Abbey.

To be a National Treasure is to have a sort of invisible knighthood. Gary Barlow is now, I think, in definite Treasure territory. And the knighthood can't be far away, either.

Hard to care about Euro 2012

Here's a flag we're not seeing much at the moment: the Cross of St George. England's footballers are off to the European Championships. Their first game is on Monday and we should by now be buried under a tacky mound of newspaper pullouts, supermarket beer promotions and souvenir coins, while sunburned slobs in ill-fitting England shirts fill the centres of Continental cities.

Instead, there's a perfect storm of "so-what". As the Daily Mash website put it, "England fans gripped by the opposite of fever". A team that wasn't much cop to begin with has acquired a manager with an impressively highbrow taste in literature and the charisma of a soggy cardboard box. Several mediocre players he originally selected have been injured and replaced by even worse ones, and his main tactic is: defend forever, bore the opposition into a deep coma and then hit them on the break.

And there'll only be about 17 supporters because the usual hordes can't stomach or afford a trip to the obscure Ukrainian cities where England will play. We're rubbish. No one cares. And so, for once, I think we might actually win.