The Third Leader: National Treasures

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The Independent Online

Summer, and one's thoughts turn naturally to Sir Cliff Richard. How, one wonders, is the old boy? Well, the old boy's fine, and so are his fans, up to 100 of whom have spent the last two weeks in tents in a Birmingham multi-storey car park queuing for tickets to watch him playing in his own pro-celebrity tennis tournament.

Summer, and one's thoughts turn naturally to Sir Cliff Richard. How, one wonders, is the old boy? Well, the old boy's fine, and so are his fans, up to 100 of whom have spent the last two weeks in tents in a Birmingham multi-storey car park queuing for tickets to watch him playing in his own pro-celebrity tennis tournament.

Truly, a fan base to die for, not that Sir Cliff is quite that old yet. Still, 64 is not bad. Speaking of which, his British record sales have now overtaken the Beatles, leaving him second only to Elvis. He's still got his own hair, and his features remain unmarked by time and the memory of such as "Mistletoe and Wine", "Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha" and, of course, "The Millennium Prayer" (although he does admit to Botox).

So what, exactly, is Sir Cliff's secret multi-storey car-park tent queue factor? And, indeed, what makes a British National Treasure? Longevity, clearly; but, beyond that, you'd be a bit pushed to make much of a link between Tony Benn, June Whitfield, Alan Bennett, Sir Trevor McDonald, Terry Wogan, Judi Dench, Sir John Mortimer, Rolf Harris, Babs and Elizabeth Windsor, Bobby Charlton, and Red Rum, particularly as the last one is a dead horse.

A clue: it's very hard to imagine any of them punching you on the nose (although at least one could quite possibly bore you to death). Another: or trashing your house (although I'd watch the one with the tea). And, perhaps, the clincher: only a National Treasure could escape unharmed after an impromptu performance at a major national event, which is why Sir Cliff makes the list, just. Altogether now: Congratulations!

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