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Cliff: the shock biography

A NEW biography of Cliff Richard will be published next week - and it contains such astonishing revelations that the publisher, Lion, has demanded that literary editors sign agreements promising not to divulge the contents before publication. Our moles have been at work and so we can bring you some details from Steve Turner's book: it is indeed shocking and explosive stuff. In his far-off youth Cliff was not, it seems, the unblemished angel we know now. Sure, he didn't smoke or argue with his parents, but . . . 'He was not a guy that you would upset,' says a contemporary at school in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. 'He'd knock your block off. By far the biggest boy in our class was a lad called Chris Green. I remember that one day he said something Cliff didn't like and Cliff knocked two of his teeth out.' Terrible to tell, it was not long before Cliff was in trouble with the authorities. The files of Broxbourne Parish Council reveal that on 5 July 1958, when Cliff (then known as Harry Webb) was an 18-year-old with long sideboards and an Elvis cut, a complaint was received from the occupants of 11 Hargreaves Close. They reported that 'a skiffle group' was playing every night at number 12, the Webb family home, until as late as eleven o'clock. Number 11 begged: 'Ask them to stop these long, noisy evenings.' The council officer, after investigation, annotated the document: 'Son not willing to co-operate.'

JEAN-FRANCOIS Lefort, a Provencal of some 30 years' standing, and his wife, Nicole, are planning to spend a year in a remote and picturesque thatched cottage in Devon. Soon afterwards, Lefort writes in today's Times Literary Supplement, they will publish Une Annee dans le Devon. And shortly after that: Devon for Ever.

Currie's quest EDWINA Currie's long quest to become a Euro-MP reaches a climax this Saturday when the marginal Bedfordshire South seat will pick a successor to Peter Beazley from a shortlist of three. Currie has been touting round her Euro credentials since she turned down a ministerial job a year ago - she's been learning French, had a European flag permanently pinned to her breast and writing the odd piece of fiction for Good Housekeeping (though the latter is unlikely to impress the selection committee). The feeling among local Tory councillors is that Beazley's 2,977 majority will take some defending next year and that only a high-profile name like Currie's - the other two candidates are largely unknowns - will do the trick. But fame (or notoriety) is no guarantee of selection, as she discovered in January when she was beaten to the Midlands Central seat by one Simon Mort, 51, an 'international management tutor' best known for his books How to Write a Successful Report and Professional Report Writing.

ALASTAIR Campbell, the ousted political editor of the Daily Mirror, has been keeping his lips tightly buttoned about the carnage at Mirror Group Newspapers. But tonight Campbell, now at Today, presents BBC 2's What The Papers Say - and, we gather, takes the opportunity to review the other papers' reporting of the Nightmare on Holborn Circus. A job he does with considerable relish.

Birt mystery solved YESTERDAY'S Daily Mail offered pounds 500 or an Armani suit to the reader who could name the mystery woman to whom John Birt Productions Ltd paid pounds 15,000 in 1991 as a 'secretarial assistant'. Ray Snoddy, of the Financial Times, had answered the question in his own paper by the time the Mail hit the streets - the secretarial assistant was, of course, Mrs Birt, who manages to combine her secretarial duties with those of director of John Birt Productions. Sadly Snoddy - whose colleagues reckon he could do with an upgrade to his workwear - is not going to accept the Armani. 'I'll take the cash and go to Marks and Sparks,' he told us yesterday.

FED up with the NHS? Well, don't pin your hopes on the Council for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in London. Yesterday its answerphone carried this rather disappointing message: 'Due to illness, there's no one here for about two to three weeks . . .'


12 March 1944 Iris Origo writes in her diary: 'I hear the broadcast of the Pope's Benediction of the faithful in Piazza San Pietro - a crowd chiefly composed of the homeless and starving refugees who have flocked into the city. It was a short address, without any political flavour; an admission of the Pope's inability to stop or mitigate the horrors of war even within his own city and a repetition of the well-known words of Christian consolation, 'Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy-laden.' Perhaps never before have these words been spoken to so great an assembly of the homeless, the penniless and the bereft. And when, the address ended, the Pope paused a moment, from thousands of throats came a cry of supplication, unforgettable by anyone who heard it - a cry which sounded like an echo of all the suffering that is torturing the world: 'Give us peace; oh, give us peace]' '