Leading Article: Middle England isn't sneering

Oh, Cathy, the game you've played.

Oh, Cathy, you've paid,

I've been betrayed.

Smart metropolitans, we notice, are queuing up to sneer at Sir Cliff Richard's new musical, Heathcliff, in which Sir Cliff, 56, fulfils his long-cherished ambition to play the title role. Sir Tim Rice's lyrics, a sample of which appears above, are quoted with a sneer; there are sneers, too, for Sir Cliff's attempt at a Yorkshire accent, his bold, new account of Heathcliff's missing years as a colonial drug dealer, his way of tossing his hair during a vigorous fight scene, and his ringing declaration: "I shall be as dirty as I please. I like to be dirty". Sir Cliff, we are told, is sensitive to all this, which is a pity. For one thing, the five- month, four-city tour of Heathcliff is virtually sold out, having already taken pounds 8.5m, a British record for advance sales, which means that Sir Cliff will be tossing his hair extensions all the way to the bank. And for another, we are fed up with sneering. John Major sneers at Tony Blair for being middle class and privately educated. Everyone else sneers at John Major for a distinctive pedigree which encompasses both garden statuary and the circus. One of last week's least edifying events was a lengthy radio confrontation between Sir Peregrine Worsthorne and Mr Andrew Neil in which they sneered relentlessly at each other's background and beliefs. While this was going on, 4,000 representatives of that most closely coveted part of the electorate, Middle England, were set for Birmingham to watch happily as Sir Cliff in all his wholesomeness failed triumphantly to personify evil. One of them was Mr Mick Hill, from Dudley. "Marvellous, bloody marvellous," said Mr Hill. Indeed.