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The Agreeable World Of Wallace Arnold: How dare they gag Sir Cliff, our national treasure!

IT IS OFTEN forgotten that when King Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson were conducting their clandestine romance one of their strongest mutual passions was music and one musician in particular.

When Mrs Simpson arrived at Fort Belvedere, generally on a Friday afternoon, just as dusk was settling in, it was her custom to rush up the main staircase and into the library. There she would find the then Prince of Wales's most precious possession: his gramophone.

Flick, flick, flick: with practised wrist movements, Mrs Simpson would flick her way through the Prince's formidable collection of 78 records. Past jazz she would flick, past dance music and classical music and the big band sound, past the early recordings of King George V's Christmas addresses, past string quartets and comical turns from the North, past recordings of Negro choirs, bassoon trios and French matinee idols. Ah! At last her eyes would alight on the one recording that she and her future husband both knew as "our tune". Without waiting for her lover to enter the room and take her in his arms, she would ease the recording on to the turntable. And then the distinctive opening bars of the music - that music - would begin.

"CON - GRAT - U - LAAAAAAA - TIONS and CELE - BRAAAAAAA -TIONS!" It was Cliff Richard singing his famous flagship song, the song with which he was to conquer the Eurovision contest just over 30 years later. As the sound of this familiar music eddied its way into his second-floor bedroom, the Prince would wake from his slumbers and a wide smile would radiate his face, for he knew then, as he would know always, that Cliff's voice was proof positive that the love of his life had come home, and was eager to dance.

Thus Cliff had woven himself once more into the very fabric of our nation's story. It was not the first time, of course, that he had captured the hearts of Britain's foremost couples: a choral version of "Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha" had been sung by the Welsh Male Voice Choir at the wedding of King George V and Queen Mary, and on Armistice Day 1918, the crowds had burst into a rendition of "Mistletoe and Wine". Similarly, when Florence Nightingale was in search of an entertainer to lift the hearts of the casualties in the Crimea, it was to Cliff Richard she turned. And Cliff did not let her down: his version of "Daddy's Home" was said to have brought tears to the eyes of even the most hardened veterans, and as the closing bars drifted into the wind Cliff was lifted high upon the officers' shoulders.

Thus has Cliff Richard grown to embody the very thrust and weft and rub and hoof of Great Britain in all her vibrant, ever-youthful glory. And his influence spreads far and wide: the distinctive rhythms of "In the Country" are echoed in the familiar bullish speech-patterns of Winston Churchill's wartime broadcasts, and even John F Kennedy could not resist bursting into an up-tempo version of "We Don't Talk Anymore" while addressing the people of West Berlin ("Ich Bin Ein Cliffricharder") in June 1963.

To Cliff came the honour of being the inspiration behind both the first song ("The Day I Met Marie") sung on the surface of the moon, and the very last song ("Summer Holiday") played by the orchestra as The Titanic sank beneath the waves.

And now (Deep breath, Wallace, deep breath. And blow. All better!). And now Mr Chris Evans, no doubt speaking for and on behalf of his puppetmasters in New Labour, has decided to place a gag on Britain's greatest living treasure, denying Cliff the platform that is rightfully his. Callow young disc-jockeys have followed suit, snubbing one of the greatest Britons of this, or indeed of any other, century.

Personally, I do not know Sir Cliff well, though he was a good friend of Dame Edith Sitwell in the late 1930s. But I know when an injustice has been done. This is why I call on readers of this column to open their windows at mid-day today, lean out into the street and sing "Living Doll" at the top of their voices. That way, even Mr Blair will be unable to claim he cannot hear the cries of a people in anguish - and a people who are resolved to fight for Britain and Sir Cliff. You have been warned, Mr Blair, you have been warned.