Julie Burchill Julie Burchill

Why I’m bored of National Treasures

Photo-illustration: Lukas Degutis (Getty)

Here they come, see them run, twinkling away like a bunch of irritatingly flashing fairy lights, the milk of human kindness curdling on their breath and dollar signs in their beady little eyes. I’m referring to the National Treasures, wheeled out every Christmas as we huddle around the television. A quick list of those who come immediately to mind – though other NTs are available, if the price is right – are Ant, Attenborough, Balding, Beard (Mary), Carr (Alan), Coles (Richard), Colman (Olivia), Church, Dec, Dench, French, Fry, Izzard, Lineker, Margolyes, Norton, Oliver (Jamie), Osman, Peake, Perry (Grayson), Robinson (Tony), Rosen (Michael), Sayle, Staunton, Thompson (Emma), Toksvig. 

Sometimes it seems harder to name a British public figure who isn’t a National Treasure

Sometimes it seems harder to name a public figure who isn’t an NT. Notables in the Awkward Squad: David Bowie (refused a knighthood and even a funeral as he wanted to ‘go without any fuss’), J.K. Rowling (fearless – NTs are terrified of being unpopular), Jarvis Cocker (more interested in examining the process of fame than reaping its benefits), Alan Sugar (‘National Treasure? You wot? Nah!’) and Ricky Gervais. All have dodged induction due to their refusal to play nice, whereas NTs are needy blighters who were born to toe the line of Whatever’s The Thing This Year. Sometimes celebs desperately want NT status, but they derail themselves by mistake. Think of Cliff Richard fat-shaming dead Elvis or Saint Phillip Schofield’s fall from grace. 

But you really have to blot your copybook to put yourself out of the running. Once used sparingly, the term has run riot in recent years. As with many repressive belief systems these days, the watchwords of NTism are diversity and inclusivity, but the approved views on everything from breakfast to Brexit, penises on women to Palestine, must be held.

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