Twenty top treasures

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
September 02, 2010, 2:30 AM GMT+0

YouGov has enlisted the thoughts of the glorious British public to find the first of an annual stellar score of the most successful, witty, well-known and well-loved figures in the nation today. A National Treasure standard, if you will.

With the only criterion being that the figures in question were still alive and British, and excluding members of the Royal Family (Her Majesty being almost certain to outrank all other competition, for one thing, and also on account of having somewhat of a head start in being royal since birth), our panel nominated a list of leading figures in the world of entertainment, art, culture, sport, business and journalism. The results read like a who’s who of the most familiar, best-loved names in the public consciousness, never mind the guest list at the most incredible dinner party imaginable.

In our search for the greatest twenty, YouGov asked our panellists for nominations, before conducting a nationally representative poll asking respondents whether the top nominees were national treasures or not. Our final list of Britain’s twenty top treasures for 2010 is based on those figures whose ‘net’ treasure score was positive – or, to put it simply, the figures for whom the proportion of people thinking they WERE a national treasure was larger than the proportion who thought they were definitely NOT one.

The guest list of greatness includes some of the finest actors of our (or indeed, any) time. Dame Judi Dench, Sir Michael Caine, Joanna Lumley, Sir Sean Connery, Ronnie Corbett, Sir David Jason and Julie Walters make up seven of the most recognisable and impressive names in the acting business, and have been seen across stage and screen in some of the most well-known, seminal shows, plays and films, including, of course, television favourite Only Fools and Horses, films The Italian Job, James Bond and countless other appearances from Shakespeare to sitcom.

Joining them at the table are the singing superstars who would serenade your evening from start to finish, encompassing decades-worth of melody and music in a single bound. Indeed, the sustaining tones of wartime favourite Dame Vera Lynn belong in our group alongside the ever-popular tunes of Sir Cliff Richard, followed by the irrepressible Dame Shirley Bassey, and the iconic sound of former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney.

Next up are the sporting legends for which the nation has cheered and chanted: racing driver Sir Stirling Moss makes the cut alongside footballing hero Sir Bobby Charlton; while science geniuses Stephen Hawking and astronomer Sir Patrick Moore have quite literally made our world go round (or at least, helped us see how it does).

And perfectly complementing the glowing array of names at our party are the endlessly entertaining television presenters lighting up our living rooms on a regular basis, such as the seemingly everlasting Bruce Forsyth and the unmistakeable Sir David Attenborough. Many are also genuinely astonishing all-rounders who fittingly round off our list and our seating plan: comedian, presenter, traveller and writer Sir Michael Palin, comedian, actor and musician Sir Norman Wisdom and the endearingly eccentric, intimidatingly intelligent but always fabulous writer, actor, comedian and presenter Stephen Fry.