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Tony’s old gaff for hire

by Ian Griffiths, 12th November 2006

Journalist Ian Griffiths had this remarkable challenge for the UK’s Labour leader and long-time prime minister, Tony Blair, upon his election in 1997: let me house sit your now-empty family home for you. Was it a dare or a bluff?

15 June 1997

At last the truth can be revealed as to why Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, has decided to sell his charming family home in much sought after secluded Islington location. He is not capitalising on booming London house prices. Nor is he beating the Budget. He has in fact been shamed into a sale by yours truly. Regular readers will recall I raised the issue of Mr Blair’s property empire some weeks ago. As promised I wrote to him on 3 May offering to house-sit for him in Islington.

Unfortunately Mr Blair has chosen, rather rudely I think, not to reply. In case my correspondence has gone missing I am happy to reprint my letter here today.

3 May 1997

Dear Mr Blair,

I am sure you have much on your plate at the moment but could I trouble you to spare a moment to assist me with my personal housing problem? I have been looking for some months for somewhere new to live, with absolutely no success. You may be unaware of this but there is an acute housing shortage in London. It struck me, however, that now that you have a new job you are in the fortunate position of having a spare London home. I have no idea what the accommodation at 10 Downing Street is like. I am told that No 11 is more spacious, and you may consider a swap with your Mr Brown. It may be therefore that you feel that you still need both your homes.

If, however, you accept that in these times when London property is daylight robbery rather than theft that you are blessed with a surplus then I would be extremely interested in house-sitting for you in your Islington home. I have seen much of it in the last few weeks and it appears rather pleasant. I know my circumstances are nowhere near as dire as those faced by the impoverished in the America of the 1930s but, ‘Buddy can you spare me a lounge?’

Clearly you will want to take up references should you like to assist me and at the same time send a clear signal to the country that New Labour is still very much a caring Labour. I look forward to hearing from you. My guess is that I will not be hearing from him. Faced with the choice of pounds 615,000 in the bank or me in your front room I know what most people would choose. However, if Mr Blair thinks I will go away he is much mistaken. I am launching a company called ‘Lifestyles of the Famous and Rich Timeshare’. This will be an upmarket timeshare business specialising in properties once owned by – the rich and famous. Mr Blair is, courtesy of this house sale, the former and may one day also be the latter.

My company (Lot Fart) will therefore be around to the estate agents as soon as possible to arrange a viewing. I anticipate great interest from the public. Lot Fart is an investment in culture and heritage. It will combine education with relaxation. Timeshare is much more in the spirit of New Labour than the old-style, elitist blue plaque which tends to discriminate against more modern icons. My guess is that it will be possible to secure a midweek break Chez Blair in perpetuity for less than pounds 2,000. A full week in the summer will be more of course but will still be excellent value. Perhaps the Blairs themselves might like to buy a week or two just to keep in touch with their roots. Tony has my address.

Copyright 1997 Newspaper Publishing PLC

About the author: Ian Griffiths

Ian Griffiths is a journalist who writes for The Independent (London).