Opinion Former

Politics and property: top politicians' residences

While members of the civil service are unlikely to possess impossibly grand abodes or lavish second homes, some of the nation's top political figures tend to have a little more luck in that department. In fact, such homes rank among the UK's most recognised estates.

We've gone through all these luxurious houses - though, let's be honest, the terms 'mansion' or 'palace' usually seem more appropriate! - to sift out the ones we think take the proverbial biscuit. So, drum roll please: here's what we think are the grandest, and most interesting, political residences.

Blenheim Palace

Ok, so we're going back a few years with this one. Blenheim Palace may not be the home of any current government bigwig, but once upon a time one of the nation's most famous political figures took his first ever breath here.

Sir Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace on November 20th 1874 in the small hours of 01:30. Technically, Blenheim never belonged to Churchill, though his ties with the place never really faded. Not only did he spend the first years of his life here - a grand building for a toddler to play in if ever there was one - but it's also where he proposed to his wife.

So, why was it never his? Well, Blenheim Palace was - and still is today - the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. Churchill was heir to this title for all of about five years of his early life, before his cousin was born and pipped him to the post. 


Now let's move on to something a little juicier. Whereas Blenheim Palace has a generous dollop of prestige and the status of being a top tourist attraction, Dorneywood is a cauldron of controversy. 

You're probably most familiar with Dorneywood as the former summer home of John Prescott - but we'll get to that in a moment. Situated in Buckinghamshire, this grand 18th-century house is traditionally a country residence of a member of the upper echelons of government.

A National Trust property, Dorneywood houses whoever the prime minister deems fit. Thanks to controversies in recent years, though, many politicians have actually been reluctant to accept the honour of living there - how times change!

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott was the centre of this ruckus - and not just with a single act. First of all, there was the fact he dipped his toe in the political ink, so to speak, by having an affair a civil servant; what on earth possessed her we will never know, but that's rather beside the point.

Then came the photos of Prescott and his team having a jolly old time playing croquet at Dorneywood - while the PM was out on a political trip to Washington. Cue the media furore about whether the house was being used correctly. We hope you weren't too fond of Dorneywood, John, because you were never going to keep it for too long after that!

These days, it's in the possession of chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne. Let's hope he makes better use of it - or at least appears to.


Last on our list is Chequers - the official country residence of British prime ministers since 1921. Also known as Chequers Court, it's another grand mansion located in Buckinghamshire.

Fortunately for leaders past and present, there hasn't been as much controversy over Chequers - but it does provide an interesting insight into changing political landscapes in the UK. You see, there's been a house here since the 11th century - and in its current form since the 1500s - but it was only in the early 20th century that it became a government home. Why?

Well, after the first world war, a new political era was ushered in. Politicians no longer had grand country estates as standard, and so it was successfully argued that a dedicated few were needed as places to entertain foreign officials - and to relax. With the Chequers Estate Act of 1917, the first was created - Chequers itself.

But who knows, with all these second homes politicians seem to be enjoying on the back of 'expenses', maybe the old days aren't as far behind us as we think?

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