Blair may desert his Islington heartland to go west

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The Independent Online

If ditching socialism was not bad enough, and far worse than scrapping Clause Four, Tony Blair may be about to abandon Islington.

A rumour has been circulating in the property world for the last six months that the Labour leader was looking to move to Notting Hill Gate. He would be leaving the home of champagne socialism for vintage Bollinger country, where the best family houses fetch more than pounds 1m.

Islington is black leather jacket territory, the cultural home of the chattering classes, the embodiment of new Labour. At the time of his election the Labour leader was portrayed as the ultimate Islington man - or person, to use the vernacular. It would be a cruel fate for the north London borough to have its most famous resident snatched away on the eve of what could be his finest hour.

It would also be a bad move in property terms. Since the central London housing market came out of recession, three years ago, nowhere has seen steeper price rises than Notting Hill. Houses there are now 20 per cent more expensive than they were in the autumn of 1992. The area has overtaken Chelsea on the price ladder.

Though the market is now stable, as with all popular parts of London, there is very little property for sale. As a Labour MP with a successful barrister wife, the pounds 400,000 period terrace in one of London's trendier boroughs was a perfect home. Should they want something similar in Notting Hill they will have to pay nearly double.

Savills has just sold one good family house in Notting Hill for pounds 795,000. Their best bargain is an unmodernised house in Chepstow Place at pounds 425,000, which would entail living with the builders for many months.

There has been no official contact between the Blairs and any of the local estate agents, though they might be using a friend or buying agency to house-hunt for them.

But in spite of the cost, it would be a logical step for the Blair family. Notting Hill, in west London, is far nearer the Brompton Oratory, where their eldest son, Euan, is now at school. It is also on the right tube line for the law courts and convenient for Westminster.

But for all its convenience and trendiness, Notting Hill is still in a Conservative-controlled borough.

For every luvvie, there are two tycoons of the Sainsbury class. How will it wash with the grass-roots, living in their council blocks up the road? It could be seen as the ultimate betrayal.