Musical beds for Cabinet

  • @c_blackhurst
In what sounds like a script from Coronation Street, the man who works at No 10 will live with his family at No 11, while the man who works at No 11 will live at No 10.

This appeared to be the most likely domestic arrangement of the Blairs and Gordon Brown in the years ahead in Downing Street. After visiting the flat above No 10 with their children on Friday, the Blairs decided it was unsuitable for family living.

Cherie Blair, who was briefed by officials two weeks ago on the lay-out of No 11, official residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is understood to be more taken with the house next door. It has its own front door, bags more room and plenty of space for the children's skateboards and bikes. The family can have a semblance of privacy there and the children can make as much noise as they want. Mr Brown, a bachelor, does not need the bedrooms, he has a huge office nearby in the Treasury and he appears happy to take the No 10 flat.

There again, the Blairs may continue to live in Islington, in north London. The drawback is the extra security the new Prime Minister and his family will now require. Police have told them the road could be sealed off and they could check everyone coming and going, but this will not endear them to neighbours who have had to endure three years of photographers and reporters.

They may even choose to buy a home closer to Downing Street, but given central London property prices they would be hard-pressed, even on Cherie's barrister earnings and his new salary, to afford anything big enough.

The Blairs have yet to spend a night at Downing Street, having returned to Islington after their tour on Friday. Such a difficult decision was doubtless discussed over his first supper as Prime Minister: salmon and asparagus salad from one of their favourite restaurants, the River Cafe in Hammersmith, west London. They were also sent a copy of the new River Cafe cook book, which continues its exclusive serialisation in today's Sunday Review.

While the Blairs debated, colleagues sorted out their own accommodation. Jack Straw, the new Home Secretary, will remain at his Pimlico family home, eschewing the high-security flat that normally goes with the job, in South Eaton Place. This will now go to Mo Mowlam, the new Northern Ireland Secretary.

John Prescott and Margaret Beckett will take up the flats that go with their new posts, in Admiralty House. Robin Cook, the new Foreign Secretary, will have the traditional houses at Carlton House Terrace and at Chevening in the country.