Butler report: Blair seeks £50,000 home-help

A newspaper revealed yesterday the PM wants a 'house manager'. Who are they, and what do they do?
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Why does Tony Blair need a butler?

No 10 insists the appointment of a butler to Downing Street is not a personal service for the Prime Minister. Rather, the new "house manager" will look after his official residence. No 10 says it is "not a new job", though there is no incumbent. The advert placed by the Cabinet Office is for "the new post of house manager".

So what will he do?

The butler, says No 10, will manage the thousands of visits paid annually to the hub of British power by heads of state, ministers, dignitaries and members of the public. The advert goes into a little more detail: the role includes looking after the "antiquities and silverware and preparing front of house staff" and keeping a "VIP database" of visitors, as well as that catch-all, maintaining "world class customer standards".

How much will he be paid?

£50,000 a year.

Isn't that rather a lot?

Middling for a butler, actually. They can earn between £15,000 and £80,000.

Why are butlers in such demand?

During the 20th century, the call for butlers in England fell as aristocrats lost stately homes due to personal vicissitudes and inheritance tax. The rise of the global wealthy - the proliferation of multi-millionaires, many from new industries such as information technology and entertainment - has created new demand for their services. Butlers are useful for the time-poor and a useful ostentation for the nouveaux riches.

Where did the name come from?

From the old French bouteillier, meaning cup-holder.

What do they do?

The butler is head of the domestic staff in a household; the first among servants. He is in charge of cooks, scullery maids and cleaners, and his eminence is traditionally signified by his smart uniform of bow tie, waistcoat and black tails. Nowadays, the butler may wear a normal business suit and be in charge of a yacht or a portfolio of houses. He may have to master complex spreadsheets as well as organise a dinner party for 10. His job title may be "house manager", "majordomo" or "butler administrator".

How are they trained?

In the past, a butler would work his way up the serving hierarchy, having entered service at 14. In the 21st century, he can enrol for short courses in "butling" at such establishments as the Guild of Professional English Butlers in London.

Who are the famous butlers?

Fiction has served up the best: Jeeves always outwitted Bertie Wooster in the PG Wodehouse books; Stevens surpassed himself for repression in Kazuo Ishiguro's novel The Remains of the Day; the Admirable Crichton assumed control when his masters were shipwrecked on an island. Gordon Jackson was an appropriately stern Hudson in the long-running LWT drama Upstairs, Downstairs. After the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, Paul Burrell kindly stored many of her belongings.

Aside from butlers, what are Mr Blair's other reported 'lavish habits'?

Buying a Georgian townhouse in Connaught Square, west London, for £3.5m. Upgrading to first class on British Airways off-duty. Holidaying in the overseas retreats of tycoons such as Sir Anthony Bamford, the boss of JCB and pop stars such as Sir Cliff Richard and the former Bee Gee Robin Gibb.

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