Will John Prescott’s decision to move out of Dorneywood, the lovely 21-bedroom, Queen Anne-style country house with the now famous croquet lawn, save his skin?

Only a few days ago it was announced that he had “the full confidence” of the prime minister – yes, it’s as bad as that – and his recent moves are reminiscent of a retreating army that repeatedly attempts to turn and make a stand before falling back again.


He was even grudging in his going, suggesting that he was giving the house up not so much because it was the right thing to do, but because he could no longer relax knowing that the long lenses would always be turned on that lawn. In any case
he does still have that Admiralty Arch flat.

So which of his ministerial colleagues will want to move in to Dorneywood? Gordon Brown is eminently eligible but has declined the offer of one of the country homes reserved for senior ministers in the past. Jack Straw is “homeless” after ceding Chevening to Margaret Beckett when he was reshuffled out of the foreign secretary’s job to be leader of the House. Then there’s John Reid, who as home secretary would be higher in the pecking order than Straw. After the Prescott experience, though, others might regard the house as “haunted”.


Meanwhile, we are told that sales of croquet sets have risen 300 per cent since those photos appeared of Prescott swinging a mallet.

Curiously this comes from Asda, not renowned as an emporium frequented by the landed gentry, who are supposed by some to be the keenest croquet players, although its Hull branch does seem to be Pauline Prescott’s favourite store.


What of the Cornerstone group of Conservative MPs, which only days ago was criticising their party’s leader for his over-indulgence with the chichi London set? According to Guido Fawkes, the subversive Westminster blogger, the group’s “40-strong” support is dwindling as one MP after another asks for their name to be removed from its website.

A star is born

The school summer fête season is upon us and tales of parents’ competitive charity-giving abound. Last week it was reported that a parent of a child at Canonbury primary school, a state school in Islington (where else?), paid £5,000
to have Chris Martin of Coldplay
pop round to their house to play
the piano.

Now I hear that Acorn Nursery School in leafy Notting Hill is raffling a range of promises for its summer fair on June 10 in aid of a local family charity.

Among the prizes are the use of a four-bed ski chalet in Canada for a week, dinner at Tom Aiken’s award-winning Chelsea restaurant, a £300 voucher to spend at Maharishi, the expensive clothes shop, and “over 50 other fantastic prizes”.

Second prize is a walk-on part in the next film made by Richard Curtis, of Four Weddings, Notting Hill and Love Actually fame. But this is not the first time Curtis has made this promise for charity. Last year he auctioned the same career chance at a fundraiser for Comic Relief. It’s rather a neat idea. He looks generous, it can’t cost him much to organise and he gets free extras for his movies.

Of course, we can’t possibly cast aspersions on the whole business, since it’s for charity, and at least the Acorn Nursery is raffling the prizes at £2 a ticket. But I do wonder how the offspring of the less well-heeled feel when their richer classmates have pop stars turn up at their homes or appear in trendy movies.

Two-way trade

Only days after we discover that a fifth of the City of London is owned by Germans, I find that Claudia Schiffer, the German supermodel, is to feature in an “Invest in Germany”
advertising campaign. She will appear in posters extolling the charms of the “land of ideas”, which start going up next week. Best place to see them will be Bank Tube station.

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