John Harris

Journalist & Author

Cheshire seems like George Osborne’s utopia – until you look closely | John Harris

In the latest of our pre-election series, back in the chancellor’s constituency, food banks have appeared amid the footballers’ Bentleys and newbuild mansions

Two signifiers for wealth hit you the instant you arrive in Alderley Edge, Cheshire: property and parking. The latter is not just a big local issue, but a byword for the arrogance that often comes with money. On the condition that he remains anonymous, one passerby tells me about the flash cars routinely parked illegally, by drivers who couldn’t care less. He mentions two such cases from 2009, both involving a former Manchester United star, first caught putting his £137,000 Bentley on a bus stop, and then parking it in a bay reserved for disabled drivers (“It is a personal matter for the player,” offered the club’s press office). Inevitably, my informant tells me, tickets and fines are no deterrent: “They’re a sort of badge of honour – that you’re rich enough not to care.”

Even more important is the kind of pad displayed in estate agent windows, sold with blurbs that border on the self-parodic. Two minutes away from the centre of the village, there’s a six-bed newbuild called Knights Keep: “effortlessly nestled at the top of Alderley’s most prestigious road”, and priced at £4,200,000 (and therefore subject to Labour’s proposed mansion tax). Those on a more modest budget might prefer Lynton Gardens, six new properties “designed in the style of a London mews house”, hawked with brochures that mention the surrounding area’s prodigious consumption of champagne, intended to sell for about £600,000.

In a way, Tatton is Osborne’s vision of Britain made flesh

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