With Boris and Carrie Johnson set to leave Downing Street in September and their Camberwell townhouse on the market, the Johnsons are looking for a new home.
Reportedly, they have their sights set on Dulwich Village, the leafy, well-heeled corner of south London where houses cost an average of £1.7 million.
Despite being a Labour stronghold, Johnson would not be the first Conservative prime minister to call the area home: Margaret Thatcher bought a five-bedroom new-build Barrat house in the late 1980s and lived there briefly.
The news of the couple’s potential move has caused ripples in an otherwise peaceful pond. Local forums are alight; WhatsApp groups are buzzing, and everyone has a take.
From jokes about house parties to outright rage, here’s how Dulwich Village locals have responded to the possibility of having the Johnsons as neighbours.
The general consensus
As an area where 69 per cent of the population voted Labour in the last election —with Labour holding power since the constituency was created— it is safe to say that, for the most part, the outgoing Prime Minister’s potential move has not been met warmly by locals.
“What have we done to deserve this?” asks one residents’ forum.
As one Dulwich local puts it: “I can’t imagine they’d be particularly welcome, nor fit in. I think it’s one of the safest possible Labour seats and most people seem firmly on the other side of the Tory culture wars.
“There’s lots of stuff for new mums (baby cinema, baby yoga etc.) and places to spend a fortune on cheese and naff furniture, so I’m sure that’d appeal.”
Those who can see the appeal
Dulwich Village has long been a popular area for families, thanks to its schools and village atmosphere. Many locals understand the appeal for the Johnsons – regardless of their opinions on the move.
Alastair Carnegie, who has lived in Dulwich for 15 years and runs local estate agency, Carnegie Estate Agents, is well aware of the village’s charms. “As you can imagine, word has spread fast that Boris Johnson is moving to the area and I can totally see why: we have great schools, wide open spaces, parks (for Boris’ dog!), good transport links and a village feel.”
Current Dulwich resident Juliana says: “I’m not sure if they will be welcome. South-east London is on the whole more Labour inclined. But it doesn’t surprise me that they would move there: there’s loads of health food shops and private schools around Dulwich Village, so maybe they’ll slot right in.”
She added: “I personally would rather live as far away from Boris Johnson as possible and couldn’t think of anything worse than potentially bumping into him at my local.”
The silver lining
Like other parts of London, Southwark Council created Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) in Dulwich Village in 2020 to reduce through-traffic movements on certain streets.
Whilst it aims to create a greener, healthier local environment, the scheme has its opponents, many of whom are hopeful that Johnson’s presence may help to reverse the changes.
Richard Aldwinckle, the co-founder of One Dulwich, a group campaigning against the LTNs, argues that they have “divided the community physically and socially.”
Despite support for petitions to scrap them, says Aldwinckle, most opponents “could not bring themselves to vote Conservative” in the recent local elections because of the Partygate scandal.
He says: “Unless Boris decides to get actively involved in local Conservative politics in campaigning against an unpopular traffic scheme he instigated, which he is most unlikely to do, he is unlikely to make many new friends in Dulwich.”
Another resident was more optimistic, arguing that the scheme may be reviewed if the prime minister or his security were personally inconvenienced by it.
They jokingly speculated that increased police presence may reduce crime, and that locals could benefit from reduced house prices. “House prices may tumble as a result of [Boris Johnson’s] arrival, and locals can afford to live here again.”
One local, Barry, joked: “We could do with a good party house around here so I’m happy.”
Comparisons with Thatcher
Locals were quick to point out the comparisons with another Conservative ex-prime minister. According to a report by the Dulwich Society, Thatcher was persuaded to buy the house because it was close to the Dulwich & Sydenham Golf Club for her husband Denis to play at, and received a hefty discount on the house price from the developer.
Like Johnson, Thatcher moved to the house full-time after leaving Downing Street in 1990. She did not last long before moving back to central London – and some residents hope Johnson may do the same.
For others, the Partygate scandal, Johnson’s handling of the pandemic and his government’s handling of the worsening economic crisis are no laughing matter.
Sophie is relieved to have moved out of the village just in time to escape Johnson. “I can’t imagine coming face-to-face with him and holding my tongue.”
Patrick, on the other hand, says he would welcome the opportunity to tell the prime minister what he thinks.
After losing his wife of 40 years to Covid, the revelation of Partygate was galling. “We were teenage sweethearts and [she was] my only love. The last conversation I had with her was on a FaceTime call just before she went on a ventilator… Only 30 people could attend her funeral; a lot of people had to watch on Zoom,” he says.