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The centenary of a political bolthole

Peter Cziborra/Pool/AP

Boris Johnson is hosting a dinner party on Saturday to mark the 100-year anniversary of Chequers, the prime minister’s country house, says Matt Chorley on the Red Box podcast. It’s set to be an awkward affair: Theresa May is said to be the only former prime minister to have accepted the invitation.

Lloyd George took up residency at Chequers in 1921, after Sir Arthur Lee gifted the 16th-century Buckinghamshire manor to the nation as “a place of rest and recreation for prime ministers for ever”. Churchill went there most weekends during the war and famously touched up a mouse on a Rubens painting that he thought was hard to see. It has since been restored.

Ted Heath gave Richard Nixon such a good time at Chequers that the US ambassador had a swimming pool installed there. However, Margaret Thatcher was “so worried about the running costs” she refused to heat it – though that didn’t stop Mikhail Gorbachev visiting her there during the Cold War. In 2014, David Cameron “staged a rave” at Chequers for his wife’s birthday. Helena Bonham Carter and Jeremy Clarkson were there, as was DJ Sarah HB (short for “hard bitch”). Cameron’s press secretary Gabby Bertin was “pretty freaked out” after a night in the haunted prison room, where Elizabeth I held Lady Mary Grey captive for two years. Bertin woke up to find “the door bolted from the inside” – and not, apparently, by her.

Listen to the podcast here. Start at 22 minutes 16 seconds.