House was `on market for quite a while'
At the beginning of 1996 Peter Mandelson's salary as a member of parliament enabled him to live in a small flat in Islington.
But by the end of the year, and still earning about £40,000 as MP for Hartlepool, he had moved to a Georgian terrace house in Notting Hill, west London.
Most high-street banks and building societies will typically lend a single person three times their salary to buy a home. On Mr Mandelson's salary then it would have been £126,000.
Some banks do lend up to four times a salary, but this would still have given Mr Mandelson a mortgage of only £168,000, woefully short of the amount needed to buy the luxury house.
It was reported in September 1996, two months before Mr Mandelson bought it, that the three-bedroom property in Northumberland Place had been on the market "for quite a while" at about £475,000.
The house, in one of London's most sought-after locations, features an elaborate wrought-iron canopy over the doorway, with matching decorative ornamental balconies outside the second-floor windows.
It is believed that Mr Mandelson has undertaken a large redecoration programme, enlisting designer Seth Stein to transform the property from, says the Guardian, a "cosy family home to modernist shrine".
The four-storey building, now estimated to be worth between £500,000 and £800,000, sits between similar flat-fronted houses.
Neatly-trimmed potted shrubs and evergreens are carefully positioned in the garden, and an array of luxury cars lines the streets.
The street is close to some of London's trendiest bars and restaurants, in an area which is home to show-business personalities, including Chris Evans, Paula Yates and Kylie Minogue.
Other near-neighbours include the chief executive of Channel Four, Mr Michael Jackson, the art historian Mr Christopher Wright, and Ms Helen Fielding, author of Bridget Jones's Diary, who has offices locally.
The holly wreath hanging on the front door was last night the only sign of the festive season as a tired and stern-faced Mr Mandelson arrived back at the property at the centre of the controversy.
Arriving in a chauffeur-driven Rover, he strode from the car and marched through his garden gate, refusing to answer reporters' questions.