London, Jan. 29 (Reuters): One of Britain’s richest aristocrats rode to the defence of the working classes today in an unprecedented court case which strikes at the heart of the country’s class system.
The eighth Earl Cadogan is locked in a legal battle with a property developer over whether the term “working classes” still has any meaning in Britain.
The unlikely tussle is being played out at London’s High Court, with the earl — said to be the eighth richest man in Britain with a £1.5 billion fortune — playing the role of working class hero.
Lord Cadogan is fighting to stop a property developer building luxury houses on a lucrative site in Chelsea that his grandfather sold to the local authority in 1929 for the “housing of the working classes”.
The Cadogan family ensured the land was covered by a covenant which prevented it from being sold back to the upper classes. But London-based developer Dano Ltd, which wants to build four posh homes on the site of a derelict pub, says class barriers have been broken and that it is impossible to define the working class.
Now the developer is asking senior judge Sir Terence Etherton to rule that the covenant is unenforceable.
Opening the case today, Dano’s lawyer Michael Barnes told the court: “It is not possible to say today with any degree of certainty or precision what is meant by the working classes or whether any person is within that description.”
Lord Cadogan, however, says the phrase remains in common usage and should be construed as meaning “persons in lower income groups”.