‘Green is the first socio-political movement in which every single mover and shaker is filthy rich’
Boris Johnson worried about climate change – surreal, innit! Like Billy Bunter being concerned about cholesterol or Bertie Wooster getting a bee in his bonnet about there not being enough multiculturalism in this sceptred isle of ours, what?! But in another way it makes total sense – Boris is a toff! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Green is the first socio-political movement in which every single mover and shaker is, apparently, filthy rich.
Led by the Clown Prince, rallied by Old Etonian David Cameron (forever telling us that money won’t bring one happiness/the poor bring it on themselves), they make the suffragettes look like the Jarrow Marchers. As for Baron Melchett, who ran Greenpeace for 12 years, he’s another Old Etonian, a scion of the founder of the British Steel Corporation and heir to his great-grandfather’s fortune, from the chemical giants ICI, no less. Melchett owns an 800-acre estate in Norfolk and has spoken of his Greenery as “part of a family tradition of trying to do the right thing”. (Doing the right thing with chemicals? Yeah, I’ve been trying to do that all my life.)
Yet another Etonian, Jonathan Porritt, son of Baron Porritt (so many barons! And not one of them a robber?) was head of Friends of the Earth before becoming adviser to the Prince of Wales. Then there are the self-righteous spawn of bread-spread barons – Zac “Marmite” Goldsmith – and biscuit barons – George “Jaffa Cakes” Monbiot.
While promoting my book recently, I had an amusing run-in with Monbiot on the Today programme, during which he proclaimed in a voice reminiscent of the puppet star of yesteryear, Lord Charles, that “the idea that Greens are all po-faced, hair-shirted posh people is ridiculous”. At one point the clown conceded that he was upper middle-class – “I went to a public school; in another life I will endeavour to be born to a different set of parents” – before bitchily finishing with “Here is a woman who earns 20 times as much as I do and she slags me off for being rich!” No, not for being rich, Lord Snooty – for being spoon-fed, and thus having no idea what real life is about, unlike someone who made their money rather than inherit it. (See what I did there?)
We can see the same shamelessness in the recent Tory decision to raise the threshold for death duties to £2m for a married couple. They do this while both promising to be “the party of fairness” that stands united in its horror at the yawning gap between rich and poor, which New Labour has done nothing to narrow, and at the same time telling the poor that they have brought their troubles on themselves.
We see it everywhere these days, these New Bullies, these Green Snobs, these smilers with the Sabatier knives, these people who sneer at “chavs” while themselves committing the most breathtaking discourtesies; social racism, I call it. Hip credentials are no bar to verbal yobbishness with snobbery. Listen to one Guy Watson, of Riverford Organic Vegetables, who has made £40m from flogging boxes of obscenely shaped swedes to suckers with more money than sense, talking about Tesco to the Sunday Times: “They are what they are. You know you’re dealing with out-and-out barrow boys.”
Literally; in 1919, 21-year-old Jack Cohen, after serving in the RAF, invested his £30 demob money in surplus food stocks and a stall in the East End. On his first day he had a turnover of £4 and made £1 profit; now £1 in every £8 spent by British shoppers is spent in the shops he started. So much for the Green Snob lie that Tesco sprang into life as a fully formed small-shop-crushing colossus.
We can see it in the words of Lily Allen – the public-school “educated” pop star who found fame and fortune posing as “street”, and Boris’s adviser on street crime, no less – retaliating against criticism that she is -middle-class: “So what if we’re middle-class? Just ’cause your mum was too lazy to get her fat arse up off the sofa and make some cash, I shouldn’t be able to make tunes, yeah?”
Last month it came to light that a baby born in a working-class district of Glasgow will live 28 years less, on average, than one born in a middle-class area. Is this because those babies’ mums are, to quote Miss Allen, too lazy to get their fat arses up off the sofa and make some cash? Do they indeed have themselves to blame, as David Cameron and the New Caring Tories claim? Well, the World Health Organization says not, but what does it know?
Let the last word go to Down-home Dave, who certainly doesn’t live in no ivory tower. On the contrary, he knows how hard life can be. The reason? His wife went to a day school! Thus she is “unconventional and hard to put in a box”. That she is the daughter of fellow Old Etonian Sir Reginald Sheffield and grew up on a 300-acre estate which her family has owned since the 16th century seems beside the point. If this is what counts as “different” to Mr Cameron, a future Tory government looks set to be rather like a closed society.
With friends and leaders like these, climate change looks set to be the least of our worries over the next few years.