Green guilt and living in the red

Lord Goldsmith, whose razor sharp legal mind was taxed to the full when he had to declare the regime-changing invasion if Iraq was legal, has proved himself equally adept at serving his new master, Gordon Brown, choosing the Tuesday of Budget week to reveal the conclusions of his five-month investigation into British citizenship.

Brown, a Scot with the initials GB, seems obsessed with the idea of Britishness. But the report, which among other ill-considered wheezes advocates that school leavers should be encouraged to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen, shows how much out of touch Goldsmith is with our youth and Comrade Darling.

It’s not just a matter of our teenagers losing street cred by saluting the Queen and the flag, it’s just that Mrs Windsor and the Royal clan don’t cut in any more – and I don’t mean just as a disfunctional family. It’s a lifestyle thing and Labour’s green mantra, confirmed in Darling’s budget, serves to underline that HM’s government and Her Majesty are not in sync when it comes to national goals. Take the issue of green homes. Thanks to our wonderful education system street-wise kids know that Buckingham Palace isn’t energy efficient, and Sandringham and Balmoral probably need of a bit of double glazing too.

Indeed, as any citizen hoodie will tell you, all three royal pads could easily swallow the £26m that the chancellor has allocated to help people improve the energy efficiency of their homes. But that’s just three of the Queen’s properties and doesn’t the government have something against second homes too? Then there’s the issue of Chelsea tractors. Following the budget it looks as if the average family won’t even be able to afford a Ford Focus, never mind aspire to the Range Rovers, Land Rovers and Rolls Royces you might find in any of the Royal garages. But on that score and the citizenship issue, I think I might be on sticky ground. I reckon most lads wouldn’t mind a burn-up around Buck House before saluting the flag and mouthing along to God Save the Queen,

Even so, it may be argued the government has been redefining what it means to be British and on some issues, such as plastic bags and perhaps bottled water, the Royals are probably squeaky clean.

True, smoking and binge drinking could be an issue among the younger ones, although 11p on a packet of king size and 14p on a bottle of Chateau Latif shouldn’t be a burden for a prince.

On the other hand, for a couple on a pension, 11p on a packet of Mayfair and 14p on a £2.99 bottle of supermarket red will make a big difference and this underlines what being British now means for most citizens – green guilt along with the risk of living in the red.