There's rubbish and there's rubbish

Tony rearranges Cherie's hair, Leo loses his nuggets, Sarah learns to live with new nappies, while G

Scene 1: Cherie is in the bathroom spraying her new hairdo. Leo is playing a computer game.

Tony is tasting a 2005 Chardonnay from Sussex.

Tony: [spits it out]: Yuk. All bloody chalk.

He pours himself a large glass of Chilean Haut-Brion.

Tony: Mm. Just the ticket. Now then guys! Everyone in the bedroom, please. Family meeting!

Cherie: No, Tony. I'm doing my hair.

Tony: That's what the meeting's about.

Cherie: My hair?

Tony: About the impact of our personal habits on the environment. It won't take long.

Cherie stomps angrily in from the bathroom.

Tony: Right. Excellent. Thank you all for being here today.

Cherie: Get on with it.

Tony: Put the Xbox down, please, Leo, there's a good lad. Now then, here's a word that's not very nice. Murder. We're murdering the planet and that's something we'll live to regret - as will the planet. We in this family, and in the wider community, have a responsibility to lower our emissions. So this evening I want us each to commit ourselves to a daily act of eco-penance which will help us achieve eco-absolution.

Leo: I don't understand.

Tony: Write down that you promise to turn the telly off when you're not watching it and to give up Chicken McNuggets.

Leo: I like Chicken McNuggets.

Tony: They're bad for the planet.

Leo [wailing]: I don't want to give up Chicken McNuggets.

Tony: You don't have to, darling. It's only a promise. Write it down and we'll put it on the family website. Very good. Now, see what Daddy's written. "I promise to switch to fair-trade mangetout and to atone for my air travel by protecting corals in the Great Barrier Reef." Cherie, what have you got? Something about hairspray?

Cherie: I promise to offset our gas emissions by planting a fir tree each time Tony makes a speech on the environment.

Scene 2: The Browns' flat. Sarah is playing with little James.

Sarah: Dingledangle, finglefangle.

Gordon is in the grip of green paranoia and sifts through the family rubbish. He pulls out a sheaf of facts and figures.

Gordon: My old pre-Budget statement! Sarah. How did this end up in the recycle box?

Sarah: Well, it's the same every year, isn't it? Low inflation, high growth and high investment.

Gordon: Not for much longer. We're into an inflationary spiral.

Sarah: Jingle jangle jingle . . . Oh James! Pooey! Somebody needs changing.

Gordon: By the way, we can't use disposable nappies any more.

Sarah: I'm not washing 15 of those cotton things every day.

Gordon: We'll have to. The plastic ones are dreadful. They sit in the earth for years and years, festering. Like a one-time Hartlepool MP with a grudge.

Sarah: Oh, all right, then.

Gordon: What's this? Oh my God, Sarah! A plastic bottle in the ordinary rubbish. This could ruin everything.

Sarah: Oh, one bit of plastic won't kill the planet.

Gordon: I'm talking about my career. There are reporters sifting through politicians' bins at night. This rubbish could end up in the Daily Mail.

Sarah: Won't be the first time there's been rubbish in the Daily Mail.

Gordon: But this is our rubbish. And I'm very protective towards it. I won't have the newspapers invading my detritus for the titillation of their readers. I'll be exposed as a hypocrite and . . . hang on. Got it!

Scene 3: That night. Downing Street. A hooded figure appears and tiptoes towards No 10 with a full bin liner. The door opens. Tony bursts out.

Tony: What's going on?

He tears off the figure's hood.

Tony: Gordon!

Gordon: Er, hi Tony! What are you doing?

Tony: I heard noises. What are you doing?

Gordon: I heard noises, too. I thought you might be a terrorist. Then I remembered you already are.

Tony: Very funny. And what's that rubbish for?

Gordon: Leaving it out for the Daily M - . . . daily refuse collection.

Tony: Outside my house? You little sneak!

Gordon: Er, well, I er . . .

Cherie appears behind Tony carrying a bin liner.

Cherie: All set, Tony. One mixed bag of disposable nappies and recyclable bottles . . . Oh, Gordon! [Sweetly] How're the green taxes coming along?

This article first appeared in the 06 November 2006 issue of the New Statesman, Planet saved?: Why the green movement is taking to the streets