Skip to content

Lord Beefy joins the club

July 19, 2020

I could be very unkind to Ian Botham, who is about to take his seat as Lord Botham among the superannuated great and good and the rheumy remnants of Britain’s hereditary peerage.

I could say that he’s only the third male cricketer * to be elevated to the House of Lords in recent history, and that the others contributed far more to public life than Botham did. Learie Constantine was a distinguished campaigner for racial equality, a lawyer, a diplomat and a politician. David Sheppard was the Bishop of Liverpool for many years.

Against those achievements, Lord Botham can cite huge sums of money raised through herculean charity walks, a long career talking about cricket, a brief career as a footballer with Scunthorpe United, specialist knowledge of feuding with Australian cricket captains and more than a passing knowledge of marijuana. But then those are not the reasons why Boris Johnson has elevated him. He’s becoming a Lord because he backed the right horse on Brexit.

Nonetheless, I won’t be unkind to him, because if he ever found out and we met in a pub, I’d be on the floor with a broken nose before I had time to call for a player review.

But I do wonder what, with his specialist areas of expertise, he can contribute to the deliberations of Their Lordships on the matters put before them. So I had a little look at a government website that lists the legislation and other business that the Lords have considered this year, and I found one or two items that might arouse his interest.

The Agriculture Bill is one of them. Agricultural is one of the words used to describe His Lordship’s style when he used to hit the cricket ball so far out of the ground that it would never have been retrieved but for the newly-created hole in a householder’s roof. He’s also seen so much of the countryside through his charity walks that he has as much right to sound off on agriculture as has Jeremy Clarkson, petrolhead-turned farmer, who has yet to be elevated to the Lords, presumably because he failed to express an opinion in favour of Brexit.

Then there’s the Bat Habitats Regulation Bill. I imagine that Lord Botham will have much to say about this, since most of his bats will be mounted on walls as opposed to being left mouldering in his garden shed. He might also have some interesting input on the Meat (Grading and Labelling) Bill. Not for nothing was he called Beefy in his cricketing heyday.

I’m not so sure what he can bring to the Duty to Prepare for Terrorism Bill, since his days of terrorising Australians are over. But I imagine he would have a quiet word with Ben Stokes about that. On other stuff I’m not so sure. Take a look at the website I linked to above and make your own mind up.

Those who question Botham’s deep thinking on matters of national importance gleefully quote from an article about cricketers in politics from 2016, in which he’s alleged to have said “Personally, I think that England is an island” and “I think that England should be England. And I think that we should keep that.”

But that’s a cheap shot. He’s smarter than that, as years of commentary as a successful cricket pundit have shown. And even if he is a bit of a blowhard, he has good company in the lower house, where no doubt he’ll have the occasional beer with the likes of Mark Francois and “Sir” Desmond Swayne, about whom I wrote recently.

I bear Ian Botham absolutely no ill will. He’s achieved more in his life than I could ever dream of. He’s a cricketing hero who provided millions of fans, including me, with moments of joy and ecstasy at a time when we all needed a bit of cheer.

Yet I do wonder what putting him in the House of Lords will do for him or for his fellow lords. I suspect that sitting through hours of discussion on the Unconscionable Conduct in Commerce Bill would bore him to death. Half an hour would probably send him scurrying to the bar. If, on the other hand, Boris made him Minister for Cricket, that would make a lot of sense.

No doubt as Lord Botham he’ll have no problem getting the best table at any restaurant he chooses, but he probably gets them anyway as Sir Ian, and certainly as a revered sporting hero.

But his elevation does make me wonder what Boris Johnson thinks the Lords is for. Until he becomes a peer himself, he probably looks on the upper house as a tedious obstacle in the way of his ambition to become World King. Those who see the second chamber as a vital check on the wilder ambitions of the lower house might question why John Bercow, the former Speaker of the Commons, who cares deeply about Parliament and its deliberations, was not also elevated.

The answer, of course, is that Bercow terminally pissed off Johnson and his party in the last parliament by his interpretation of procedure which had the effect of delaying Brexit.

It’s all about Brexit, it seems, which is fine, even though you could say that Boris is a vindictive little worm for denying Bercow his place. I just wonder how proud Lord Botham will be if and when – and I’m pretty sure it will be when – the whole Brexit project is revealed to be a colossal scam and comes crashing down upon dear old England, not to mention Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Then, presumably, he will realise that he’s just the latest patsy used by an unscrupulous politician to drum up a bit of short-term popularity.

I do have one further thought. If Ian Botham deserves to become a Lord, any party that makes Ben Stokes a Duke will get my vote.

*P.S. Actually he’s the fourth. I forgot about Colin Cowdrey, whose achievements were mainly confined to cricket. Arguably Botham’s charitable activities eclipsed Cowdrey’s post playing achievements. But Colin had the advantage of being a mate of John Major. Some things never change.

From → Social, Sport, UK

  1. Andrew Robinson permalink

    There’s at least one more lap of Aintree before Beefy’s horse crosses the line….(or did I miss something?).

    • Quite possible, which is what I usually say when I don’t get the reference!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: