Send Botham Down Under? That’s just plain batty!

Meme by Anthea Bareham

Liz Truss, the cheese obsessive who counts rollover trade deals as the sign of the dawn of a new era for ‘global Britain’ and crows about flogging a few stiltons to the famously-lactose intolerant Japanese has hit diplomacy for six with her gleeful appointment of Brexit-fanatic Botham as trade envoy to Australia.

Ennobled for his unswerving loyalty to the very same Brexit which has handed the Australians a trade deal over which to salivate, Beefy (as he is presumably increasingly insensitively nicknamed given the likely fate of the UK’s beef farmers) looks set to face some serious bouncers from his former rivals on the field.

This tin-eared, tone-deaf government seems hellbent on proving that entitled, English exceptionalism drives their selection of people to front Brexit Britain. In fact, one wonders if Truss set herself the challenge of finding the person most likely to get up the noses of the Aussies after she managed to get up ours by dragging over the very uncharming Tony Abbott to help her flog cheese triangles and undermine British business.

Meme by Sadie Parker

Afer all, this is the same astute Truss of whom Lucy Fisher of The Telegraph reported

“Allies of Truss say she plans to sit Aussie trade minister Tehan in the Locarno Room [in Foreign Office] in an uncomfortable chair, so he has to deal with her directly for nine hours.”

She is no respecter of any professional negotiators, that’s for sure.

So it figures that she would send in a man almost guaranteed to provoke animosity at worst and derision at best.

Note from the tweet above that this government proudly eschews the glacial…for which professional trade negotiators would read painstaking and detailed…approach to deal-making, preferring to stampede towards a capitulation. There are industries and businesses up and down the land who would have preferred a bit more of the glacier with an eye on the likely consequences rather than the rush to boast about having ‘got Brexit done’. But no. Johnson, Truss and Frost prefer to swagger up to the crease and swing the bat around wildly before being caught on the boundary and sent back to the pavilion in nano-seconds; not without a bit of argie-bargie with the umpire first, of course.

Botham’s qualifications for the role, therefore, were unmistakable by their measure of aptitude:

  1. He doesn’t hang about;
  2. He knows nothing about international trade and cares even less:

“I will be at Westminster more often when we get back to normal, especially when they are debating something I know about – like sport or the countryside. Not much point if it’s a trade deal with Japan.”

3. He’s been in one of the longest feuds in sporting history. It endures to this day. WITH AN AUSTRALIAN CRICKET ICON! Bonza!

Ranked 5th in the Guardian’s 2001 list of all time sporting rivalries: Ian Botham v Ian Chappell

“It began in the bar of the Melbourne Hilton in 1977. Botham overheard Chappell slagging off England. He warned the ‘Aussie loudmouth’ three times to stop, then threw a punch, sending him sprawling off his bar stool and over a table of Aussie Rules footballers. When Chappell made one last jibe as he left, bulldog Botham chased him into the street; only the arrival of a police car prevented further violence. Over the years they continued to trade verbal punches. ‘He was a good cricketer, nothing special,’ Chappell said of Botham. ‘As a human being he is a nonentity,’ Botham responded. Chappell reopened hostilities in 1996 by claiming England’s greatest all-rounder had threatened to cut him ‘from ear to ear’ with a beer glass; Botham denied it.”

Here’s cricket bible Wisden writing last year on “The Bitter and Enduring Rivalry of the Ians” :

The rancour has been kept simmering with regular waspishness. “Someone is going to regret awarding him a knighthood,” said Chappell. “As a human being he’s a nonentity,” retorted Botham. “Even a broken clock is right twice a day,” concluded Chappell when it was suggested his nemesis might be correct regarding some calls from the commentary box. The atmosphere has not been improved by Chappell’s claims that he mutes Botham’s commentary as he “can’t stand his voice”.

Hmm. The knighthood was one thing…but setting him loose to antagonise the Australians, when we are shedding friends even faster than anti-vaxxers shed virus? Even less clever.

Truss: Let’s send Botham in to bat in Australia…In general, wrote David Lloyd in The Ashes According To Bumble, although Botham and Chappell are often in the same vicinity, “for the good of world peace they do everything they can to avoid each other”.
This govt don’t really get diplomacy, do they? Who could rile Aussies more?
Hard to imagine.

Originally tweeted by West Country Voices (@WCountryBylines) on 23/08/2021.

As Britain’s reputation for honesty, integrity and pragmatism is burned at the altar of Brexit, we are rapidly approaching a situation where all we have left to bargain with are the ashes. Maybe Beefy is the right guy after all.