I do not join with those who are cynically critical of the former England cricket captain Sir Ian Botham‘s elevation to the House of Lords, nor the peerage awarded to Kate Hoey, Britain’s first female sports minister and one of the finest, and feistiest ever.
Both may be good mates with Prime Minister Boris Johnson but this should not be seen simply as cronyism in my view.
Beefy and Hoey are worthy recipients of the ermine cloak, that is if anyone still believes that the nation’s second chamber is not an anachronism in this age of high-tech, space travel and COVID-19.
Leaving that contentious thought aside it is good to see that while the currently bewitched, bothered and beleaguered Bojo rewards those who have been loyal to him, he and they are also loyal to sport which now has additional and valued representation at a high political level.
Both the newly ennobled will surely enrich the ranks of those other 800 or so who also sit in the second chamber, with opinions that are strident and both of a wealth of experience and knowledge.
All-rounder Botham, so lethal with bat and ball, is one of the greatest characters cricket, indeed sport itself, has ever known.
So he may have been a bit of a Jack-the-lad in his younger days, but as have most England skippers with the possible exception of the Rev David Sheppard!
Beef was certainly guilty of one or two unseemly peccadilloes in the past, such as breaking the bed while engaged in a romp with a comely female companion while on tour, which may have been one of the less auspicious aberrations, but let those without sin cast the first stone, etc etc…
In the composition of the venerable Upper House there are quite a few whose history would not bear too much scrutiny. Lord Jeffrey Archer, bon viveur, author, one time sprinter and convicted felon who enjoyed a bowl or two of porridge, for one. Need I say more?
The new Baron Botham used to be a groundstaff boy at the home of cricket but now he is lording it over Lord’s – and good luck to him. Good to see that Ben Stokes is following in his footsteps.
Botham has raised almost as much as centurion Sir Tom walking for charitable causes – though never from the crease- and is worth his upgrade for that alone.
insidethegames followers will be aware that I have always liked and admired Hoey, a disciple of the great Denis Howell (the renowned first class football referee and rainmaker who became Lord Howell after he was the prototype Sports Minister).
The Northern Ireland junior high jump champ was that rarity, a politician with a conscience.
Like Botham and Johnson she believed in Brexit, and said so much to the annoyance of political boss Jeremy Corbyn and although she did not quite share Boris’s politics she gave him a solid support when he sensibly asked her to become his sports advisor during his successful sojourn as Mayor of London.
What’s more she spoke up for sport in no uncertain terms as minister for two years until the good old boys of the ultra chauvinistic English Football Association kept bending the ear of Prime Minister Tony Blair, the man who appointed her, to have her removed as she was rightly an irritation thorn in their sides.
So the newbies will sit on opposite sides of the House of Lords (should that not be House of Lords and Ladies by the way in this politically correct age?) but they will be united in voicing their opinions on behalf of sport as they are genuine fans as well as experts in their field.
And, of course both have friends in high places who will take notice of what they say. Won’t they Boris?
Sport has been pretty well served over the years at Westminster, with worthy support in both Houses.
On the whole MPs are a pretty sporty bunch although not every one of the lengthy procession of Sports Ministers have been as dedicated as Howell, Hoey and Hugh Robertson who was Sports and Olympics Minister during the run-up to London 2012, is now chair of the British Olympic Association and a knight who surely must be next in line to take the short walk into the other chamber.
It is there that the newcomers will find they are in good company, alongside quite a few who have got there at least partially because of their intimate keen interest in sport. The line-up, past and present of both men and women is quite impressive.
There is a professional and quite eclectic look about it. Currently in the squad, alongside Baron Beefy and Baroness Hoey, or to be precise sitting on the bench, are left wingers Baroness Sue Campbell, a former formidable chair of UK Sport now head of the England women’s football, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, much revered denizen of Paralympic wheelchair racers, Lord Alan Sugar, former Tottenham chairman, Tory-supporting Baroness Karren Brady, vice chair of West Ham and one-time chief executive of Birmingham City, who memorably told a player that unless he stopped looking at her breasts she would transfer him to Crewe. And she did.
Then there is Lord Colin Moynihan, Olympic rowing silver medallist, ex chair of the BOA, and its successor and arguably most famous sporting lord of them all, Baron Sebastian Coe of Ranmore.
Although his new role as President of World Athletics and finally newly elected member of the International Olympic Committee surely limits his time to attend to lordly matters. And one doubts he needs the £300 ($391/€332) tax-free daily attendance fee.
Boxing has always had great supporters in both houses, Beginning with Lord Lonsdale, original donor of the much treasured and extremely valuable Lonsdale belt, awarded after three successful British Championship victories. Sir Henry Cooper had three of them.
Moynihan,was double boxing blue at Oxford and was once barred as an amateur for sparring with professionals at the Thomas Beckett.
He and Coe share a passion for the noble art and are ardent fight fans as is Lord Tom Pendry, who spent several years as shadow Labour Sports Minister and was the Royal Air Force middleweight boxing champion.
Labour’s llate Lord Tony Banks, surprisingly beat him to the job and also keenly followed boxing while the late Labour peer Lord Jack Brooks was a popular and effective President of the British Boxing Board of Control, of which the feisty Baroness Golding is now an honorary steward and at 87 "contributes well" says general secretary Robert Smith.
So, my lords, ladies and of course gentlemen, as the now lordly Botham might add: "Owzat!?"