Lord Ian Botham has just been appointed as the UK government’s trade envoy to Australia despite his famous clashes with the country.
International trade secretary Liz Truss announced the news on Twitter and said Botham would “bat for UK business down under” in an attempt to boost post-Brexit trade in his new role.
Although he is one of 10 new trade envoys, Botham’s new job has definitely attracted the internet’s attention.
Known as Guy the Gorilla in Australia – and Beefy in the UK – Botham allegedly once insulted the country by saying: “Aussies are big and empty – just like the country.”
Still, Australia’s ambassador in the UK, George Brandis, seemed delighted at the new appointment and tweeted: “Marvellous news Liz and what a fantastic appointment!
“Australia looks forward to welcoming Lord Botham down under – and to working with him to strengthen the trading links between our two countries.”
Not everyone was so happy though. Those on Twitter immediately questioned his credentials – and his chequered past.
Former civil servant Siobhan Benita tweeted: “if you didn’t already think Global Britain has become a laughing stock on the world stage, the appointment of Ian Botham as the UK’s trade envoy to Australia really should start ringing some alarm bells.”
Anti-Brexit campaigner Femi Oluwole also tweeted about why the government might have chosen Botham.
He claimed: “By making politics all about personality, you can put incompetent people who right-wingers love in charge of major national functions, and instead of being criticised when things go wrong, you can paint it all as a personal attack on our country.”
Australians weren’t very excited at the prospect either, although they did note that his credentials might work in their favour.
Botham was known for his outrageous lifestyle when he played in the Ashes up between 1776 and 1992.
He has continued to cause a stir over the years, despite no longer playing on England’s cricket team. He famously made headlines back in 2014 when a picture of a man’s penis was posted on his verified Twitter page.
The photograph was accompanied with the words: “What are you thinking…xx”
But the cricketer maintained that he had been hacked after just changing his password.
Previous famous trade envoys include Prince Andrew, although he had to step down from the position in 2011 due to his connections with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein who had just become a convicted sex offender at the time.
Some Twitter users picked up on this and wrote: “Ian Botham is now a Trade Envoy. I guess that ‘marginally’ better than Prince Andrew but as he lives in Spain what exactly will he be promoting – timeshares in Fuengirola?”
Botham was knighted in 2007 for his services to charity and cricket, and is a well-known Brexiteer.
Trade envoys are usually parliamentarians appointed by the prime minister – the role is unpaid and voluntary.
Acknowledging his new role, Botham tweeted: “It’s a great honour to carry this role in a country that I love and have come to know so well.
“I have spent a significant amount of my career in Australia and I am excited to have the opportunity to build on the UK’s longstanding relationship and promote UK trade.”
His new role followed the new free trade deal signed between Australia and the UK, although some people have questioned how effective such a role would even be.
SNP MP Angus MacNeil, chair of the international trade select committee told The Independent: “An Australian trade deal can only recover £2 of every £490 that Brexit costs. Spin, bowlers or otherwise won’t change this.”