Ian Botham, UK's new trade envoy to Australia, could lead to a new age of celebrity diplomacy – Scotsman comment

The UK’s new trade envoys to Australia and New Zealand are, it’s probably fair to say, contrasting figures.

Ian Botham takes his seat in the House of Lords as Baron Botham of Ravensworth (Picture: House of Lords/PA)

On the one hand, Conservative MP David Mundell is a former Scotland Secretary who spoke of his previous work promoting Scottish and UK products and services.

On the other, Ian 'Beefy’ Botham is a former cricketer who used to delight in beating Australia, the country with which he will now be attempting to foster stronger trade links.

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“When you have a chance to beat them, you want to do it in style – it’s a nice feeling,” he said in 2013, on being asked about the sporting rivalry between England and the country that will now be the target of his diplomatic skills, rather than his bowling.

The UK government reportedly believes “the Aussies love Beefy” and it may well be true. However there is a difference between loving him as the cricketing legend whose engaging character and charity work made him famous far beyond the sporting world and ‘loving him’ as a trade envoy in any meaningful way.

It remains to be seen whether Mundell’s lower key, possibly more serious approach or Botham’s charisma and star quality, at least for those of a certain age, produces the best actual results in terms of the important business of trade.

If the latter is deemed the greater success, it could usher in a new age of celebrity diplomacy. How about David Beckham as US ambassador? Should we send Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes to Brussels? Neither sounds unreasonable.

And surely comedian Frankie Boyle would make a real impact on relations with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

No pressure, Mr Mundell.

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