ANYTHING which irritates Pete Wishart, the SNP’s Spokesman for the Cabinet Office, is normally a good thing.
The irascible MP for Perth and North Perthshire is currently annoyed that the House of Lords, which he labels ‘the most absurd and ridiculous political institution anywhere in the world’, will now include ‘a whole raft of Brexiteers appointed by the PM’.
One peerage particularly perturbs Pete: ‘Let’s look at two candidates for the House of Lords: Ian Botham, Brexiteer and cricketer, and John Bercow, former Speaker of the House of Commons with something like 25 years political experience … who is more qualified to have a role in deciding the laws of this country?’
‘It should be up to an electorate,’ wails Wishart. And we can speculate on the result were the public asked to choose between Ian ‘Beefy’ Botham, the legendary cricketer knighted for his charity fundraising, and John ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ Bercow.
Pete Wishart’s criticism of Sir Ian’s peerage is a reminder of an earlier occasion when the former England all-rounder was subjected to Scots’ scorn.
Appearing in 1986 on BBC Scotland’s youth TV show Open to Question, during which he was interrogated by an audience of insufferable Scottish schoolchildren, Botham is unable to hide his exasperation and incredulity at the hostile questioning from some of the truculent teenagers.
Sadly, I am unable to bring you the full broadcast. However, the YouTube clip below does contain most of what is an extraordinary piece of television. Watching at the time, it was horrifying to see that Scotland’s schools were producing such po-faced prigs.
For the same reason that in 2017 Harriet Harman denounced Jacob Rees-Mogg as a ‘deadbeat dad’, in the early eighties Ian Botham had enraged feminists when he quipped: ‘I don’t ask my wife to face Michael Holding (the fearsome West Indian fast bowler), so there’s no reason why I should be changing nappies.’
As we join the programme, Botham has just been ordered to justify his antediluvian attitude. He then compounds his crime by telling the earnest examiner: ‘You’re missing the whole context, love. Ten months of the year I’ve spent on the road … if you want to send me the nappies through the post, I’ll wash them and send them back.’
This sally briefly lightens the mood, but follow-up challenges include the disapproving questions: ‘Why do you class (changing nappies) as women’s work?’ and: ‘Is your wife satisfied with your attitude to child-rearing, or do you think that she resents your apparent immersion in your own sport?’
Later, when several questioners harangue him over his support for field sports, Botham is himself the quarry. However, it is not just animals which he has in the crosshairs when Botham reveals his robust remedy for dispensing criminal justice.
Criticised by some of the audience for his publicised use of marijuana, Botham matter-of-factly responds: ‘Heroin dealers should be shot.’ He does, however, remain open-minded regarding the best method of dispatching drug dealers, going on to say: ‘The guys who are smuggling heroin and cocaine, which effectively can be killers; (the country) shouldn’t just be putting them in jail for a few years, they should be hanging them.’
Lord Botham will sit in the Upper House as a crossbencher, but in 1986 he was in the dock for being a ‘Thatcher supporter’: ‘You raise money for leukaemia victims … how do you feel about the fact that her government has made cuts to the National Health Service?’
While conceding that ‘I don’t necessarily agree with cutting in health’, Botham nonetheless does ‘believe in a lot of the Tory policies’, particularly ‘free enterprise’: ‘If a guy gets off his backside and wants to go out and make something of his life, he should have that opportunity. Unfortunately, under the Labour Party I feel it would be too easy for people to sit down and do nothing and be paid for it.’
Under questioning, he is mildly critical of Maggie’s reluctance to impose economic sanctions against Botha’s South Africa. But Botham is himself accused of a double-standard: ‘As a public figure who is against apartheid, don’t you think it was a bit hypocritical of you to say the things you said about Pakistan, as these insults were quite hurtful remarks?’
His ‘hurtful remark’ had been to describe the country as ‘the kind of place to send your mother-in-law for a month, all expenses paid’. After summarising the hellish experience in Pakistan which caused him to crack that joke, Botham chides his straight-faced inquisitor: ‘You must have a sense of humour somewhere in there, love …. people ought to just laugh a little bit more in this life.’
Alas, there is only occasional nervous laughter from this audience of censorious students. Their earnestness is explained in a contemporaneous report which appeared in The List magazine: ‘Watching the recording with accompanying teachers in the Green Room it is apparent that most there are pretty anti-Botham. It is also apparent where the “young persons” get their questions from. Teachers cheer on their pupils like athletes and when one is caught out on some dodgy research, her teacher mutters: “Damn, caught us there” under his breath.’
This revelation rather confirms that as long ago as the mid-1980s, Scotland’s secondary school pupils were already being indoctrinated by the hard-Left.
Then in his mid-twenties, with rolled-up jacket sleeves and a curly coiffure, the dedicated follower of fashion hosting this edition of Open to Question is John Nicolson, the future Scottish Nationalist MP.
His earnest audience will all now be around 50, the milestone birthday recently celebrated by Nicola Sturgeon. From the film below, one presumes that these saturnine schoolchildren, now in middle age, have all become staunch supporters of Nanny Nicola and her proscriptive party.