Language Matters | Eco-Woke

Older readers might remember a song from the 1970s by Jilted John (an early alter-ego of actor Graham Fellows) which had the catchy chorus ‘Gordon is a Moron‘ (if you’ve not heard it before and look it up on the back of this, it’s a real earworm so watch out…). The time has come to resurrect that chorus but to replace ‘Gordon’ with ‘Beefy’. Because the newly ennobled Lord ‘Beefy’ Botham (the nickname is supposed to derive from his physique, but given that his school chums apparently called him ‘Bungalow’ as he had nothing upstairs, it could just refer to the fact that he’s – er, thick in the arm and thick in the head), the former brawling cricketer, grumpy interviewee, and sometime cannabis user is indeed a bit of a moron.

That’s my opinion of course, but I think I have a case because ‘Beefy’ has decided that because he runs a pheasant shoot he speaks for the countryside. At least that’s the gist of an utterly ridiculous Daily Telegraph comment-piece of 14th November which Dominic Dyer recently brought to everyone’s attention in a tweet (few of us saw the piece earlier as the Telegraph has a vanishing circulation (“having declined almost 80%, much faster than industry trends“) and a suspected average readership age of about 110):


21 Nov 2020


The “I won’t let the bleeding heart eco-woke ride roughshod over our countryside” pull-out quote – which continues Botham’s preoccupations from his time as a parroting figurehead for ‘You Forgot the Birds’, an ineffective astroturfing PR group funded by hedge-fund Brexiteer Crispin Odey which wasted money shouting about the RSPB and Chris Packham to the few people who already didn’t like them anyway – comes directly from Beefy himself (at least that’s the assumption, though who knows when it comes to the ‘of a voice’ lobbyists for shooting: it sometimes feels like they’re all reading off the same crumpled piece of A4 with ‘Can we try pushing these today please’ written on it in large red crayon).

Anyway, let’s ignore everything else that Botham says in his ‘comment piece’ as it’s ecologically illiterate and not worth spending your time reading, and shake our heads instead as we deconstruct the self-regard and puerile ignorance of that one line: “I won’t let the bleeding heart eco-woke ride roughshod over our countryside“.

I won’t let...”? Who exactly does Ian Botham think he is? While a few of us will still remember him as a cricketer, to the vast majority of the public he is ‘that old bloke on the telly with the sore feet’ who advertises a vibrating tool which apparently ensures that just enough blood circulates to this tool’s brain to scribble the odd Telegraph comment piece (a rather decrepit has-been, might be an unkind summation by the younger generation perhaps). Other than that? Well, he has just become another reason why the second chamber should be fully elected, but that’s hardly a ringing endorsement. And hardly gives him the sort of authority to ‘not let’ anything happen at all. No, it’s an empty boast with no foundations. Lord Botham may have the power of life and death over a few thousand pheasants, but while he might think he is a great influencer he is really nothing of the sort. A big man in literal terms, but a very small one away from the pages of shooting websites. And in terms of stature compared with the genuinely influential Chris Packham (or the million-member RSPB) he barely registers…

Ride roughshod over our countryside‘? You have to wonder if Lord B understands what to ‘ride roughshod‘ actually means (strike that, he hasn’t a clue: the lobbyists should have sent out some easy to read explainers with that sheet of A4), because it’s defined as ‘completely ignore the opinions, rights, or feelings of others‘. And as we all know there is only one subset that – literally – rides roughshod over the countryside and it’s not us ‘eco-woke’ types: it’s the rural hooligans who flout the Hunting Act against the wishes of 85% of the British public (Mori poll, 2017). It’s a curious phrase to use. Perhaps Beefy has been egged on by his new chums from the pro-hunting wealthy ‘elite’ who sit on the red benches and perhaps think that the new member’s one-time notoriety will be useful until – well, until the public turn against what will seem to them to be a disposable (and very temporary) asset…

And ‘our‘ countryside? If there is a clearer indication that Lord Botham has been sent doolally tap by his gift from Boris Johnson for promoting Brexit, his belief that he either owns Britain (which even for a man with an ego the size of a small island is unlikely) or now thinks that he is a spokesperson for the small and unlovable group that own too many large chunks of it, it would be interesting to hear it. Now I may have this wrong, but it seems to me that Botham has been signed up as the latest ‘useful idiot’ by the shooting industry (in political jargon, a useful idiot is a derogatory term for a person perceived as propagandizing for a cause without fully comprehending the cause’s goals, and who is cynically used by the cause’s leaders). Yes, going by his past specious utterances Botham does associate himself with those men whose enjoyment begins and ends with the gun, but isn’t it just as likely that he is being set up as a fall-guy by a powerful group of landowners who care for little except the money that shooting brings in, but have had to acknowledge that what they do is now deeply unpopular? Why expose themselves to public opprobrium and ridicule when they can usher forward a man who thinks he is intelligent and deep but who actually appears to have the perception and depth of a puddle…

Talking of which brings us to ‘eco-woke‘. Oh dear, Beefy. This is the hook on which you will eventually be hung. It’s such a nonsense of a phrase. It might get senescent club members rustling the pages of their Telegraph in appreciation, but it actually only telegraphs the utter ignorance of the person that uses it. ‘Eco-woke’ is no doubt intended to be an insult, a redneck attempt at putting down anyone who doesn’t kill things for a giggle – but it is a huge red flag being waved by the sort of dimwit who rejoices in their climate change scepticism or clings to the belief that killing something is the best way to conserve it. We are facing catastrophic warming and biodiversity loss, the destruction of ecosystems across the entire planet. We are on the brink of an existential crisis. Flaunting the fact that you haven’t woken up to that isn’t clever or brave, it is moronic.


Botham is a man of immense self-regard. He no doubt thinks that using a term like ‘eco-woke’ will gain him approval, but the truth is that to the vast majority it just makes him look like a sad, ignorant man trying hard to appear up to date and relevant. Like the dad playing air guitar at his embarrassed teenage daughter’s party. The flabby lounge-lizard leaning on the bar drunkenly trying to chat up what he still calls ‘birds’. The former sports ‘personality’ who is openly mocked on social media because he’s revealed himself to be a bit of a knobhead.

That’s the problem with language. To be effective it has to mean something. The right words can empower, lift up, encourage, change minds, achieve remarkable things. Great orators are remembered and written into history. But throw around vapid, fatuous phrases like ‘eco-woke’ (or ‘snowflake’ and ‘libtard’) and you diminish yourself. Become smaller. Meaningless terms that just signal your own ignorance isn’t knocking it out of the park, Beefy, it’s just a clear sign that you simply don’t understand the debate.


Botham may not need the money (unless he’s spent a fortune bailing out his son’s loss-making shooting estate) but why don’t we set up a Crowdfunder and buy him a one-way ticket to Florida anyway? Then he can hang around with the sort of people who’s father casually dismisses the deaths of more than 250,000 people and who says he’ll spend self-isolation cleaning his guns. The sort of people who probably also think that ‘eco-woke’ is the perfect rejoinder to anyone who cares that, to quote someone who actually matters, ‘our house is on fire‘.

In the meantime ‘Here we go… two, three, four…”


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