Health secretary Matt Hancock has defended former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott over claims that he is a “misogynist and homophobe”.
Abbott is reportedly being lined up to be the joint president of the UK’s Board of Trade, but he has faced criticism for reportedly saying men are better suited for leadership roles than women and opposing same-sex marriage.
When asked if he supported Abbott’s appointment in light of the claims, Hancock told Sky News: “Well, he’s also an expert in trade.”
He said: "I bow to nobody in my support for everybody to love who they love whoever that is, as you know.
"But you know we need to have the best experts in the world working in their field and as the former prime minister of Australia, obviously Mr Abbott has a huge amount of experience.”
Hancock rejected presenter Kay Burley's description of Abbott as a "homophobic misogynist", telling her: "I don't think that's true.”
Posting a tweet of the interview, Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy said: “So the government admits Tony Abbott is a homophobe and a misogynist, it just doesn’t care.”
Kay Burley: “Tony Abbott is a homophobe and a misogynist”— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) September 3, 2020
Health Secretary @MattHancock: “He’s also an expert on trade”.
So the government admits Tony Abbott is a homophobe and a misogynist, it just doesn’t care.
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon also criticised Abbott, telling Sky News: "He's a misogynist, a sexist, a climate change denier.
“In my view he's not the kind of person who should be a trade envoy or any kind of envoy for the United Kingdom."
Former Tory MEP Daniel Hannan tweeted his support of Abbott, saying he was a “practicing Catholic” and a “good and generous man who still works tirelessly for Australia's indigenous communities”.
Wokies who call @HonTonyAbbott "misogynist" or "homophobic" really mean that he is a practising Catholic. Tony is a good and generous man who still works tirelessly for Australia's indigenous communities. He knows how to get ambitious trade deals done. We are lucky to have him. pic.twitter.com/x88eAg6ZUc— Daniel Hannan (@DanielJHannan) September 3, 2020
If we banned anyone who did not support equal marriage at the time it was enacted from government roles, we would be excluding more than half the country.— Tom Harwood (@tomhfh) September 3, 2020
Asked whether he had ever suggested that men may be "by physiology or temperament more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command", Abbott told MPs on the foreign affairs committee on Wednesday: "I am not sure I ever did say that.”
He rejected accusations of misogyny, telling the committee when asked over claims he suggested men were more capable of being leaders than women: “I am not sure I ever did say that.”
Abbott’s appointment to the Board of Trade has so far not been confirmed, but he said on Wednesday that he has "had some discussions with members of the British government and I'm more than happy to help”.