Keir Starmer has declared that he has “real concerns about Tony Abbott” and that if he were Prime Minister he would not appoint the former Australian politician to the senior trade role.
In an interview with Sky News this morning, the Labour leader discussed recent reports that Abbott is being lined up to be joint president of the UK’s relaunched Board of Trade.
Starmer told viewers that he did not think Abbott, who served as the Prime Minister of Australia between 2013 and 2015, is the right person to take this role promoting Britain around the world after Brexit.
"I have real concerns about Tony Abbott and I don't think he's the right person for the job."
Labour leader @Keir_Starmer says he wouldn't appoint the former-Australian PM to the UK's Board of Trade if he was prime minister.
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) September 3, 2020
Abbott would serve as joint president with minister for women and equalities Liz Truss. Critics have pointed out that the former Australian PM has been at the centre of several scandals after making misogynistic, homophobic and bigoted comments.
He campaigned against the introduction of same-sex marriage in Australia. Abbott described it as a matter of “political correctness” and argued it was “weakening” the institution. He also said he felt “threatened” by LGBT+ people.
Commenting on the appointment, Emily Thornberry said: “On a personal level, it is shameful that Boris Johnson thinks this offensive, aggressive, leering, gaffe-prone misogynist is the right person to represent our country overseas.”
The Shadow International Trade Secretary added: “This is someone with no hands-on experience of negotiating trade agreements, who denies the climate change that we believe should be at the heart of our trade policy, and who clearly has no concept of the importance of Britain’s trade with the EU.
“He was ousted by his own colleagues after just two years in power, and rejected by his own constituents just last year.
“They are the people who know him best, and wanted rid of him, yet here we are now, hiring him to negotiate our trade deals around the world. It’s yet more breathtaking incompetence from a government that has turned it into an art-form.”
Throughout his political career, the former Australian Prime Minister has been accused by both the Labour Party and leading political figures in Australia of misogyny, homophobia and downplaying the science on climate change.
Questioned on the appointment, Truss suggested his trade experience was the only relevant factor in the decision. She added: “Look, I’m not going to spend my time commenting on comments other people have made in the past.”