Britain has ignored a storm of criticism to confirm ex-Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as a trade adviser, with Boris Johnson’s backing.
Mr Abbott has been appointed despite vocal complaints that his conservative views about women and gay people made him unfit to represent the UK.
Some British MPs have said Mr Abbott was not suitable for the job while TV presenter Kay Burley labelled him a “misogynist” and “homophobe” to which Health Secretary Matt Hancock stated: “Well, he’s also an expert in trade”.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended Mr Abbott and trumpeted his credentials before the appointment was announced on Friday (local time).
“This is a guy who was elected by the people of the great liberal democratic nation of Australia,” he said.
“And Australia… it’s an amazing country it’s a freedom-loving country, it’s a liberal country. There you go – I think that speaks for itself.”
But many have questioned his suitability to the role and even those on his own side of politics condemned the decision when it emerged he was in line for the unpaid position.
Conservative MP Caroline Nokes said appointing Mr Abbott would be “awful”.
“He is a misogynist, he has very poor views on LGBTQ rights, I just don’t think this is a man who should be anywhere near our Board of Trade,” she told the BBC.
“This is such a bad idea, I’m not sure I can come up with words for how awful I think it is.”
Earlier Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Mr Abbott’s comments suggesting some elderly COVID victims should be left to die naturally were “disgraceful”.
“The idea that anyone would take that view is offensive and wrong,” she told Sky News.
“Tony Abbott is a misogynist, he’s a sexist, he’s 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.”
Mr Abbott will act as an adviser to Britain’s Board of Trade as the UK races to strike trade deals with countries around the world before it fully leaves the European Union at the end of this year.
The board was relaunched in 2017 to champion export and inward investment after Brexit and is supported by leading figures from the world of politics and business who act as advisers.
“The new Board of Trade will play an important role in helping Britain make the case for free and fair trade across the UK and around the world,” Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss said in a statement.
Other advisers to the Board include the head of the Scottish Whisky Association Karen Betts, Brexit supporter Daniel Hannan and the head of the Environment Agency Emma Howard Boyd.