The UK Trade Secretary waded into the row over the possible appointment of former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as a trade adviser to the UK, which has been met with harsh criticism from the Labour Party. She said it was “absolute hypocrisy” for Labour to condemn the decision after leader Sir Keir Starmer hit out at the possible appointment.
Following criticism from Labour’s Ruth Cadbury, Ms Truss said: “I think it’s absolute hypocrisy to hear this type of argument from the Labour Party.
“Until recently they had a shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who Ms Cadbury supported who called for the lynching of one of my female colleagues and never apologised for it.
“This is a party that has never elected a female leader despite having the opportunity time and time again.
“The reality is they’d rather virtue signal and indulge in tokenism rather than take real action to improve the lives of women.”
Ms Truss also hit back when Labour MP Christian Matheson said: “The appointment of the sexist and homophobic Tony Abbott is also the appointment of a climate change denier.
“So does this indicate the government is moving away from any commitment in trade deals to maintain environmental protection? And if not, why have you put him in the job?”
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It comes after Sir Keir said he would not appoint Mr Abbott if he were Prime Minister.
He said: “I have real concerns about Tony Abbott and I don’t think he’s the right person for the job. If I was prime minister I wouldn’t appoint him.”
Mr Abbott, a Brexit supporter, has said he could not comment until the appointment was made official, but the right-wing head of Australia’s government between 2013 and 2015 used a speech at the London-based Policy Exchange think tank to set out his approach to trade.
He said: ”I am obviously a supporter of freer trade, particularly freer trade between like-minded countries with comparable standards of living.
“So a free-trade deal between Australia and Great Britain would be, I would like to think, an absolutely unambiguous good for everyone.”
A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters that “no decisions about the Board of Trade have been made”.
The Board of Trade is headed by trade minister Ms Truss and, the government says, it “champions exports, inward investment and outward direct investment to deliver economic growth and prosperity across the United Kingdom”.
Labour’s Emily Thornberry has said it would be “absolutely staggering” if Mr Johnson were to appoint Mr Abbott, saying he has “no hands-on experience of negotiating trade agreements”.
While Labour MP Marie Rimmer said: “Surely there’s trade experts who aren’t homophobic and misogynists? Britain deserves better than Tony Abbott representing us on the world stage.”
But many members of the governing Conservative Party have said they would welcome Mr Abbott’s appointment.
Several have said his support for Britain’s departure from the EU underlined his credentials for promoting it.