Thursday 3 September 2020 / 6:04 PM Marsha de Cordova / Trade / Women and Equalities

Labour calls for Government U-turn on “completely unacceptable” appointment of Tony Abbott

Labour has described the reported appointment of Tony Abbott to the UK’s Board of Trade as “completely unacceptable” and urged the International Trade Secretary to reverse the decision.

Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, Marsha de Cordova, has written to Liz Truss describing Abbott’s views as “offensive and outdated.” The letter also describes Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s defence of Abbott on Thursday as “deeply disturbing.”

Abbott has previously characterised women as “housewives…they do the ironing” and suggested that two female politicians were suited for office because they had “sex appeal”. An opponent of same-sex marriage, Abbott has also been accused of a series of homophobic remarks, including that it was a “fact of life” that “many people” feel threatened by the LGBT community.

De Cordova’s letter criticises Truss for refusing to condemn Abbott’s remarks in the Commons on Thursday. The letter goes on, “nor have you condemned Mr Abbott’s track record of other offensive and inflammatory statements, towards Muslims, immigrants and indigenous Australians.”


Full text of letter from Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, to Liz Truss:

3 September 2020

Dear Secretary of State,

The Labour Party takes great pride in being the party of equality, tolerance and respect for all communities. It has a proud record of taking action which supports women, the LGBT community and marginalised groups, both in government and in opposition.

Labour therefore finds reports that Tony Abbott will be appointed to the Board of Trade completely unacceptable.

Tony Abbott’s offensive and outdated views on women are well known, including characterising women as housewives who did the ironing and suggesting that uppermost in two female politicians’ qualities for office were their ‘sex appeal’. His views on homosexuality, including his admission that he feels threatened by the LGBT community, and that ‘most people do’, are both dangerous and divisive.

That the Health Secretary should attempt to excuse these views by saying ‘he is also an expert on trade’ is deeply disturbing, not to mention inaccurate, as my colleague, the Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade has pointed out.

As you are also the Minister for Women and Equalities, I was disappointed to see your own refusal to condemn these comments at the dispatch box earlier today, twice refusing to answer questions on the appointment. Nor have you condemned Mr Abbott’s track record of other offensive and inflammatory statements, towards Muslims, immigrants and indigenous Australians.

This is yet another example of incompetence from this government and a failure to respect the diversity of our communities. The Labour Party urges the government not to make this appointment and look instead for an expert with views on women and equalities that better reflect our British values.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Marsha de Cordova MP

Member of Parliament for Battersea

Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities