Liz Truss, who is somehow still equalities minister, says criticising Tony Abbott’s rampant homophobia and sexism is ‘virtue signalling’

Liz Truss

Liz Truss, the Tory equalities minister and trade secretary, has claimed that criticism of Tony Abbott’s rampant homophobia and sexism is “virtue signalling” from the left.

Reports emerged Abbott, Australia’s former prime minister, is to be appointed as co-president of the UK Board of Trade last week, sparking widespread backlash over his views on the LGBT+ community and women, including that children should only be raised by straight couples.

In the House of Commons on Thursday (September 3) Labour MP Ruth Cadbury pressed Truss on the appointment, asking: “Could the trade secretary not find an expert for the role who also demonstrates positive British values?”

Truss hit back at Cadbury, calling the criticism of Abbott “absolute hypocrisy”, and insisting that the Labour party “would rather virtue signal and indulge in tokenism rather than take real action to improve the lives of women”.

She claimed criticism of Abbott is coming only from “those on the left of politics”, seemingly unaware of the fact that Tory MP Caroline Nokes has also hit out at his rumoured appointment.

“This is such a bad idea I’m not sure I can come up with words for how awful I think it is,” Nokes, Conservative chair of the Commons women and equalities committee, told the BBC’s Politics Live on Tuesday (September 1).

“[Labour shadow trade secretary] Emily Thornberry and I seldom agree on anything, but she’s right. He’s a misogynist he has very poor views on LGBT+ rights, and I just don’t think this is a man who should be anywhere near our Board of Trade.”

Earlier Thursday Matt Hancock gave a car crash interview to Sky News’ Kay Burley where he sought to defend Abbott.

“I’m sure you don’t support some of his comments,” Burley said. “He’s a homophobe and he’s a misogynist.”

“Well, he’s also an expert in trade,” Hancock replied meekly.

On August 28 Truss responded to a similar line of questioning by claiming Abbott’s views are “irrelevant” to the Board of Trade.

“What I’d say about Tony Abbott is he’s a former prime minister of Australia,” she offered in lieu of condemnation.

Tony Abbott campaigned against same-sex marriage.

Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott blocked free votes in parliament on same-sex marriage during his time in office – and became the de facto leader of the anti-gay marriage campaign when his successor Malcolm Turnbull put the issue up for a public vote in 2017.

During the postal vote campaign, Abbott encouraged people to oppose same-sex marriage to “protect women and children”, explaining his belief that “children should have both a mother and a father”.

Abbott also hit out at “moral bullying” from the “gay lobby”, and told Australians: “If you don’t like same-sex marriage, vote no. If you are worried about freedom of speech and freedom of religion, vote no. If you don’t like political correctness, vote no, because this is the best way to stop it in its tracks.”

During his campaign, Abbott even suggest it would be “best” for his own gay sister’s children to be raised by a straight couple, worsening a family feud that also led his own children to speak out in support of their aunt.