UK fortunate somebody of Tony Abbott's 'political heft' is willing to help

3 September 2020, 21:38 | Updated: 4 September 2020, 14:58

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

'We are fortunate that somebody of his political heft is willing to help the UK' a former adviser to the UK Trade Secretary has told LBC Tony Abbott will make a good trade envoy.

Shanker Singham the CEO of Competere and former advisor to UK Trade Secretaries told LBC the UK was lucky to have the former Australian Prime Minister willing to assist.

The comments come after plans to hand a senior trade role to former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott were revealed amid mounting pressure to drop him over allegations of homophobia and misogyny.

Mr Singham told LBC nobody is quite sure what role the former Prime Minister has been appointed to, but that "he's not going to be negotiating trade deals on behalf of the UK" adding it was the role of the Trade Secretary.

He said Mr Abbott would simply be promoting UK trade overseas.

"We need somebody with political heft," Mr Singham said adding it was a sign of a country's confidence bringing in the best person for the role, regardless of their nationality.

Iain pointed out Mr Abbott had "only been Prime Minister of Australia for two years" and that while in office "he wasn't viewed as the most successful Prime Minister" asking the guest if he "actually negotiated any trade deals" when he was PM.

Mr Singham replied that he had successfully "bashed some heads together" and ensured that negotiations were able to go on.

The interview ended with the former UK trade adviser saying "frankly, I think we're fortunate." that somebody of his political heft is willing to help the UK".

Earlier on Thursday, Downing Street insisted no decision had been made but Mr Abbott is in talks to become joint president of the relaunched Board of Trade.

Critics have raised numerous concerns, including over his climate change scepticism and belief that coronavirus restrictions should be lifted.

He has previously said that he feels "a bit threatened" by homosexuality, opposed same-sex marriage and was accused of misogyny by fellow former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was questioned on Sky News over the suitability of Mr Abbott, who led his nation from 2013 until he was ousted by his own party in 2015.

He said he does not believe that Mr Abbott is homophobic or misogynistic and, when pressed, added: "He's also an expert in trade."

Mr Hancock said that "I bow to nobody in my support for everybody to love who they love".

"But we need to have the best experts in the world working in their field and the former prime minister of Australia has a huge amount of experience," he added.