Grant Shapps joins chorus of Tory ministers excusing and defending rampant homophobia in the name of Brexit
In life, there are only a few guarantees: Water is wet, the sun rises from the east, and since Tony Abbott was appointed to a top trade envoy role, a British Tory MP will always find a way to sidebar his history of homophobia for the sake of Brexit.
The former Australian prime minister, ousted in 2015 by his own party for, among other things, terrible polling rates, policy U-turns and what political analysts dubbed “mean-spirited politics”, was installed as co-president of the British Board of Trade last week.
Britain’s secretary of transport, Grant Shapps, is the latest cabinet minister to attempt to deflect accusations of homophobia and misogyny against Abbott with tepid curveballs that seek to emphasise Abbott’s apparent skill in commerce.
Appearing on SkyNews Thursday morning (10 September), Shapps told Kay Burley that while he doesn’t agree with many of Abbott’s attitudes, he’s “really not interested in what people do in their private lives”.
"You're not threatened by homosexuality, Tony Abbott is, you don't think men are more suited to lead, he does, and he denies climate change. Yet he's representing us in trade?"@grantshapps: "I'm really not interested in what people do in their private lives."#KayBurley
— Kay Burley (@KayBurley) September 10, 2020
Abbott’s laboured history of homophobic remarks, which range from saying he is “threatened” by gay people to saying that being gay “challenged […] the right order of things”, have rippled out of Whitehall and drawn denouncement from journalists, LGBT+ and women’s rights groups as well as climate change campaigners.
Grant Shapps: ‘I’m really not interested in what people do in their private lives.’
In the interview, Burley asked: “Just to clarify, you’re not threatened by homosexuality, [Abbott] is, you don’t think men are more suited to lead than women, he does, he also is a climate change denier, he is.
“Yet, he is one of 16 people representing our country in trade talks, and you are completely comfortable with that?”
Shapps responded: “As you’ve already correctly drawn out, I don’t agree with any of those three points.
“I’ve always been a liberal sort of person,” he said, perhaps reflecting on his voting record on social issues, where absences and votes against legislation that promote equality and human rights are rife.
He continued: “I’m really not interested in what people do in their private lives.
Shapps, who has generally voted against measures to prevent climate change, stressed the importance of climate change before adding: “But I do agree that Britain needs a really good trade deal, trade deals.”
“And he’s one voice in a whole bunch of different voices – unpaid for the role – and I think [he’ll] be able to secure us great jobs in Britain by having great trade deals in other places in the world.
“His expertise and knowledge will be useful to the United Kingdom.”
Tony Abbott, the rejected Australian leader who says it’s ‘best’ for gay parents’ kids to be raised by straight people.
A biting and socially conservative Catholic, much of Abbott’s “expertise and knowledge” in social issues have needled human rights groups in his decades-long career.
Abbott has suggested that men are better adapted to “exercise authority” than women, said underrepresentation of women in society isn’t necessarily a “bad thing” and once called abortion “the easy way out” when he was Minister of Health in 2004.
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He once lest Australian’s stunned when he jibed that his the children of his lesbian sister, Christine Forster, should not be raised by her, but should instead be raised by straight people.
The not-so-liberal Liberal Party leader also vehemently opposed carbon trading to combat climate catastrophe as well as embryonic stem cell research. In power, his government appealed a carbon tax paid by Australia’s polluting powerhouses.
In the last week, the British government has responded to the mounting opposition to his involvement in the newly relaunched Board of Trade by minimising Abbott’s track record.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will lead the Board, which aims to lionise Britain’s importing and exporting businesses. Truss, who is also minister of women and equalities, bitterly responded to concerns amplified by, er, women and equalities groups, by calling such worries “virtue signalling“.