Matt Hancock was back for round two with Kay Burley over the suitability of former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott for a key post-Brexit trade role with the government.
Hancock had previously insisted that Abbott’s climate change denial, homophobia and misogyny should be ignored because he is an ‘expert on trade’.
His comments were widely ridiculed, especially as Hancock was wearing an NHS pride badge at the time.
And in a return to Burley’s Sky News breakfast programme, he was asked whether he still stood by his claims.
Laughing he told the presenter: ‘What I’d say is that you can disagree with people on things and I am nothing if not a supporter of everybody’s right to live their lives how they want to.
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‘Mr Abbott’s sister, who is herself a homosexual, has come out and said that those accusations are wrong, and I think we should listen to her words very carefully.’
Asked about the comments of former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, who said he is a misogynist, he stuttered.
‘What I’d say is I’m not that close to Australian politics.’
He added: ‘What I’d say is listening to someone’s sister is always a wise thing to do’.
Pressed on why he thinks Abbott is a good choice if he is not ‘close to politics’, he laughed further.
‘C’mon Kay, we know he has those responsibilities as prime minister of Australia, and I bow to nobody in my support for the values I hold dear. That we should support everybody to get the most out of life. And that is at the core of my political beliefs.
‘And as you know I’m concentrating day and night on sorting this unprecedented coronavirus crisis’.
Abbott’s sister had previously tweeted: ‘It is nothing short of dishonesty for commentators and politicians who do not know Tony to label him a ‘homophobe and a misogynist’ for the purpose of scoring cheap political points.
‘As a woman who has always been part of his life and who came out to him as gay in my early 40s, I know incontrovertibly that Tony is neither of those things.
‘In reality he is a man of great conviction and intellect: an unabashed conservative but with great compassion, respect for others, and an indelible sense of doing what is right.’