Ian McKellen is among the famous names who have signed a letter to the U.K. government demanding they reject former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as a trade envoy.
Abbott has been strongly tipped to join the U.K. Board of Trade in an advisory role to help to secure trade deals after Britain leaves the European Union – with ministers welcoming his potential appointment in interviewers.
However, LGBTQ+ campaigners have joined women's groups and environmentalists in decrying the move in a letter addressed to the government, due to Abbott's chequered political history.
The letter, which has also been signed by former "Doctor Who" showrunner Russell T Davies reads, "This is a man who described abortion as 'the easy way out', and suggested that men may be 'by physiology or temperament more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command'."
"This is a man who described himself as 'threatened by homosexuality', and vigorously campaigned against the ultimately successful referendum in Australia to allow same-sex couples to marry. This is a man who has suggested that climate change is 'probably doing good', and who downplayed the link between extreme weather and bushfires at the height of this year's Australian bushfire crisis."
Others who have signed the letter include the founders of Pride in London and the CEO of the British HIV charity, the Terrence Higgins Trust.
It continues, "This man is not fit to be representing the UK as our trade envoy. If the government is truly committed to an outward-looking future for Britain, to tackling climate change, and to creating an equal society for all, it should reconsider its proposed appointment of Tony Abbott."
Despite numerous reports that Abbott's appointment was imminent, U.K. government officials have subsequently insisted that "no decisions" have been made about his potential appointment.