Geoffrey Boycott has said he “couldn’t give a toss” about criticism over Theresa May awarding him a knighthood in her resignation honours list.
Domestic abuse charities and Labour said the honour should be removed from the ex-cricketer, who was convicted in a French court of beating his girlfriend in 1998.
Boycott, who has always denied the assault, later questioned why the issue had been raised by the media. May’s list of 57 names was made up of mostly political figures. Every departing prime minister can draw up a resignation honours list.
May announced her resignation in June after failing to get support for the withdrawal agreement she had negotiated for the UK to leave the EU.
The former prime minister showed her love of cricket with knighthoods for Boycott and fellow former England captain Andrew Strauss.
Boycott was fined £5,000 and given a three-month suspended sentence in 1998 after being convicted of beating his then-girlfriend Margaret Moore in a French Riviera hotel. During the trial, the court heard Boycott pinned Miss Moore down and punched her 20 times in the face before checking out and leaving her to pay the bill.
Boycott denied the allegations, saying Miss Moore had slipped after flying into a rage when he refused to marry her.
May, who introduced a landmark Domestic Abuse Bill to Parliament earlier this year, was accused of sending a “dangerous message” by Women’s Aid’s co-acting chief executive Adina Claire.
She said the honour “should be taken away” from Boycott, adding that it sent “completely the wrong message” to survivors of domestic abuse.
Asked about the criticism from Women’s Aid by presenter Martha Kearney on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Boycott responded: “I don’t give a toss about her (Claire), love. It was 25 years ago so you can take your political nature and do whatever you want with it.”
The 78-year-old, who is part of the BBC’s cricket commentary team for the current Ashes series, added: “ . . . She [Moore] tried to blackmail me for £1million. I said no, because in England if you pay any money at all, we think: ‘Hang on, there must be something there.’ I said: ‘I’m not paying anything’ … I’m not sure I’d actually got a million at the time.
“It’s a court case in France where you’re guilty, which is one of the reasons I [didn’t] vote to remain in Europe – because you’re guilty until you’re proved innocent. That’s totally the opposite from England and it’s very difficult to prove you’re innocent in another country and another language.
“I have to live with it – and I do. I’m clear in my mind, and I think most people in England are, that it’s not true.”
In a subsequent interview, Boycott said that the day had been “soured” by Radio 4 “setting me up”, saying the station’s agenda had been to talk about domestic violence and “make publicity”.
He told BBC’s Look North Yorkshire: “Is that what interviewing is about – is it always to ask difficult questions? Shouldn’t it be just a nice day for me?”
A spokesperson for the Today programme said the question was “entirely appropriate… given the concerns raised about Geoffrey Boycott’s knighthood by Women’s Aid and others”.
The shadow minister for women and equalities, Dawn Butler, joined the call for Boycott’s knighthood to be rescinded.
“Honouring a perpetrator of domestic violence just because he is the former prime minister’s favourite sportsman shows how out of touch and nepotistic the honours list is,” she said, adding that the whole system needed “radically overhauling”.
May once compared her determination to delivering Brexit with the fighting spirit in Boycott’s batting marathons.