Kiss Diane Abbot? I’m not blind, says Davis after clash in Commons
Secretary for leaving EU is blasted as being ‘drunk on Brexit smugness’ over text jibe
BREXIT Secretary David Davis has been plunged into a damaging sexism row after saying he wouldn’t kiss Labour’s Diane Abbott as ‘I am not blind’.
And he went on to joke that had he hugged her, as reported last week, it would make a good Specsaversstyle advert.
Mr Davis is said to have made a light-hearted attempt to embrace and kiss Ms Abbott in a Commons bar last week after she voted in favour of triggering Article 50 to leave the EU. Ms Abbott responded by telling him bluntly to ‘f*** off!’
Afterwards, a Tory politician friend texted him: ‘Cannot believe you made an attempt to give DA [Diane Abbott] a hug!’
Davis replied: ‘Didn’t, but the myth grows. I whispered in her ear “Thanks for your vote” hence the “F off”. I am not blind.’
Davis’s friend responded: ‘Ha! Ha! Thank god you aren’t blind. Great week for you and Brexit!’
Davis: ‘Actually it would make a good Optical Express advert... Yes, a reasonable success.’ His last text appears to be a reference not to Optical Express but another opticians, Specsavers, whose TV adverts feature hilarious mix-ups caused by bad eyesight, followed by the slogan: ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers.’
His line about not being blind seems to be a reference to Miss Abbott’s appearance.
The text messages were sent on Friday afternoon, two days after the final Commons vote on Brexit. Staunchly pro-European Ms Abbott reluctantly backed the Government after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn issued a three-line whip as he battled to stop a revolt by his MPs.
Shadow Home Secretary Ms Abbott had faced furious protests from fellow Labour MPs after dodging a previous key Brexit vote, claiming she was unwell.
She launched her four-letter riposte after hardline Brexiteer Davis made his joking advance in the Commons Strangers Bar, overlooking the River Thames.
Tory MPs say Mr Davis chuckled as he walked away.
An ally of the Cabinet Minister said it had been light-hearted. ‘I don’t think it’s right to say he tried to plant a kiss, and it was perfectly jovial,’ the source said.
But Labour MP Jess Phillips – who has said Mr Davis appeared to have been ‘drunk on Brexit smugness’ after the vote – called on the Minister to apologise for his actions.
‘You’d have hoped this sort of misogynistic, sexist attitude had gone out in the 1950s,’ said the Birmingham MP, who did not witness the original encounter.
‘After saying it was a myth he tried to kiss her, David Davis has gone on to look an even bigger, more paternalistic, patriarchal sexist. He’s made it worse. The Minister should say he is sorry and will never behave like that again.’
But a Conservative insider said: ‘They sound like light-hearted texts sent in private to a friend. It is ridiculous to suggest they are anything other than innocent banter with not
‘He now looks like an even bigger sexist’
an ounce of malice in them.’ Last night, a spokesman for Mr Davis said: ‘This was a self-evidently jocular and private exchange with a friend. The Secretary of State is very sorry for any offence caused to Miss Abbott, someone he has known and respected for many years.’
Ms Abbott declined to comment. The 63-year-old is one of the few household names on Labour’s front bench, shooting to prominence after being elected Britain’s first black female MP in the 1980s.
She went on to become an engaging television personality on political talk shows and, when Tony Blair and Gordon Brown consigned her to the backbenches, she cemented her reputation as a serial rebel by vot-
ing against the Iraq war, ID cards, Trident and counter-terrorism laws.
She was taken back into the fold when the party swung to the Left under Ed Miliband, who made her Shadow Minister for public health. But it was the election as leader of Jeremy Corbyn, whom she had dated in the 1970s, which secured her return to frontline politics.