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

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - PO­LIT­I­CAL EDI­TOR By Si­mon Wal­ters

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.

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