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Davis's comments about Abbott more at home in rugby club bar, says minister

A Cabinet colleague has branded controversial comments by Brexit Secretary David Davis about Diane Abbott as being more at home in a "rugby club bar" than Parliament.

Leader of the Commons David Lidington said Mr Davis accepted he had made a "misjudgment" by texting to a friend remarks which appeared to suggest he would not try and kiss Labour's shadow home secretary because he was "not blind".

The squall blew up after it was reported that Ms Abbott told the Brexit Secretary to "f*** off" after he seemed to lean in to try to embrace her in a Commons bar after MPs voted overwhelmingly to trigger Article 50 and formally begin withdrawal talks with the EU.

After the incident, the Brexit Secretary exchanged texts with a Tory colleague that appeared to be unflattering regarding Ms Abbott, and which later appeared in the Mail on Sunday.

Mr Lidington told ITV's Peston on Sunday: "It does sound to me like the sort of thing that is said in the rugby club bar rather than the House of Commons.

"David Davis's spokesperson has apologised to Diane Abbott on behalf of David Davis, so plainly he did send the texts. Plainly he's embarrassed by them. David appears to accept he's made a misjudgment. We move on."

The newspaper reported that the friend texted Mr Davis, saying: "Cannot believe you made an attempt to give DA (Diane Abbott) a hug!"

The Cabinet minister replied: " Didn't, but the myth grows. I whispered in her ear 'Thanks for your vote' hence the 'F off'. I am not blind."

The colleague then wrote: "Ha! Ha! Thank God you aren't blind. Great week for you and Brexit!"

Then, in an apparent reference to the Specsavers advert in which people with bad eyesight make embarrassing mistakes, Mr Davis texted: "Actually it would make a good Optical Express advert ... Yes, a reasonable success."

A spokesman for the Brexit Secretary insisted Mr Davis respected Ms Abbott and had been joking, saying: "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."

Labour's shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti, who was in the bar when the original incident happened, said: "I think that David Davis was very silly. He was sexist, and he was patronising. He should show her more respect."

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