Labour MP Chris Bryant has recalled an encounter with a still-serving senior parliamentarian who told him he shouldn’t be in politics because he’s gay.
The MP for the Rhondda, who was among only a handful of openly gay MPs when he was first elected in 2002, spoke about run-ins with an unnamed figure who now holds a “very senior” role in parliament.
Bryant was reflecting on having his phone hacked and being subjected to a blackmail attempt in 2003, after landing on the radar of the tabloid press over a clash in a parliamentary committee with then-editor of The Sun Rebekah Brooks.
Speaking on Matt Forde’s Political Party podcast on Friday (13 November), Bryant said: “That whole period, I don’t think I slept for four months… it’s the only time in my life I’ve contemplated suicide, and it was terrible.
“Most MPs were fine, only one was not, who is now a very senior figure in parliament. He was terrible to me.”
He continued: “You’ve got to bear in mind how frightened people were of the Murdoch empire. There were people who were given nice columns in newspapers to keep them quiet, and there were people who were just terrified of what would be written about them.”
Asked what motivated the senior parliamentarian, Bryant said: “Oh, he’s homophobic. Just straight homophobia. Told me I should be ashamed of myself and shouldn’t be an MP because I was gay.
“That happened quite a long time ago, 15 years ago, but that person is still a senior figure in Parliament today.”
Asked if the figure in question is on the government’s benches, Bryant insisted: “I’m not going any further.”
Chris Bryant says his sexuality was used against him.
Chris Bryant also revealed his sexuality was used against him by someone else when he was first standing for selection as the Labour candidate in the Rhondda.
He said: “Somebody had been ringing round, saying: ‘You know he’s gay.’ It was the best thing ever for me, to be honest, because when you’re knocking on people’s doors, you don’t want to start by talking about your sexual preferences, but you don’t want to have deceived anybody.
“It meant at the shortlisting meeting I could go: ‘Look, I know some of you have had telephone calls about me, I think you know why you’ve had them. It’s perfectly true, I am a gay man, but I don’t want to be the gay candidate, I want to be the Labour candidate.'”
Bryant revealed that he knew who was behind the calls about his sexuality, and that they are still active in politics.
He clarified: “Not a senior politician, no. We are fine with each other now, anyway. I can’t see the point in using energy to hold on to bad stuff, really.”