Chris Bryant MIMED ‘f*** off’ to the Commons Speaker during extraordinary spat, witnesses say – but Lindsay Hoyle ‘will take no further action’ as it is a matter for Labour
- Sir Lindsay Hoyle thought to have criticised Chris Bryant over social distancing
- He also allegedly took exception to heckling and ‘chuntering’ from Labour MP
- In fury, MPs claim that Mr Bryant then mimed ‘f*** off’ at the Commons Speaker
- Mr Bryant has flatly denied swearing in the Commons chamber or at Sir Lindsay
Senior Labour MP Chris Bryant is not set to face any further action despite witnesses claiming he mimed ‘f*** off’ at Speaker Lindsay Hoyle during an extraordinary spat.
The pair clashed in the Commons yesterday during the weekly PMQs sessions, with Mr Bryant accused of heckling and breaching social distancing in the chamber.
One senior MP who saw the drama said Mr Bryant – who chairs the Standards Committee – was standing in an area that was not ‘Covid safe’.
Sir Lindsay apparently noticed the issue when the former minister started shouting at the PM, and gestured at him to sit down.
However, Mr Bryant seemingly misunderstood and thought he was being ordered to leave the chamber.
‘He raised a hand and mimed, ‘f*** off’,’ the witness said.
Mr Bryant then left as Sir Lindsay shouted: ‘We’re not having that disgraceful behaviour.’
Mr Bryant has flatly denied swearing in the chamber, and indicated that he wants to draw a line under the episode.
Sir Lindsay – who has the final say on all behaviour in the chamber – is not expected to take any further action, viewing it as a matter for Labour. It is not clear whether the party whips will look into the matter further.
There have been long-running tensions between Sir Lindsay and Mr Bryant, with the latter finishing runner-up to the Speaker in the battle to replace John Bercow last year.
Yesterday’s row seemed to begin after Sir Lindsay took exception to Mr Bryant’s ‘chuntering’ during the Prime Minister’s address and told him to stop standing so close to other members
Labour MP Chris Bryant (file picture) reportedly swore at Speaker Lindsay Hoyle – though he denies making the comment
Chris Bryant is one of the most colourful and combative characters on the Labour benches – but he has often found himself at the centre of controversy.
The 58-year-old was privately educated at Cheltenham College and studied English at Oxford before becoming a vicar for six years.
He gave up the priesthood in 1998, having become uncomfortable about the church’s views on homosexuality.
Mr Bryant then served as the election agent for London Labour MP Frank Dobson, as well as writing biographies and working for the BBC – before getting elected as MP for the Rhondda in 2001, when Tony Blair was in his pomp.
However, there was an early setback when photographs surfaced of him posing in which Y-fronts, which he had posted to popular dating site Gaydar.
Mr Bryant has since quipped that the brutal mockery he received actually helped shore up his majority in his Welsh seat.
And he memorably once read out in the Commons an email he received branding him ‘RhonddaYfronts’ and ‘an uninspiring, pathetic career politician’.
However, the payoff was that the letter added: ‘Are you still on Gaydar, Grindr, or Scruff? If so, what’s your profile as I quite fancy you.’
In 2010 Mr Bryant entered into a civil partnership – the first to take place at Parliament.
He served as a foreign minister when Labour was in power, rising to become deputy Commons Leader.
Mr Bryant quit the Church of England in 2016, after the US episcopal church was shut out over its liberal attitude to same-sex marriage.
He has been a vocal Hacked Off advocate, and was a leading Remainer in the 2016 referendum – continuing to push for Brexit to be either cancelled or softened.
He was among a swathe of shadow ministers who quit Jeremy Corbyn’s frontbench in the aftermath of the referendum in fury at the left-winger’s bungling.
Mr Bryant was one of the MPs who called for Donald Trump to be barred from coming to the UK in protest at retweeting Britain First posts.
Last year Mr Bryant had treatment for skin cancer, and has been a high-profile campaigner for people to get worrying signs checked out.
In recent years he has taken on a growing role in the Commons administration, leading calls for MPs and peers to move out during renovations.
He lost out to Lindsay Hoyle in the race to succeed John Bercow as Commons Speaker last autumn.
He was elected as chair of the cross-party Standards Committee in May.
Mr Bryant told MailOnline he did not swear in the chamber, at the Speaker or in general.
He said: ‘I’m not really commenting as I don’t want to inflame things, but I can state categorically that I did not swear either at the PM or at the Speaker.’
But there were a series of claims and counterclaims, with one MP telling The Sun: ‘He was standing in the doorway at the back of the Labour benches and chuntering.
‘The Speaker told him to be quiet and then said he should not be positioned there as he was too close to others who were sitting in allocated seats.
‘Bryant disputed this and the Speaker insisted he move, to which he threw his hand in the air and said, ”Oh f*** off”.’
Another MP also claimed Mr Bryant swore while a Tory MP, who said they witnessed the exchange, added: ‘It’s pathetic. I understand there has been a long-standing issue between them.’
The Speaker’s office has been contacted for comment.
Sir Lindsay has the final say on behaviour in the chamber.
He can ‘name’ individuals who are disrupting proceedings or using unparliamentary language – suspending them from attending sittings.
If necessary he has the power to suspend whole sittings in order to prevent them descending into chaos.
The sweeping nature of the Speaker’s role in the chamber was highlighted previously when John Bercow himself was accused of using unparliamentary language by calling then-Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom a ‘stupid woman’ – something he denied.
The standards commissioner did not investigate after it emerged Mr Bercow was the only person who could rule on whether the incident happened or not.
The exchange came amid a busy day in the Commons, with the Prime Minister fielding questions on the Brexit negotiations.
Sir Lindsay said later that the House of Commons could sit as late as Christmas Eve should it be required to pass a Brexit bill.
Under current plans, the Commons will stop sitting on December 21, but he told Sky News recess could be delayed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen agreed that a ‘firm decision’ about the future of the negotiations should be made by Sunday following three hours of talks in Brussels.
The transition period finishes on December 31 and any deal would have to be ratified by the European Council, the European Parliament and Westminster.
Sir Linsday told the broadcaster: ‘I would like to believe that we will all be going up on the date that’s expected of the House.
‘But if needs be, the House is the servant and I am happy as being that servant to ensure we can run, as far as I’m concerned, even up to Christmas Eve.
‘I would like to believe we can finish on the Monday before Christmas. I would like to put everything to bed and get everybody away from here.’
Britain is teetering on the brink of no deal Brexit after Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen set a final deadline of Sunday for a breakthrough and warned that ‘very large’ gaps remain.
The PM and the EU chief took stock of the dire situation for more than three hours as they ate steamed turbot and scallops – the source of many skirmishes between UK and French fishing boats – at the commission’s HQ in Brussels last night.
But the pair failed to find a way through the impasse that has left trade talks on the verge of collapse, a year after Britain formally left the bloc.
Instead they are ordering Michel Barnier and Lord Frost to re-engage, on the understanding that unless a resolution has emerged within four days the plug will be pulled. However, it is not clear if they have been given any new political instructions – thought to be critical to shift the deadlock.
Government sources confirmed that Lord Frost and Mr Barnier will resume talks in the Belgian capital today in a bid to resolve the outstanding issues.
Sir Lindsay furiously rebuked the Labour MP. The two are thought to be long-term rivals with Sir Lindsay defeating Mr Bryant in the battle for the Speaker’s chair
The exchange came amid a busy day in the Commons, with the Prime Minister fielding questions on the Brexit negotiations
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