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“I know that one day every Russian will weep in shame at the havoc Russia has wrought on Ukraine.” That was Chris Bryant yesterday, writing to the Russian ambassador in London, and posting his letter on Twitter as @RhonddaBryant.

Moral outrage comes naturally to Bryant, and he generally assumes that given time everyone will come to share his feelings – in this case every Russian.

At Westminster, where he has sat since 2001 as Labour MP for Rhondda, he has since May 2020 been Chair of the Committees on Standards and Privileges (two separate committees: the same seven MPs serve on both, but the Standards Committee also has seven lay members).

This makes him one of the most significant figures in the Commons when any MP is accused of misbehaviour. He has, however, said he will not take part in the forthcoming investigation by the Privileges Committee into whether Boris Johnson deliberately misled Parliament.

He stood aside because has been so critical of the Prime Minister’s conduct that he would not be seen to be impartial. Bryant does, however, command the respect of senior Conservatives. Andrew Mitchell, a former Chief Whip and Cabinet minister, yesterday told ConHome:

“Chris has changed certainly in a lot of colleagues’ perception of him over recent years. He is a good Chairman of the Standards Committee, and indeed was spot on in a thoroughly non-partisan way about Owen Paterson.

“He’s recused himself from any involvement in Privileges where the Prime Minister is involved, for obvious reasons, though in fact in my opinion he would deliver fair judgment.”

In the debate last Thursday on a Labour motion to refer Johnson to the Privileges Committee, Bryant said:

“At a moment of national and international crisis, we need a leader of completely and utterly unimpeachable moral authority. We do not have that at the moment, not by a long chalk… It is why I believe that this must be referred to the Committee of Privileges.”

Again one sees Bryant taking the high moral line which comes so naturally to him. Conservative attempts to stymie the Labour motion failed, and Bryant explained in the following day’s Daily Mirror why this was:

“Tory after Tory told me they were going to stay away.

“One said he would probably get Covid, another said he was having his hair washed all day (he’s bald). Dozens had terribly important things to do in their constituencies.

“Why? Because they believe – what I believe – Boris Johnson lies.”

Here is Bryant the moralist, insisting that “we need a leader of completely and utterly unimpeachable moral authority”, and reaching out to like-minded Conservatives.

He did the same in the Paterson debate on 3 November 2021, when he delivered what The Spectator soon afterwards acclaimed as the Speech of the Year.

Yet he said when he collected that award:

“No politician is perfect and I’m sick and tired of everybody wanting every politician to be perfect.”

This more charitable and realistic Bryant co-exists with a mischievous Bryant who will “always rock the boat”, as a Labour friend of his puts it, and rejoices to see any leader of whom he disapproves put to the sword.

Bryant is a natural regicide, a freedom fighter with the theological training needed to justify disposing of whichever leader has incurred his displeasure. In his time he has turned against Tony Blair and Jeremy Corbyn as well as Johnson.

He was born in Cardiff in 1962, and lived there for five years, followed by five years in Spain, where he learned fluent Spanish, and teenage years in Cheltenham, where he attended a well-known independent school, Cheltenham College.

“I was brought up as a Conservative,” he told Nick Robinson in the course of a long and informative interview, and when he went to Mansfield College, Oxford, to read English,

“In my first term I met some people who wanted to make sure that William Hague never became head of the Conservative Association at Oxford, and I was up for that, so I stood for the Oxford University Conservative Association committee and was elected.”

Hague nevertheless managed to become President of OUCA, as indeed did Nick Robinson.

Bryant had a harrowing adolescence:

“I remember Mum coming into my bedroom on my 13th birthday and telling me that she drank too much. And the next few years at home were a version of hell really, because Mum was drunk every night, and there were all sorts of horrible times, and there was a period when my Mum and Dad got divorced when I was 18 during my A levels, and then I had to sort of look after Mum for quite a while…

“We don’t really know whether she took her own life or she had just taken too much alcohol and paracetamol together.”

He wanted to be an actor, and joined the National Youth Theatre, where Daniel Craig was one of his contemporaries. Bryant remains to this day fascinated by the theatre and has said:

“Well I’d prefer to play Dr Who but nobody’s rung me up and said, ‘Chris, are you available?'”

Those who yearn to become actors, but don’t quite manage it, are said sometimes to settle instead for becoming either priests or politicians. Bryant did both.

He studied theology at Cuddesdon, and from 1986-89 served as curate at All Saints, High Wycombe. He had, however, discovered at the age of 24 that he was gay – he was informed of this one morning by his girlfriend when he woke up with her – and he found the Church of England hostile to the acknowledgement of that disposition.

Bryant spent a year in Latin America, where he ended up at a funeral in Pinochet’s Chile where the police fired tear gas from cannisters on which he saw the words “Made in Britain”.

By the time he returned to Britain, Bryant was “reliably on the Left”. He had a spell as Frank Dobson’s election agent in Holborn and St Pancras, was himself elected to Hackney Council, in 1997 returned to Wycombe to run for Parliament, and in that bumper year for Labour fell only 2,370 votes short of being elected, after which he became Head of European Affairs at the BBC.

He also became an author, two of his early works being biographies of Stafford Cripps and Glenda Jackson. Bryant knows much, but does not have the gift of getting the reader to turn the page. He nevertheless continues to publish works of history, testaments to his industry and also, according to one of his friends, “to his sense of his own magnificence”.

In 2000 he was selected as the candidate for Rhondda, safest of safe Labour seats, where he was duly returned the following year. His selection surprised people who had forgotten, or never knew, he was Welsh by birth.

In his maiden speech Bryant said what mattered to him:

“The market was made for humanity, not humanity for the market. Poverty is not a mysterious dispensation from on high, but has very human causes and is susceptible to human remedies. Inequality gnaws at the moral fabric of society.”

The new member for Rhondda was a Blairite, but also his own man, a characteristic of which Blair never much approved, which may be why Bryant obtained no rapid preferment.

He suffered the embarrassment of having a photograph of himself in his underpants published, which he had published on a gay dating site. In 2010 he entered into a civil partnership with Jared Cranney, to whom he is now married.

Bryant had the courage to take on News International, from whom at length he obtained damages for having had his phone hacked.

In 2006, Bryant was one of the conspirators who forced Blair to concede that a year later he would step down. Under Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, he was made Minister for Europe.

In the EU referendum Bryant was a devout Remainer, and immediately afterwards resigned as Shadow Leader of the House and called on Jeremy Corbyn to resign:

“If you refuse to step aside I fear you will go down in history as the man who broke the Labour Party.”

Bryant, it has been said, is “a natural rocker of boats”. As long as he can find some high moral reason for doing so, he loves to make trouble. In a Labour parliamentary party which is deficient in major figures, he stands out as a fiery advocate of the causes in which he believes.

Just now, he is making every effort to encourage Tory MPs to believe they are doing they right thing when they seek to defenestrate Johnson. For Bryant was at Oxford with Johnson, and says of him: “Nothing’s changed.”