LABOUR officials were last night desperately trying to save the career of Rhondda MP Chris Bryant after revelations that he had e-mailed a scantily clad photograph of himself and sexually explicit messages to a stranger he met through a gay website.
Mr Bryant, a former Conservative and Church of England clergyman regarded as one of Tony Blair's most loyal supporters at Westminster, remained silent about the affair throughout the day.
But despite attempts by party members to close the story down, local activists said it was likely that attempts would be made to move a motion of no confidence in him.
The image of Mr Bryant shows the MP apparentlytaking a picture of himself in a bathroom mirror, wearing only underpants.
On a gay website called Gaydar, Mr Bryant used the code name Alfa101. Among e-mails he sent was one saying, "I'd love a good long ****". Another stated, "Oi mate - so you want to come and **** around."
An introductory e-mail sent by him says, "Fit bloke here. Gym 3x a week - bright, solvent, single, very versatile - 32w 42c 5'11" - 41yo - look younger (yeah, they all say that) - live maida vale w9 - u?"
He later says he has already arranged to meet another male "mate" but wants his new Gaydar mate to be there as well. "I'll prob end up in BC (a gay bar called Bar Code) anyway - and will be looking for a ****."
Yesterday Mr Bryant refused to comment, although a spokeswoman at his House of Commons office said the MP did not dispute the picture and e-mail messages were authentic. She pointed out that the material had been sent by e-mail and did not appear on the Gaydar website itself.
Bob McDonald, a Labour member of Rhondda Cynon Taff Council, said, "It is difficult to believe that a supposedly intelligent man would do this. I am amazed he would be so stupid.
"Rhondda has been a volatile area in voting terms in the last few years, and the last thing we need is this sort of publicity.
"I am surprised that he hasn't made a statement. This isn't something Chris Bryant should be quiet about. He's got to make a statement. When I heard about this from my wife, my reaction was disgust."
A senior member of Rhondda Constituency Labour Party, who wished to remain anonymous, said, "A lot of people are very disappointed in Chris Bryant. People selected him knowing he was gay, but the sort of behaviour he has engaged in here is not what you expect from an MP.
"It is a very serious error of judgment and it is likely that he will be asked to give an explanation to party members. I believe it is also likely that he will face a vote of no confidence."
But a statement issued by Pat Brunker, secretary of the Constituency Labour Party, said, "There have been no calls for an emergency meeting and I do not expect there to be one. Rhondda Labour Party members are pleased to have a hard-working MP and fully support him in getting on with his job."
Rhondda AM Leighton Andrews, who shares a constituency office with Mr Bryant at Porth, refused to comment, as did other party members. Mr Bryant was recently reselected to fight the seat at the next general election, but he could be removed if the view was taken that he had brought the party in disrepute.