Gay Labour MP Chris Bryant, who has been one of the most vocal critics of the News of The World, claims that News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks sneered at him for being gay the last time they met.

Speaking to the Evening Standard, he said: “She came up to me and said, ‘Oh, Mr Bryant, it’s after dark – shouldn’t you be on Clapham Common?”

“At which point Ross Kemp [the ex-EastEnders actor and her then husband] said, ‘Shut up, you homophobic cow’.”

Mr Bryant said the incident took place at the Labour Party conference several years ago.

The outspoken MP led politicians’ calls for a more rigorous inquiry into claims of voicemail hacking at the tabloid and has been told by police that his own phone was among those accessed.

He said he embarked on the campaign because a couple in his Rhondda constituency had been “misrepresented” because they knew someone in the news.

Yesterday, it was announced that the News of The World is to close, meaning that around 200 of the newspaper’s current staff – the vast majority of whom had no part in the hacking – will lose their jobs.

Mrs Brooks, who edited the newspaper at the height of the activity, remains in her job.

During the interview, Mr Bryant hinted that his own brush with scandal – when the Mail on Sunday published Gaydar photos of him in his underwear – had made him deeply depressed.

“It is the only time in my life I have ever come close to feeling that I did not want to be around any more,” he said. “I didn’t sleep for about three months.”