Of course Lord Browne should not have lied to a court; that is a serious offence. However the cant and hypocrisy surrounding reactions to the revelations of his lie and his homosexuality (no doubt well-known to some, but not to me) is stomach-churning. I've heard it said in news reports this evening words to the effect that 'in this day and age no-one worries about whether someone is gay or not' - this is quite simply untrue, however many times it is repeated. I am not trying to justify in any way Lord Browne's lie (described by the judge as a 'white lie' he was not prepared to overlook) in any way, but to try and say that no-one cares whether someone is gay or not, in business or sport for example, is just so outrageously inaccurate as to make me want to both scream in anger and laugh uproariously simultaneously.
Basically what this story boils down to is that Browne's former lover thought he could extort further financial support from Lord Browne with the threat of revealing their former relationship to the media. Lord Browne, like many other gay men and women, considers his own private affairs and his sexuality to be matters which are better kept private, even in these supposedly 'enlightened times', even if he apparently was moderately open about his relationship within his own circle of acquaintances and friends. However he did not wish to submit to extortion so attempted to suppress publication of an interview his former lover had given to a newspaper known for its generally very unsympathetic attitude towards gays and lesbians, and indeed any other group in society it feels it can exploit to increase its own circulation, whilst attempting to dress up its crude prejudices with sanctimonious stories about people it does not like.
Lord Browne has lied. He also, it seems, has attempted to make allegations about his former lover which the court found not be be justified by evidence placed before it. He has suffered a public humiliation and a substantial financial loss. The rabid tabloid The Mail on Sunday has gained another scalp from amongst a group it dislikes. However BP is a far stronger company for having had Lord Browne's stewardship for several years. This sordid tale shows clearly that Britain is not the tolerant place that some would have us believe; Lord Browne would never have felt forced or tempted to lie if homosexuality was not still regarded by many as a moral delinquency, nor would his former lover have thought he could attempt extortion in connection with their relationship. The old prejudices break out pretty easily when given half a chance.
(PS/ (at 13.00 BST 2MAY07) I note that this post has been picked up by the Guardian newspaper's 'comment is free' page of their website, where a link appears under the 'Best of the web' heading. Thanks very much - and welcome to visitors directed here from that link.