Lord Browne has had a very unpleasant 24 hours. In some ways, for having lied to a court, you'd have to say he deserves it and that few should have sympathy with him. But - and it is a big but - that would be to ignore two facts. This story would not have taken up so much space in the newspapers if he hadn't been gay, but it is the second fact which few in the media have commented on, and this is why I am posting this now.
The only reason John Browne lied to the court - and I do not offer this as an excuse - was because of an old fashioned thing called shame. He felt ashamed that he had resorted to a gay website to meet his former partner. For all I know he may have felt a sense of shame about his sexuality as well. It would not surprise me - he is, after all, 59 years old. He comes from a generation of men who could never 'come out' in the way that people are able to today. While he may be comfortable in his own skin, he mixes in circles that still have difficulties with friends and colleagues who don't conform to society's norms. The City is sometimes not a comfortable place for openly gay people.
Shame is regarded as a bit odd in today's 'everything goes' society. It's almost regarded as quaint. It's no longer shameful to have a baby out of wedlock. It's no longer shameful to have a criminal record. It is no longer shameful to be unemployed. It is no longer shameful to be divorced. It is no longer shameful to be gay. For most of these, it's a very good thing too that shame has been partially banished from our society. However, we do have to recognise that for people of an older generation many of these things are indeed shameful.
So I don't excuse John Browne for not telling the truth to the court. But I do have some understanding for why he did it. He will now have to face the consequences.
The man I have total contempt for here is his former lover who sought to make money out of a kiss and tell. He is beneath contempt.
Matthew Parris is, as ever, on the money HERE.