Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Browne Studies Cost of a Cover-Up

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Browne Studies Cost of a Cover-Up

Article excerpt

THE City has always known that there's nowt so queer as folk, and vice versa. Information, after all, is its staple commodity, and gossip its means of exchange.The place had its confirmed bachelors when I arrived, as well as its confirmed womanisers and drinkers. One such bachelor worked for a famous merchant bank, and was its star dealmaker.

Others have followed.

Lord Browne is undeniably a bachelor, and was generally thought to be confirmed. His colleagues at BP cannot have doubted it. Some desultory gossip attached to him, but no one in the City greatly cared. It was his success at BP that mattered, while it lasted

but the City also knows that information is like toothpaste. Once it gets out of the tube, it stays out.

It was Browne's misfortune that his former lover thought that the contents of the tube were saleable. This had happened, not so long ago, to a Deputy Governor of the Bank of England. A spurned mistress told the Sunday papers that he wrote her cheques for a million kisses and made love to her on the Governor's carpet. The detail proved fatal to him and also to the carpet, which was burned. Heterophobia never came into it, and homophobia has not brought Browne down.

His cardinal error was to cover up the detail, or to try to. Perhaps after all those years of corporate adulation he had come to believe his own publicity and to think that it could be rewritten to order. A witness statement, made on oath, was not the same as a steer from the Press office even when supported by the allegations of his butler, whosaid that the lover had raided the cellar.

Browne was not the first public figure, and he will not be the last, to find that the cover-up can be more deadly than the story. Others in the City must hope that the toothpaste remains in the tube..

THE City has always known that there's nowt so queer as folk, and vice versa. …

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