Lord Browne’s campaign for gay rights stops at the Kremlin

Former BP boss shocks his supporters by defending Putin’s homophobia

Associate Business Editor

He’s been lauded for speaking out against homophobia in the business world, after leaving his top job at an oil firm when his relationship with a male escort was revealed by a Sunday newspaper.

Just days ago he won support for saying companies should take a proactive stance in combating anti-gay attitudes in Russia by sending gay employees there.

But former BP chief executive Lord Browne of Madingley has now risked irritating gay rights campaigners by trying to explain Vladimir Putin’s motivation for introducing homophobic legislation.

In his new book, The Glass Closet: Why Coming Out is Good for Business, published on Thursday, Lord Browne admits that Mr Putin “appears to be behind a drive against homosexuals” and criticises Russian rhetoric “reminiscent of the bureaucrats in Italy in the wake of the bubonic plague”.

However, he then insists the Russian President is pursuing the controversial policy because he is a “pragmatist”.

“To me, Russia’s anti-gay legislation is more about political posturing than it is about a sincere disgust for gay people,” Lord Browne writes.

“As others have pointed out, it is likely he is seeking to divert attention from other restrictive laws, passed at the end of 2011 in the aftermath of mass protests, that more broadly limit civil rights. In an echo of persecutions of the past, the homosexual minority is being used as a pawn in the pursuit of power.”

However, campaigners feel Mr Putin’s actions deserve no explanation. Richard Lane at Stonewall, told The Independent: “Attacks on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people are often the ‘canary in the coal mine’ ahead of a broader crackdown. Whatever Mr Putin’s motives, the results are devastating to those fighting for fundamental human rights.”

Lord Browne insisted last night he was in “total agreement” with Stonewall. The group has been infuriated by Russia’s increasingly homophobic attitude, encouraged by Mr Putin saying that gay visitors were welcome to the Sochi Winter Olympics before warning them to “leave children alone, please”.

Lord Browne started working with Mr Putin at the turn of the millennium. For seven years they met frequently, with BP even gaining access to Russia’s oil through a major joint venture, until Lord Browne quit the firm. They had never discussed his sexuality and Mr Putin had never indicated his attitude to gay rights.

The Glass Closet argues that young gay employees should come out early at work and that businesses should foster a tolerant working environment that allows them to be open about their sexuality. Lord Browne says this will result in a more productive workforce. In the book’s prologue, he writes: “I wish I had been brave enough to come out during my tenure as chief executive of BP.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness