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Sunday, November 8, 1998 Published at 18:37 GMT

UK Politics

Gay minister speaks out

Mr Brown tells BBC News: "I've got a very important job to do"

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown has spoken out for the first time since revealing that he is gay, saying he wishes he had been allowed to have a private life.

Nick Brown: Hurt and embarrassed
Mr Brown announced the news in a statement that also denied he paid for sex after a former partner attempted to sell a story about their relationship to the News of the World newspaper.

The prime minister and cabinet colleagues have rallied round Mr Brown and praised him for his dignity in the matter.

Mr Brown said: "I'd rather hoped that I could have a private life like other people do that was private.

"What's happened is enormously embarrassing for me and it's hurt me."

Speaking to BBC News, the minister said he was "very sad" that his family, friends and constituents had had to read the stories in Sunday's media.

Blair's backing

Asked whether the issue of his resignation had arisen in talks with the prime minister, Mr Brown replied: "He's asked me to do the very best job I can for Britain and the farming community and that's what I'm going to do."

However, he refused to elaborate further on this matter, referring only to his earlier written statement, issued through Downing Street.

Mr Brown said: "I've got a very important job to do and I'm going to get on with it."

He said he owed it to those who had supported him to get on with his job and "do the very best I can".

[ image: Constituents say Mr Brown's sexuality is his own affair]
Constituents say Mr Brown's sexuality is his own affair
Earlier in the day, Mr Brown had won widespread support from his Westminster colleagues over his handling of the matter.

But the affair raised the issue of whether politicians' private lives should be allowed to remain just that.

Tory MP Teresa Gorman called for an "amnesty" to enable all homosexual MPs at Westminster to declare themselves and bring to an end the "continual leaking out" of individual politicians' sexual preferences.

She said: "There are homosexuals in all parties, we all know that. If they were given this opportunity to declare themselves it would get the whole issue out of the newspapers."

Support in the North

Members of Mr Brown's Newcastle constituency came to his support.

The minister's agent and local party chairman, David Wood, said: "His private life is his private life and people will accept that. I have spoken to people in the constituency and they have all pledged their support."

Despite ministerial duties in London, Mr Brown had "remained a first-rate, hands-on constituency MP, even getting involved in fund-raising events".

"Moreover, he is a kind and approachable man who has made a lot of friends and those friends will stand by him now," he added.

Grass roots sympathy

Grass roots Labour voters in the Newcastle Labour club also backed their MP.

Andy McMullon, 58, said: "There is room for everyone in this world. To me there is not a scandal, his sex life is his own affair.

"But it is like everything else, the press will get hold of it and dig and dig and things that are not anyone's business will be told."

Ken Brady compared the case to the speculation surrounding the sexuality of former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies: "If Ron Davies had done what Nick Brown's done immediately he would not be in half the trouble that he's in."

Billy Anderson, 49, said Mr Brown had done nothing wrong and the issue wasn't as important as Newcastle's first love - football.

"If the bloke he had a relationship with went into prostitution it is not his fault and he is not in a position to be blackmailed.

"But if Nick Brown had confessed to being a Sunderland supporter that would really have been it."

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