BP is one of the largest companies in the U.K., and, with its tumbling stock price threatening to destabilize the country's fragile economy, senior political figures in the United Kingdom are accusing President Obama of "bashing Britain" over the BP oil spill. While London's mayor, Boris Johnson, has said there is "something worrying about the anti-British rhetoric that seems to be permeating from America," Lord Tebbit, a former minister in Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, has called Obama's attitude toward BP "despicable." Prime Minister David Cameron is set to speak with Obama on Saturday to defuse the quarrel. Is it wrong for British leaders to be defending BP? (Watch a CBS report about the British-U.S. divide on the spill)
Financially, the British need a successful BP: BP certainly "deserves criticism," says Malcolm Rifkind in the London Times, but millions of British people have a "significant" financial interest in the company. In fact, 1 in every 7 dollars that British pension funds receive comes from dividends paid out by BP. If dividends are suspended, as Obama has suggested, then 18 million Brits will suddenly "find a severe gap" in their pension income. No wonder we're defending BP.
"That's enough 'kicking ass,' Mr. President"
American lives are more important than BP's stock price: How can British leaders focus on stock prices and dividends, says Taylor Marsh in her blog, when American lives are being ruined, and "the corpses of dead wildlife" are washing up on our beaches? The U.S. economy "could be deciminated by the unemployment boom" on the Gulf Coast — all thanks to "BP's callous disregard for safety." Sorry, guys — money is no reason to defend a "corporate marauder" like BP.
Obama's trying to pin America's guilt on BP: The disaster isn't all BP's fault, says Simon Jenkins in The Huffington Post. American rig-contractor Halliburton and rig owner Transocean had a hand in this, too, as did feckless U.S. regulators. And don't forget the root of the problem — "America's thirst for oil." Obama's "daily litany of abuse" against BP is just an attempt to blame a "foreign bogeyman" for a disaster that was made in America.
"A view of the spill — and a weak President — from across the pond"
Hurting BP also hurts America: We should not forget that BP is an American company too, says Andrew Clark in Britain's Guardian. It has 29,000 American employees, and the U.S. owns 39 percent of its stock. "A collapse of BP would destroy livelihoods, damage pension funds, and wipe out savings on both sides of the Atlantic." Critics in the U.S. rushing to "play executioner" should be "careful what they wish for."
"Has US bloodlust for BP gone too far?"