Feature

Demonizing BP and the British, too

Whither BP and the "special relationship"?

President Obama is out to destroy BP, said James Delingpole in the Daily Express. Ever since April 20, when the oil company’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 people and sending a seemingly unstoppable gush of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. president has been on “an anti-Limey crusade.” He insists on referring to BP as British Petroleum—a name the company hasn’t used in many years. And he has even aimed “schoolboy threats” to “kick the ass” of the party at fault, by which he means, of course, BP’s British chief executive, Tony Hayward. Now Obama wants to slap an injunction on BP to prevent it from paying dividends to shareholders until it has paid off all American damage claims. Disastrously for Britain, all that “hysterical posturing and cynical grandstanding” has done real damage: BP’s share price has plummeted more than 40 percent.

And that means British pensioners will suffer, said Mark Austin in the Sunday Mirror. Millions of people’s pension funds are heavily invested in BP stock—so as the share price falls, those funds evaporate. The British government will have to take action to stop the slide. After all, “bankrupting BP benefits no one.” Least of all Americans, said The Times in an editorial. BP employs more workers in the U.S. than it does in Britain, so if the company is forced to lay people off, Americans will lose their jobs. Then, too, there’s the Gulf cleanup and compensation to think of: If BP’s market capitalization contracts, it won’t be able to get its hands on the vast funds Obama wants it to provide to the Gulf Coast states. We all know BP is responsible for the spill. But “it makes neither environmental nor economic sense to weaken the company further by issuing threats and fines.”

Obama is simply trying to turn his countrymen against someone besides himself, said Simon Heffer in the Daily Telegraph. Faced with a burgeoning economic crisis and the near-certain defeat of his party in the midterm elections, the president is looking utterly impotent. So he is “lashing out,” in what prominent Tory Lord Tebbitt has called “a crude, bigoted, xenophobic display of partisan political presidential petulance.” The U.S. president has irrevocably marred the “special relationship” between our countries with his “coarse, infantile, and aggressive behavior.” At this point, Prime Minister David Cameron should stand up for British business and tell Obama to “shut up.”

If this oil slick smothers the “special relationship” it won’t be the Americans’ fault, said Rupert Cornwell in the Independent. It will be ours, for taking the U.S. response so personally. Yes, Obama—and his fellow Americans—are furious about the spill. But they’re mad at BP, not at Britain. “The reaction would have been similar had ExxonMobil, Chevron, or some other U.S. company been responsible for the spill.” Of course, that’s no consolation for BP. It is finding that “hell has few furies quite like sanctimonious American outrage.”

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