Has BP oil spill damaged the US-UK 'special relationship'?
Some British officials complain about harsh criticism of the company formerly known as ‘British Petroleum.' Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron will try to smooth US-UK ties when they discuss the BP oil spill – among other topics – this weekend.
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Financial experts estimate that BP dividends account for as much as 16 percent of all stock payouts that UK pensioners receive.Skip to next paragraph
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Another British Conservative, Norman Tebbit, summed up the US criticisms of BP as scapegoating for America’s inability to solve its own problem: “The whole might of American wealth and technology is displayed as utterly unable to deal with the disastrous spill – so what more natural than a crude, bigoted, xenophobic display of partisan, political, presidential petulance against a multinational company?”
The British press, and not just the tabloids, took off and ran with those quotes, adding their own observation that the Obama administration has “made a point,” as the Times of London said, of using BP’s former name – “British Petroleum”.
A search of the White House website, Obama’s own comments over the last six weeks, and White House spokesman Robert Gibbs’s copious discussions of the oil spill reveal no wholesale reference to “British Petroleum,” although the outdated name is sprinkled in among repeated references to BP.
What appears to have set off the pique-on-the-Thames was Obama’s observation earlier this week that he would have fired BP CEO Tony Hayward by now.
Obama says he'd fire BP's CEO
On NBC’s Today show Tuesday, Obama said in reference to some of Mr. Hayward’s public comments – complaints about how the spill has consumed his personal time, and his observation that “the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest” – that “he wouldn’t be working for me after any of those statements.”
Then on Capitol Hill, several members of Congress said they wanted to know if the US government could issue an injunction to stop BP from paying out dividends on its shares. Those inquiries reflected growing frustration among Gulf fishermen and other business people that BP’s payouts to them have been slow and paltry.
Still, the comments from Obama and Congress prompted the head of the Confederation of British Industry to proclaim in a statement, “It’s a matter of concern when politicians get heavily involved in this way.”
CSIS’s Ms. Conley says it’s unrealistic to think politicians, and especially a country’s leader, wouldn’t become involved in a disaster of such magnitude. But she says it’s important to remember that “BP is a company, it’s not a country.” She notes, for example, that 40 percent of BP’s shares are held by Americans.
Says Conley, “What you are seeing on full display is interdependence 21st-century style.”
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