One of the many ways which the World Cup has permiated the current media landscape is the rant Toby Young had on Question Time on Thursday night, when the current oil leekage into the Gulf of Mexico was being discussed.
For some reason, the actions of the American president in attempting to admonish BP, and in particular their Chief Executive Tony Heyward, for their attempts to clean up the oil leak caused by the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and sinking, has annoyed Tory grandees in this country. What has escaped the attentions of the likes of Norman Tebbett and the other grandees is that this is the worst eco-disaster in living memory, and an economic catastrophe in the making. In this respect, Obama is reacting how we would hope our leaders would do faced with the same circumstances.
What is rather distasteful though is the cowardly fashion Grandees, and rather shamefully the British press, have hidden behind the impact this will have on British (and US) pension funds. However you look at it, BP have messed up big time. They failed to have a plan in place in the eventuality that this might happen, there appears to be no control or penalty clauses regarding their contracts with Transocean and Halliburton. BP have the appearance of a schoolboy who has discovered that he has forgotten that there is going to be a test, and that he has forgotten to study, such has been their utter ineptitude.
Yet City types and Tory Grandees have been queuing to appear on television to tell us that nasty Obama is a nasty man for being nasty to BP and for putting your pensions at risk (and their investments at risk, which they wouldn’t mention). How cowardly to use pensioners to try and deflect justified criticism. In the last 24 hours, a different tack has emerged, that Transocean and Halliburton (the contractors on the rig) are American companies, and should shoulder the blame. Except as Private Eye reports this week, Transocean (the rig’s operators) relocated to the Cayman Islands in 1999 and then to Switzerland in 2008, while Halliburton (who were contracted to cement the well closed, what a great job they did…) relocated to Dubai in 2007.
You have to wonder whether this would have happened had BP not tried to cut corners and cut costs by axing key safety procedures in the early part of the last decade. BP have of course been here before, 15 oil workers died, and 170 were injured when the Texas City refinery blew up. Interestingly enough, the person behind those cuts, John Browne, has been appointed to advise on cuts to government spending by the Chancellor. Be afraid…
Which bring’s us to the foamy mouthed rhetoric from Toby Young on Question Time. “Yes he has been (indulging in anti-British rhetoric). The Government has been very wet about this… Obama has been behaving absolutely disgracefully… he said he would sack Hayward and has is questioning whether a dividend should be paid. The people who will suffer are British pensioners. When Obama talks about keeping a boot on the throat of BP… BP stands for British Pensioners, as one in 6 pounds paid out in dividends goes to pension funds is from BP. This week Obama said he wanted to find out who’s arse to kick. Well if Obama wants a lesson in kicking arse, i suggest he tune’s in on Saturday evening to see England play the USA, when Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerard, Emile Heskey (?) and Aaron Lennon (?!?) give him a lesson on how to kick some arse (loud cheers)”
It was a thoroughly depressing answer, which revealed much about the supporters of the bright shiny new government we have elected, that the nasty party really hasn’t gone away. I also imagined many Scottish people throwing their televisions out of the window in disgust. One wonders whether there was any possibility of a conflict of interest for Mr Young. Whatever the reason for Toby Young’s outburst, it is refreshing to see that the shadowy tentacles of the oil industry have not made their way around Barack Obama’s neck yet. I’m just not sure whether thats a good thing or a thing to be afraid of.