There's plenty of rhetoric in the media about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, so just to be clear, here are a few facts:
BP has not been “British Petroleum” for the last twelve years. It was formed in 1998 by the amalgamation of British Petroleum (a British company which was called “British Petroleum”) and Amoco (an American one). It has six British directors and six American. It employs 22,000 Americans but only 10,000 Britons.
UK institutions and individuals hold 40% of the shares. US institutions and individuals hold 39%. A further 10% are owned in the rest of Europe, 7% in the rest of the world and 4% are described as “miscellaneous institutional holdings”. So Britons do not hold the majority of shares in the company, they do not take the majority of the profits, and they do not exercise the majority of the control. As British companies go, that isn't terribly British, is it?
(Figures from BP themselves, see here)
However, virtually every British pension fund has holdings in BP, and a slide in BP share prices will hit the pension expectations of many thousands of British citizens. In other words, as with the Torrey Canyon (owned by a subsidiary of the Union Oil Company of California), the Amoco Cadiz (owned by American company Amoco), the Braer (owned Braer Corporation a subsidiary of B&H Shipping, Stamford, Connecticut) and the Exxon Valdez (owned by American company Exxon), it's the Americans who cause these environmental disasters and it's the rest of us who are the victims.
In the Gulf of Mexico, for the American government and media to try and pin the blame for American incompetence on the victims of that incompetence is pretty rich, if you ask me. At least in the Exxon Valdez disaster they had the decency to pollute their own shoreline in Alaska. I don't remember the American president at the time trying to blame the Alaskans.
Norman Tebbit expresses it rather well: “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 GOS says: Here's an idea. If the Americans don't put a rapid end to their hissy fit and apologise for trying to blame us, why don't we get the hump, petulantly declare that the “special relationship” is history and pull all our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan? How convenient would that be?
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