Search This Blog

22 June 2010

The Coalition's Emergency Budget

The Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer gave his emergency budget speech in the House of Commons today, bounded on one side by the Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister and on the other by the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, symbolic of the unfamiliar new Politics of Coalition Government.

The Budget contents were about as unpleasant as was expected, with the widely anticipated increase in VAT to 20% (to name but one item), but with a number of welcome ideas for reducing our dependency on out-of-control Welfare Benefits in some areas.

Harriet Harman, acting Leader of the Labour Party made a spirited response in a manner which made one ask why she herself was not a prospective candidate for the Leadership job to be settled in September. But I took issue with her cheap shots against the Liberal Democrats, because had we been given this Budget today by a 100% Conservative Government it would have been a lot more unpleasant than the one we got, tempered as it was in many instances by the influence of the Liberal Democrats within the Coalition.

10 June 2010

BP - (Barak's Politics)

The devastating oil blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico was caused by an inadequate fail-safe device that was not owned by BP.

The rig was not owned by BP.

The whole operation was put into place under the eyes of a lax and inadequate US regulatory system.

The need for deep-water operations like this has been driven by an unassuaged American thirst for "cheap" oil.

BP is a huge international corporation with vast wealth. 40% of its shareholders are Americans. It has been known as "BP" for years, and is still referred to as BP, except from the mouth of the US President, when it becomes "British Petroleum".

BP has committed itself to dealing with this problem, to be working on the Louisiana coast for long after the media have departed, and to compensate everyone affected.

Contrast this with the attitude of the Union Carbide Company that contributed to the deaths of 15,000 people 20 years ago in the Bhopal explosion in India. We were recently reminded of this incident with the conclusion of an Indian court case against company officials. The CEO never had to answer for his company's actions and disregard for human suffering, and remains at home in retirement.

It is therefore inappropriate for Obama to be talking about "kicking ass" in the BP case, or taking legal action to prevent the payment of shareholder dividends, and legal action to enforce payment of salaries of other oil company workers who might be laid off due to an embargo on deep-water drilling operations.

£20 billion of British pension funds are tied up in BP shares, and the share price has been tumbling further with every statement coming out of Obama's mouth.

I suspect his attitude (which is also fuelling anti-British feeling in some parts of America) has something to do with the mid-term elections, and the need to be seen to be a better performer than George W Bush after "Katrina".

So long as BP is accepting its responsibilities, is working to solve the problem, and is prepared to return the affected shoreline and local waters back to normal, the President should keep his nose out of the company's affairs and stop trying to control something that BP (and associated experts) should be controlling.