Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner’s attacking Obama for being mean to poor widdle old BP — coupled with a sudden eagerness on Boehner’s part to bail out BP — is being strangely echoed by prominent Tories (the UK’s version of the GOP) and their allied newspapers and media in Blighty:
Boris Johnson, the Conservative mayor of London, said Thursday that he was worried about “anti-British rhetoric” and “name-calling” from American politicians.
“When you consider the huge exposure of British pension funds to BP, it starts to become a matter of national concern if a great British company is being continually beaten up on the airwaves,” Mr. Johnson told BBC radio’s Today program.
Prime Minister David Cameron refused to criticize the United States, however, saying he sympathized with its “frustration” in dealing with its worst environmental disaster in memory. But the chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, signaled careful support for BP, saying that he had spoken to its chief executive, Tony Hayward, and that it was important to remember “the economic value BP brings to people in Britain and America.”
Did you catch how Cameron’s playing Good Cop to Johnson’s and Osborne’s Bad Cops? Ah, but it gets better:
Many Britons are upset at what they say not just as the economic costs of American anger, but also at language they say demonizes Britain, America’s partner in the so-called special relationship — loose talk that taps into the British suspicion that Americans are insular and overly nationalistic.
Writing on his Web site, a Conservative peer, Lord Tebbit, called the American response “a crude, bigoted, xenophobic display of partisan, political, presidential petulance against a multinational company.”
Comments on British message boards this week have been full of anger at the United States and disillusionment at Mr. Obama, a wildly popular president here until now.
“The rest of the world is fed up with the parasitic attitude of the U.S.,” went one representative comment on the Daily Telegraph Web site. “As a Dutch citizen, I used to be a supporter of the U.S., but not anymore. You want the oil? You clean up the mess."
Note how the NYT piece talks of "Many Britons", but the only ones cited by name are — you guessed it — Conservatives (aka Tories)? And how "Comments on British message boards" is one self-proclaimed Dutch guy posting at a Conservative-favoring paper known in the UK as "the Torygraph"? (By the way, almost all UK newspaper comments threads are, as are their American counterparts, overrun by conservative commentators, many of them from the US. And just as they do with the comments threads of American websites, they use sockpuppets to make themselves seem more numerous than they are. But I digress.)
Interestingly enough, the one UK-generated media item cited by the NYT piece that didn’t come from a Tory-friendly entity, a piece from the Guardian, notes both the fact that Conservative pols are the ones doing the politicizing and that the danger to British pension funds is somewhat overblown (emphases mine):
But one chief executive of a FTSE 100 company with major interests in the US criticised the comments made by [Tory mayor of London Boris] Johnson. "This hysteria is all a bit ludicrous, everyone is whipping the situation up into a frenzy," he told the Guardian.
He added that provided the leak is plugged, what he described as the politically motivated furore would die down and he believed that wider British business interests would not be affected. "The relationship between the US and UK is still special. Obama faces elections in November so it’s understandable why it’s very important for him."
The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) attempted to calm fears over the effect of the BP crisis on pensions.
Chief executive Joanne Segars said: "BP’s difficulties should not have an immediate or serious impact on those saving into a pension, or on those who have retired." He said UK pension funds’ exposure to BP is about 1.5% of total assets, which are in excess of £800bn.
Aha! So even if the absolute worst-case scenario did happen and BP did go belly-up, the Tories are yammering about 1.5% of total pension fund assets? Hell, that’s probably less than the cuts Cameron’s plotting in other areas for pensioners.
Hmmm, maybe that’s in the wind here — the Tories want UK pensioners to blame Obama for Cameron’s austerity measures, measures our own John Chandley has eviscerated. And John Boehner’s trying to provide moral support.
The Tory-GOP-BP Love Triangle: So charming.