First, it was the bust of Winston Churchill removed from the Oval Office. Then it was an inappropriate gift for the Queen. Now, the British press is asking again whether U.S. President Barack Obama has it in for the British, this time over BP.
There has been extensive coverage in Britain of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But now it is not the environmental damage that is the big issue; it is the economic damage to BP caused by American politicians, including the president, as they demand that BP pay for the cleanup as well as compensation, and are now demanding the company not pay its shareholders dividends.
Headlines in the British papers reflect growing pressure on the new prime minister, David Cameron, to get the Obama administration to back off. Earlier, the Daily Mail, which supports Cameron's Conservative Party, blared "Lord Tebbit and Boris Johnson attack Barack Obama's 'anti-British' rhetoric." (Lord Tebbit is a vocal former member of Margaret Thatcher's government, and Boris Johnson is the Conservative mayor of London.) The more sober Financial Times ran with "UK alarm over attack on BP," quoting business leaders.
Influential Tory commentators have also joined in with calls for Cameron to defend BP. "I hope David Cameron has the balls to ring Obama today for 'a full and frank discussion' -- diplomatic language for a blazing row," writes Iain Dale, a leading Conservative columnist. Tim Montgomerie, a prominent activist who runs the site ConservativeHome, says he hopes that "behind-the-scenes channels are being used" to convey the British government's displeasure. The Daily Telegraph's Jeremy Warner ripped Obama for "crass populism which shows very poor statesmanship."
Cameron is scheduled to speak by phone with Obama over the weekend, and the former British ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, has been on the BBC's The World At One program arguing it is time for the new prime minister to take up BP's cause with the U.S. president. "The survival and ultimate prosperity of BP is a vital British interest, and I think the time has come to point it out, at a senior level, to the U.S. administration," he said.