Mighty British Petroleum - defended in a Daily Mail front page headline as the UK's "flagship company" - has taken the worst battering in its history after the oil spill disaster off the coast of America.
Patriotic Fleet Street newspapers have urged new Prime Minister David Cameron to stand up for Britain and hit-back at the withering attacks the multinational has been getting from US President Barack Obama.
BP bosses face a bill that could rise to more than $100m from the American government to pay for its clean up operation following the Gulf of Mexico oil leak which began on April 20 2010, following an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed 11 workers. The company was also forced to retreat from an announcement that it would pay shareholders a $2.5bn quarterly dividend based on huge profits.
In London, Conservative prime minister Cameron told BP's chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg he is "frustrated and concerned" about the environmental damage caused by the US oil leak but he refrained from tackling Obama. This is surprising because BP is the UK’s top tax payer and commentators say Obama's criticism has had a devastating affect on the company's share price.
BP's catastrophic failure to stop the leak and subsequent contamination of American coasts is polluting British shores with ridicule.
Now that BP’s Plan B – cutting off the ruptured part of the pipe and coupling another to the stem from the well such that most of the oil will be siphoned onto a waiting ship – seems to be working, London can’t wait to hear the news of any kind of success. A satisfactory one will do.
BP is being dubbed in America "Big Polluter". Its Chief Operating Officer, Doug Suttles, appears to be showing the strain of Obama’s stern message to BP, as the President called the oil spill "the worst environmental disaster in America's history".
Washington is threatening to squeeze every dime in terms of the cost of pollution, loss of earnings and everything else from BP as the garrison of contaminating oil heads towards Florida beaches.
Everyone in the affected coastal region will possibly file claims against the British giant. BP is being humiliated as if it is a third world calibre explorer. Its share price has been heading for a free fall.
When the news of Top Kill – a practice of stopping the leak by pushing through the ruptured pipe mud, sludge, tyres, human hairs, et cetera under pressure failed, the media both in UK and abroad mocked the idea. Pundits on radio shows demanded to know, how could one scientifically applaud throwing debris into the pressurised stem?
“The sight of unused Top Kill debris brought back the memories of comedian Charlie Chaplin in action”, said one hair dresser in south London as she joked with her client over the issue. Saloons in America were quoted as saying that they were willing to help BP with hair trims for the miracle of Top Kill.
Ernest Atau, an occupational health and safety professional from Orpington near Kent, said: “Safety devices in the oil rig system seemed to be absent. The Top Kill caused more gush than before it was started. Even the next attempt has not been tried too. So, this is a difficult time for BP.
“It is a shame that while America is crying over its environment. BP investors were crying too after their shares plunged while workers were worried about BP pension funds.”
Other financial implications of the BP’s failure to control the leak are growing with each drop of oil into the sea. It faces a massive leaks control cost whether any attempt was successful or not. It must and has agreed to meet the multi-million pound clean-up cost. BP must also pay for the damage suffered by the environment. Loss of earning claims by those whose livelihood depend on the activities around the Gulf of Mexico coast will be met by BP.
It has also been punished heavily financially due to its loss of oil from the rig. Compensation for the dead rig workers as a result of the explosion and fire on the installation is inevitable while civil and criminal cases, including a possible corporate manslaughter charge, are likely to take place in the US against BP, with hefty fines if the multi-national is found negligent. BP also fears loss of future rights to America and global off-shore drilling projects.