Maybe it’s just the media, but Britain is obsessed over the strength of the so-called special relationship between the US and UK.
In times of war and peace, through different Presidents and Prime Ministers, the bond is deemed to be strong.
But what about that bond and oil spills?
The headline in today’s Financial Times says, interestingly: “Patriotic Britons rally round BP.”
Whereas BP – and especially its outgoing Chief Executive, Tony Hayward – has become public enemy number one in the US, back home in Blighty it’s a different matter.
There may have been nearly as much media coverage of the spill in the UK as in the US, but people don’t seem to be blaming the company for the accident.
A poll carried out for the paper shows that the British public have taken a far more benign view of BP since the spill started than people in the US or even other countries.
Only a third of Britons said they thought any less of the company after the rupture of its Macondo well. This compares with about half of French and Spanish saying they now thought less of the company, a figure that rises to 60 per cent in Italy.
In the UK, over 20 per cent said their opinion of BP had either remained positive or had actually improved since the disaster started.
Not surprisingly, almost two-thirds of people in the US thought less of the company. Almost a third of Americans said they thought less of all energy companies following the accident.
Four in 10 Americans said they were now more worried about climate change and two-thirds said the disaster had left them with bigger fears about their country’s dependence on oil. Almost three-quarters were more worried about wildlife and the environment since the spill, with 62 per cent voicing fears about further oil exploration.
And you know that the feelings against BP will be greatest in the Gulf region – something that the Financial Times poll will not address.
Here a huge proportion of residents feel that they will be soon be forgotten as the clean up operation slowly winds to a close.
As the Washington Post says this morning: “The new fear for many people here is that the only thing worse than the oil spill will be the end of it.” The paper reports that work is drying up, peoples’ claims seemed harder to process.
As the clean-up winds down people are fretting that the media will leave and their suffering will go unreported.
“We have the suspicion that BP may want to get out of this restoration,” Robert Phuong Nguyen, a fisherman and father of six, said in a community meeting held by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in Buras. Mabus is the man put in charge of the Gulf’s long-term restoration.
In Orange Beach, Alabama the local Mayor Tony Kennon said these concerns were being borne out. He felt that BP had tightened its grip on reimbursements for claims of lost income.
According to the paper: “Kennon said restaurants, hotels and condominium owners had been facing additional skepticism from adjustors and getting smaller reimbursements than they had been getting.”
“BP said they were going to make us whole,” Kennon said. “Now they’re finding ways to narrow down more and more who’s getting paid.”
The problems for the Gulf fishing industry are only just beginning as they struggle to get people to trust their fish and shrimp again.
Kevin Adams, an Alaskan seafood industry representative, has told local fisherman that it took ten years for the seafood industry to recover from the Exxon Valdez spill.
So to keep the special relationship going: maybe the British should start eating Gulf sea-food.
As a measure of solidarity, if nothing else.