Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Menendez at work

[This is the heading over a post by Greg Milam on the American Pie blog on the Sky News website. It reads as follows:]

British diplomats in Washington are ‘surprised’ at the rant from US Senator Robert Menendez over his aborted hearing on the Lockerbie bomber.

They had no idea that Mr Menendez was going to give the UK both barrels for, in his eyes, helping to scupper the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting this week.

Maybe Mr Menendez feels a little foolish that he so heavily advertised a hearing before waiting for replies to his witness invitations.

But his announcement of the postponement came perilously close to accusing the UK and Scottish authorities of having something to hide.

Some here have labelled what the committee is investigating as a ‘conspiracy theory’.

Pointing the finger at BP is a pretty easy way of earning popularity in the US at the moment but the planned hearing seemed to cross a line.

Here is the evidence: Scotland says the Lockerbie bomber was freed on compassionate ground.

David Cameron (who even changed his schedule to meet Menendez’s team) says he’s seen nothing to suggest BP played any part in the release.

Both parties have co-operated with the committee and sent over a stack of documents.

For these reasons, it is not surprising that the invited witnesses didn’t fancy a few hours of haranguing from American politicians when the answers had already been provided.

It would set quite a precedent for one country’s legislature to feel it can investigate decisions taken by another.

What the committee, and many Americans, don’t seem to like is that BP was lobbying the UK government at all.

But people in glass houses… Many Americans don’t like the lobbying money bunged at senators to stop, for example, healthcare reform.

If they want a clampdown on lobbying, there are a few senators who would see a big black hole appear in their campaign funding.

They might not like BP very much at the moment – but should it really be one rule for one and another for everyone else?

[And the following is from a post by David Hughes, the chief leader writer of the Daily Telegraph, on a blog hosted by that newspaper.]

BP has hardly covered itself in glory over the Gulf oil spill and, as predicted last week, at least one head had to roll before the oil company could start to draw a line under the business. But the mood is changing fast, not only because the company has shown that it can carry the truly colossal cost of this disaster without going down the tubes. It also appears that the slick is vanishing far faster than thought. (...)

It is against this rather encouraging background that we should view the shameless political show-boating of the US Senate in trying to haul BP’s departing chief executive Tony Hayward to Washington (along with former Justice Secretary Jack Straw and Scotland’s Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill) to interrogate them on whether BP lobbied for the release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdulbaset al-Megrahi. Wisely, all three have told the Senate to take a running jump. There is something nauseating about this continued hounding of BP by American law-makers. They live in the most oil-dependent country on the planet yet seem obsessed with kicking the companies that have to do the dirty work of getting the black stuff into their gas-guzzlers.

BP has every right to lobby in defence of its commercial interests – are American senators saying it hasn’t? But it is the job of elected politicians – in this case the Scottish Executive – to take the decisions. Perhaps members of the Senate, so used to being manipulated by lobbyists, have lost sight of that distinction. Their attempt to make political mileage out of this should be treated with the contempt it deserves

1 comment:

  1. "But his announcement of the postponement came perilously close to accusing the UK and Scottish authorities of having something to hide."

    It certainly did. That we are tolerating their interference, and being so polite about it, when at the root of it they are simply indulging in blatant electioneering ahead of their own elections later this year, is infuriating.