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Obama, BP and the day the British mouse roared

Barack Obama must have been stunned when he heard the news. This time he’d gone too far with anti-British, anti-BP rhetoric and he was going to receive the just penalty for his temerity. Yes siree, the full nine yards: an open letter of complaint from John Napier.

John Who? you – like Obama – must be wondering. Come on, you know. Yes you do. The bloke who’s been running media specialist Aegis plc since Colin Sharman left. No, really running it. He isn’t just chairman, he got rid of the former chief executive and did his job for a while too. Which was, you ask? Getting that pesky shareholder Vincent Bolloré to frog off, of course. John, in his spare time, also chairs insurance company RSA, and was once managing director of research outfit AGB.

I’m glad we’ve cleared that one up. So what does he actually say in this letter? Well, all sorts of nasty things about the US president. For instance? He’s not very statesmanlike, he can’t take the heat under pressure, and he’s been lashing out at poor old BP ceo Tony Hayward in a “prejudicial and personal way.” That sort of thing.

I see. It’s like Squibb Minor berating the headmaster for unprofessional conduct – only to find his outburst lands the whole class in prolonged detention of the most humiliating “ass-kicking” kind. More or less.

Mind you, Napier – like Robert Peston in his blog today – does turn a neat trick in comparing and contrasting Obama’s treatment of BP with Obama’s treatment of the banks. In the letter he says: “There is a sense here that these attacks are being made because BP is British. If you compare the damage inflicted on the economies of the western world by polluted securities from the irresponsible, unchecked greed and avarice of leading USA international banks, there has not been the same personalised response in or from countries beyond the US. Perhaps a case of double standards?”

Mr Napier does not, of course, have an election to win in November. Where I suspect he, or rather RSA – the company he represents – is coming from is as a severely damaged investor in BP. Since the Deepwater explosion in April, BP has lost nearly 45% – or £55bn – of its value.

ELSEWHERE BP’s crisis management has descended to new levels of farce, this time over the oil company’s handling of Twitter. A rather annoying critic, Leroy Stick (believe that if you like), has been taunting BP from the fastness of @BPGlobalPR and the company has unsuccessfully tried to muzzle him. This week, Stick was forced to change his ‘bio’, which formerly read “This page exists to get BP’s message and mission statement into the Twitterverse.” Irritatingly for the company, it now reads: “We are not associated with Beyond Petroleum, the company that has been destroying the Gulf of Mexico for 50 days.” BP denies it has pressured Twitter into closing the site, and says it merely asked for the so-called ‘parody feed’ to clarify its status. Stick claims this is the last concession he will make: BP will have to close him down. More in Ad Age. Stay logged.

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