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Big day brings exasperation

Mark Mardell | 18:17 UK time, Thursday, 17 June 2010

BP chief executive Tony Hayward, now routinely identified by the media here as the most hated man in America, had to sound extremely contrite.

He has.

But that is only part of the job. The US Congressional panel hearing he is facing is about what went wrong, what caused the disaster.

His repeated insistence that the investigation is still going on, that it is too early to tell, that he wasn't part of the decision making process, is infuriating and exasperating the politicians who want and expect clear answers.

This is going very badly for Mr Hayward and for BP.

While it is obvious Mr Hayward will continue to get a rough ride there are interesting tensions in the committee, along political lines.

A Texan Republican congressman Joe Barton, talking about the $20bn set aside for the victims of the leak, said the White House had subjected BP to a shakedown and had forced them to set up what he called a slush fund.

He said it bordered on the criminal and made him ashamed of his country.

Democratic congressman Ed Markey replied that it was not a slush fund, but proof the US government was working to protect its most vulnerable citizens.

The exchange is a timely reminder that for many American politicians big business is always preferable to big government.


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