The BP chief executive Tony Hayward was always going to be given the roughest of rides by Congress. He has become the bumbling face of BP, the man who personifies its failure to stop this oil spill getting worse by the day. But he turned up today with an apology and precious little else. He had no answers to predictable questions and still appeared not to get it.
A ham-fisted intervention by Representative Joe Barton—apologising to BP for the way the incident had become politicised—has taken some of the heat off Hayward. But Hayward really does not look cut out for the job of being CEO of a company involved in this kind of crisis. You wonder how much longer he’ll stay in post.
One interesting thing to note from his testimony is his answer when pressed on whether companies with poor safety records should be allowed to continue to operate in the United States:
“We’ve engaged in systematic change at BP over the past three years. We have begun to change the culture. I’m not denying there’s more to do.”
This appears to be a criticsim of his much lauded predecessor, Lord Browne. There have been rumours
that Browne will be appointed to a Whitehall job by the Coalition. But it would be risky to appoint him until it is clearer what role, if any, BP's corporate culture has played in this incident.