BP’s Tony Hayward tries TV ads – he needs a break and a bit of government support

Lots of people people, not to mention oil-drenched seabirds, would say emphatically ‘No’ to this and you have to respect that.

And today lots of commentators have been writing Hayward’s business obituary, and BP’s too sometimes. But is this is a bit far-fetched or, dare one say it, unfair?

Now BP has definitely had too many fatal oil rig accidents in the US in recent years, with consequent environmental damage. Hayward took over from Lord Browne at BP on a policy platform saying safety would be paramount, which looks a bit sick now as oil spills out into the Gulf of Mexico despite BP’s best efforts.

The current capping exercise might work, may indeed be working although it would be dangerous to count chickens. It may just highlight how much oil is spewing out. Presumably the new wells to be sunk in August will do the trick.

Hayward’s position is not being helped by Barack Obama and the US administration which has turned on him and the company, sending invoices as though it’s someone who’s bought the wrong-sized T-shirt at Gap and demanding that BP stops its ads (like the one here which must have cost about $1000 to shoot) and curbs dividend payments to shareholders (who include nearly every British pension fund).

Common sense will only prevail when Hayward and BP can prove they’ve got the problem under control.

But from the British government anyway, from whom we’ve heard absolutely nothing so far, there is a clear requirement, assuming it’s persuaded that BP is doing the right things, to defend the company and its contribution to UK coffers (it’s the biggest UK company).

Had Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson still been in charge they’d have been on the phone to Obama on a regular basis already.

Have Cameron, George Osborne and Vince Cable?

Anyway Hayward and BP deserve a break.

I’m not sure that former boss Lord Browne, the ultimate architect of these misfortunes, does though.

We read today that the Government is going to bring him in to oversee cuts in expenditure. He’s already overseeing a commission that is probably going to say that British universities should be able to charge what they like in student tuition fees. Which will clearly deter most students.

Any government in its right mind would not touch his lordship with even a very large bargepole.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.