Politics Summary: Friday, May 28th

President Obama has slammeed BP for what he calls the "worst oil disaster" in US history, vowing they will be forced to "pay every dime".

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President Obama has attacked BP for the “worst oil disaster” in US history, calling a halt to all new offshore drilling projects and saying BP will be forced to “pay every dime” to help clear up the mess. The Times says the disaster, the April 20 explosion that killed 11 people on the Deepwater Horizon rig, venting 39 million gallons thus far, threatens “to derail his presidency”. In his first White House press conference for ten months, the President said: “As far as I’m concerned, BP is responsible for this horrific disaster, and we will hold them fully accountable on behalf of the United States as well as the people and communities victimised by this tragedy. We will demand that they pay every dime they owe for the damage they’ve done and the painful losses that they’ve caused.”

He also cancelled or suspended dozens of offshore drilling projects and condemned the “scandalously close relationship” between oil companies and government regulators. The Guardian, meanwhile, looks at BP’s ‘top kill’ mission to halt the oil spill, with experts warning that the leak is “far from being permanently fixed” and an “unusually strong hurricane season” predicted: “Engineers were due last night to begin a second round of pumping thick drilling mud at high speed into the ocean floor, which lies 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) under the surface of the sea about 50 miles off Louisiana… Scientists warned there was potential for even greater damage, with a forecast of an unusually hazardous hurricane season. The national weather service in its yearly forecast for the hurricane season starting on 1 June predicted between eight to 14 hurricanes across the Atlantic.”

Domestically, the Conservative Party has won the delayed Thirsk and Malton election, held over from May 6 due to the death of the UKIP candidate. Anne McIntosh, shadow foods minister in the last Parliament, won with a majority of 11,281 over the Liberal Democrats, polling 20,167 votes (52.9 per cent), with the Lib Dems’ Howard Keal on 8,886 (23.3%), Labour’s Jonathan Roberts on 5,169 (13.6%), UKIP’s Toby Horton on 2,502 (6.6%) and the Liberal Party’s John Clark on 1,418 (3.7%); turnout in England’s biggest parliamentary seat was just over 50% of the 76,000 electorate. The Telegraph says the result appears “to show support for the coalition Government”, taking the Tory party’s total number of seats in the Commons to 307, with the Lib Dems gaining a small swing over their coalition partner. Ms McIntosh said it was a “very exciting time”, describing the coalition Government as “a new age of politics”. She added: “I’m delighted with the result. It’s very humbling to have received the support of so many people. I think we had a very positive campaign and we went out fighting on the issues I firmly and passionately believe in.” She becomes the 650th and final member of parliament.

The Independent leads on what it calls an “historic moment for anyone who cares about the environment” – Green Party leader Caroline Lucas’s maiden speech in the Commons. The Indy says that “it was made with very little outward fuss when a woman in a pale blue trouser suit got to her feet from a green leather bench and began to speak… Henceforth, the environment has its own representation in our politics”. Michael McCarthy, the Indy’s environment editor, describes the scene: “It was so routine, in fact, that I was the only observer in the Press Gallery, apart from two guys from Hansard, the official recorder of parliamentary debates, and a chap from the Press Association, the national news agency. There were 31 people in the public seats, and fewer than 50 MPs in the chamber. There was no roll of drums. There was no fanfare.” In her speech, Ms Lucas said: “If our message had been heeded nearly 40 years ago, I like to think we would be much closer to the genuinely sustainable economy that we so urgently need, than we currently are today… I have worked on the causes and consequences of climate change for most of my working life… Both before the election and afterwards, I have been asked the question: what can a single MP hope to achieve? I may not be alone in facing that question. And since arriving in this place, and thinking about the contribution other members have made over the years, I am sure that the answer is clear, that a single MP can achieve a great deal.”

The Guardian reports the latest developments in the Labour leadership race, with frontrunner David Miliband yesterday targeting “immoral” city excess, tapping into the party’s “anger” at banks with a call for new reforms “tackling pay and unfair interest charges”. In welcoming the idea of a cap on extortionate rates of interest charged by banks, the shadow foreign secretary, in a speech to Demos, said: “We must address fundamental questions about the causes of the financial crisis and how we build a new era of shared prosperity. That means rebalancing the economy, ensuring fair wages at the top and the bottom, tackling rip-off lending while extending new sources of credit to new businesses, and ensuring a more environmentally sustainable capitalism.” The Times reports that Ed Miliband, meanwhile, in a speech today at the LSE, will say: “We must not think of being in opposition as simply a matter of political point-scoring or posturing. Instead, the Labour party should continue to work as a social and campaigning force for good, working with other progressive activists to achieve change that makes a difference to people’s lives”. With only a week to go till nominations close, David Miliband has 54 nominations while his brother, Ed, has 42; Ed Balls has 27, and needs six more to get on the ballot; Andy Burnham has 17 nominations; John McDonnell five; and Diane Abbott one.” Left Foot Forward has the complete list of who’s nominating who – download it here.

And The Times reports on the row over Downing Street’s attempt to “veto” Alastair Campbell’s appearance on Question Time last night. The report says: “Downing Street has been accused of refusing to allow a Cabinet minister to appear on Question Time last night unless Alastair Campbell was taken off the panel. The BBC said it rejected the demand on principle. It is understood that No 10 refused to allow a senior MP to appear unless a Labour frontbencher appeared. No 10 allegedly said Mr Campbell was not suitable… Introducing the programme, David Dimbleby said it was extraordinary that no Cabinet minister was there in the week of the Queen’s Speech. It was up to ‘us on Question Time to decide who should be on the programme not Downing Street’.” The Standard adds: “Mr Campbell accused the coalition Government of trying to ‘bully’ the BBC and said not having a senior minister on in the week of the Queen’s Speech ‘made a mockery of the Cameron-Clegg claims to be promoting a new politics of engagement’. He also taunted Downing Street’s new communications director Andy Coulson for being ‘totally incompetent’… ‘I was genuinely surprised – and so was the audience – when David Dimbleby announced that the Government refused to field a minister unless I was not on the panel. I thought I was supposed to be the control freak,’ Mr Campbell said. This pathetic ploy to bully the BBC suggests that the ministers are a bunch of wimps and the Downing Street communications director is totally incompetent. I often found Question Time uncomfortable viewing when doing that job but the idea of not having a senior minister in the week of the Queen’s Speech makes a mockery of the Cameron-Clegg claims to be promoting a new politics of engagement.”

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