Politics Summary: Tuesday, July 27th

BP plumbed new depths yesterday, going into the red for the first time in 18 years, to the tune of £11 billion - as it was announced chief exec Tony Hayward would be sent to Siberia.

Left Foot Forward will be taking a break over the summer, during which blogging will be light; this will be the last morning politics summary until Monday, September 13th. Happy holidays!

BP plumbed new depths yesterday, going into the red for the first time in 18 years, to the tune of £11 billion – as it was announced chief exec Tony Hayward would be sent to Siberia. The loss is the worst quarterly result ever in British corporate history. BP have racked up a huge $32.2bn (£20.8bn) bill for the Gulf of Mexico spill, with chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg saying: “The tragedy of the Macondo well explosion and subsequent environmental damage has been a watershed incident.” Hayward, who will become non-executive director at BP’s Russian joint venture TNK-BP, will be replaced by Bob Dudley on October 1st.

The Telegraph explains: “BP has seen £50bn knocked off its market value since the spill of April 20, which killed 11 people. However, the shares have staged a rally since leaching a low of 302p on June 28 on hopes that BP’s capping of the well will put a limit on the size of the eventual damages it will pay.” The Guardian has US reaction: “Among people struggling with their livelihoods on the front line of the environmental disaster, the departure of Hayward prompted shrugs.” And today’s FT editorial says: “When a company suffers a calamity on the scale of that experienced by BP, there is a need for some sort of catharsis. There must be a visible sign of change. Tony Hayward’s resignation as BP’s chief executive will go some way to meeting this precondition for recovery. But it will be nowhere near enough on its own… The spill has left the company a diminished force. Thanks to the public anger stoked by the accident, its ability to continue operating in the US – vital to its future – remains uncertain… Change should not stop at the chief executive’s suite. BP’s board remains weak. It must be strengthened to provide more of a check to the company’s buccaneering management culture.” The Standard, meanwhile, has the latest on the BP petrol stations shut down by activists: “Greenpeace claimed it shut off fuel supplies at around 50 service stations in central London by flipping safety switches located on the forecourts and then removing them to prevent the petrol stations reopening… At one station in Camden, north London, Greenpeace climbers replaced BP’s logo with a new version showing the green ‘sunflower’ disappearing into a sea of oil.”

The Guardian reports on the ‘radical’ police reform white paper unveiled by the home secretary yesterday, dubbed “do-it-yourself” policing. Among the ideas Theresa May is exploring is a reserve army of volunteers, prepared to act as community crime fighters, alongside the flagship proposal for directly-elected police commissioners, though the Guardian reports that: “The idea for greater public involvement in policing emerged as the home secretary’s Liberal Democrat coalition partners warned that the current state of her proposals to introduce directly-elected police and crime commissioners are in danger of giving a green light to ‘Judge Dredd populists’… The unexpected outspoken criticism from the Liberal Democrats reflects the coalition’s failure to agree the detail on the checks and balances that are to be put in place to avoid ‘populist politicians turning individual forces into their personal fiefdom’.” All 43 police forces in England and Wales will elect new commissioners, with each having powerful to sack chief constables, set budgets and outline priorities. The consultation papers says: “We want more active citizens taking part in joint patrols with the police, looking out for their neighbours and passing on safety tips as part of neighbourhood watch groups or as community crime fighters.” The Mail calls it “PC Joe Public”, reporting: “Ministers also intend to recruit up to 50,000 extra special constables to flood crime-plagued neighbourhoods with an army of volunteers. And villages will be protected by a new breed of ‘police reservists’, modelled on part-time firemen and the Territorial Army.” This morning, Left Foot Forward will take a detailed look at the proposals, explaining why progressives should be supporting elected police commissioners.

The prime minister will today accuse opponents of Turkey’s membership of the European Union of being “prejudiced” and of “playing on fears of Islam”. The Independent reports that Mr Cameron, in a speech in Ankara, “will tackle fears among Eurosceptic Tory MPs that a Muslim nation with a population of 72 million people would swamp the EU and result in a new wave of immigration to Britain under Europe’s free movement policy”. Referring to Turkey’s membership of Nato and its goal of joining the EU, he will say: “My view is clear. I believe it’s just wrong to say Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent.” Of those who oppose membership, he will add: “They see no difference between real Islam and the distorted version of the extremists. They think the problem is Islam itself. And they think the values of Islam can just never be compatible with the values of other religions, societies or cultures… I will remain your strongest possible advocate for EU membership and for greater influence at the top table of European diplomacy. Together, I want us to pave the road from Ankara to Brussels.” The Telegraph reports that: “He will tell of his ‘anger’ that a country which is a member of the Nato coalition fighting in Afghanistan should be asked to: ‘guard the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent’… His words are likely to be construed as criticism of France and Germany, which both oppose the country’s membership… Mr Cameron will lay a wreath at Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey. In his speech, Mr Cameron will also urge Turkey to ‘make it clear to Iran just how serious we are about engaging fully with the international community’. And he will tell the Turks to ‘remain a friend to Israel’ after relations between the two became strained when Israeli troops killed nine Turkish activists on an aid convoy bound for the Gaza Strip.”

The Standard reports on the passing of the academies bill through the Commons last night. It says the bill was “rushed through Parliament in time for the start of the summer recess”: “The Bill was passed by 317 votes to 225, Government majority 92, despite accusations it would lead to a ‘two-tier’ education system and would damage comprehensive schooling. It completed its Commons passage in an unusually short period and will allow for a radical overhaul of the school system in England.” It adds: “Earlier during the Bill’s passage, six Lib Dem MPs rebelled against the coalition Government in backing a call by John Pugh (Southport), a former teacher, to allow parents to be balloted if a school governor objected it to becoming an academy. The other Lib Dems who supported the amendment were Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset and Poole N), Andrew George (St Ives), Mike Hancock (Portsmouth South), John Leech (Manchester Withington) and David Ward (Bradford E).” Shadow education secretary and Labour leadership candidate Ed Balls expressed fears the changes would lead to “social apartheid” in education, describing them as “the most profoundly unfair piece of social engineering in this generation”. He told MPs: “This Bill will create an unfair and two-tier education system in this country, with gross unfairness in funding, standards not rising but falling, fairness and social cohesion to be undermined.”

Finally, all today’s papers look ahead to the London Olympics, which begin exactly two years’ today, Friday July 27th 2012. The Guardian reports Lord Coe’s plea to the public to “start planning your Olympics now”. Coe said: “This is the right moment to say: ‘It’s over to you to make of this what you want’. It is shaped by people. I want people to start planning their Games. If you don’t volunteer now, you won’t volunteer. Don’t wait for a year. If you leave it too much later, you won’t get a ticket… You can’t force-feed excitement. So much of this is getting people to see that this isn’t a giveaway, this is a prize. This is the biggest thing happening in my lifetime. When I leave here in 2012, there is unlikely to be a bigger moment in my life, aside from things my kids do. What I’m saying is: ‘This is our moment, figure it out. I can’t figure it out for you. Make sure you know how you’re going to be involved.'” While in the Telegraph, he writes: “With exactly two years to go, our planning is well advanced – venues are a year (or less) away from completion and every day the Olympic Park is getting closer to becoming a fantastic new parkland area. Now it is your turn, as we celebrate two years to go, it is time for you to plan your Games… As we look ahead two years, now is the perfect opportunity to start planning your Games and make sure you are ready to join in with the celebrations.” And The Independent reports: “Five years ago, London began the task of preparing to host from scratch what is in effect 26 world championships squeezed into 16 days. Today marks two years until the opening ceremony of London 2012, and the Games organisers are increasingly confident of delivering ‘the world’s greatest sporting event’ with a balanced budget. This afternoon will see a series of events held at the blossoming Games site in east London to mark the two-year countdown, from Michael Johnson, the four-time Olympic champion, running in the stadium to Sir Chris Hoy testing the velodrome. With a glowing report from the Inter- national Olympic Committee’s latest inspection, the continued successful attraction of big-name sponsors and a smooth build progressing across the 500-acre site, London 2012 appears to have left its early budgetary troubles far behind…”

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