American politics often plays like a bloodsport, but the appearance of BP’s Tony Hayward
before a congressional hearing today has been in a league all of its own. Things were already looking decidedly brutal at the start of the morning session, when Hayward was subjected to a
solid hour of attacks and accusations from the committee’s members before giving his own testimony. But since then we’ve had everything from pictures of oil-coated birds to protests from the crowd.
It has been a compelling, if unenlightening, theatrical event.
For his part, Hayward has been neither convincing nor all that unconvincing. His demeanour is suitably contrite, but his answers have been too evasive to count. Not that the BP chief
exec can really do much anyway. Against a backdrop of one of the biggest ecological – and, increasingly, corporate – disasters of all time, it’s more a matter of when, not if, he
loses his job. In the meantime, he is now, rightly or wrongly, the frontman of this particular tragedy – a tragedy in which so very few of the players are doing themselves any credit.