Why Hayward needs to go and Megrahi needs to die
The Mole: The BP saga won’t be resolved until these two men have left the stage
David Cameron did his best to deal with the BP fallout in Washington yesterday - both the Gulf of Mexico spillage and the persistent claims that BP lobbied for the Lockerbie bomber's release - but there is a growing feeling that two things need to happen before Britain and America can move on.
Tony Hayward, the oil group's beleaguered chief executive, needs to go. And, with all due respect to his family and friends, the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, needs to die.
There is growing speculation that the first of these potential departures is on the cards. The Times reports today that sources close to BP say he is expected to leave in late August or September and his exit is likely to be linked to a new strategy for the group - dubbed Future BP - to fend off a buyout by either ExxonMobil or Royal Dutch Shell.
By then, the Macondo well should have been permanently sealed, if not forgotten.
There is a ready-made inside candidate for the job of CEO in Robert Dudley, BP's American managing director who, as The First Post reported, took over responsibility from Hayward last month for the leak clean-up and compensation programme. (Since when, incidentally, we have barely heard from him: being a smart boss, he's let Doug Suttles, the company's chief operating officer for exploration and production, become the new 'face' of the Gulf fiasco.)
As for the suspicions of a Lockerbie-BP scandal, the four US senators got their meeting with Cameron yesterday and came out of it apparently pleased to have been able to vent their feelings.
Cameron stuck to his now well-worn line - that the Scots made a wrong decision in releasing Megrahi on compassionate grounds last autumn, but that there was no evidence that BP lobbied for his release in order to facilitate a Libyan oil deal.
The PM said he had asked Sir Gus O'Donnell to trawl through all the relevant Labour Cabinet papers to see what else could be published regarding any communications between London and Edinburgh on Megrahi's release, but he denied the senators their request for a full inquiry, saying there was no need for an expensive inquiry to tell him what he already knew - that the release was a mistake.
Once again, Hayward is inextricably linked to the story, it being his signature on BP's the $900m exploration deal with the Libyans. It's another good reason for BP to let their jinxed CEO go.
But nothing will stop the nagging questions over Megrahi's release like his own departure from the scene. It was the report earlier this month that the cancer specialist Karol Sikora was "embarrassed" to find Megrahi still alive nearly a year on, having given him three months to live, that precipitated the US senators' demands for answers. Only later did they fall on the BP angle.
Among the welter of Lockerbie-BP reports in recent days, one in the Herald on July 14 was mainly overlooked: sources in Libya told the paper that Megrahi's prostate cancer had failed to respond to chemotherapy and he was now receiving only palliative care.
His health had worsened to the point where "a cold could finish him off".
For David Cameron, for Kenny MacAskill - the Scottish justice minister being vilified left, right and centre for having freed Megrahi - and for Bob Dudley or whoever takes over at BP, that cold cannot come soon enough. ·
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