All of Britain will pay if BP is hammered by the Americans

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Opinion Digest: the Deepwater aftermath, those topless photos and the search for ET

LAST UPDATED AT 13:19 ON Mon 17 Sep 2012

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IF BP IS HURT, BRITAIN IS HURT
BORIS JOHNSON ON THE THREAT TO BP
It is time to speak up for BP, says Boris Johnson in The Daily Telegraph. The oil giant has already paid a heavy price for the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe – paying out $7.8bn in compensation and $7.5bn in further clean-up costs. There is now a risk that the punishment will get out of hand with a federal US court proposing to hit BP with "an absolute crippler of a fine" — possibly in the region of $40 billion. Many UK pension funds have traditionally invested in the company, and if its shares go down it will be bad news for UK pensioners and "a tremendous thwack on the mazzard for UK plc". BP got it utterly and tragically wrong with Deepwater and must pay a price – but it needs to be a fair and balanced price.

PRIVACY LAWS WON'T HOLD BACK THIS TIDE
MELANIE PHILLIPS ON THOSE TOPLESS PHOTOS
The topless pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge represent a wake-up call not just to the Royal Family but to everyone, says Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail. That's because it's now "a media Wild West out there". William is understandably concerned that his wife should not be hounded as he believes his mother to have been. "It is right for the couple to try to prevent history repeating itself by drawing the firmest possible line in the sand." But will the legal case they are pursuing in Paris turn out to be merely a gesture which will be washed away with the tide? "The royals are seeking to curb the excesses of an anarchic, global media. And, frankly, they have as much chance of doing that as did Canute in attempting to hold back the waves."

WE MIGHT SOON KNOW IF WE ARE NOT ALONE
MARTIN REES ON ALIENS
In the coming decades we may learn whether there is alien life on planets outside our solar system, writes Astronomer Royal Martin Rees in The Guardian. In the 2020s, European astronomers hope to complete, in Chile, a telescope "powerful enough to analyse the faint light from planets orbiting other stars with enough precision to infer whether they harbour life". We know too little about how life began on Earth to be confident about whether it will be found elsewhere. "It may have involved a fluke so rare that it happened only once in the entire galaxy. On the other hand, it may have been almost inevitable." The great physicist Enrico Fermi famously argued that advanced life must be rare, since many stars are a billion years older than our sun. Why, therefore, haven't aliens already come here? "There is substance to this argument. However, we mustn't be too anthropomorphic." Some advanced life could be unimaginably different from us. Others could be living contemplative lives deep under some planetary ocean, doing nothing to reveal their presence. · 

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