Bob bob bobbing along

When you work in 80 different countries as diverse as Angola, Egypt, Iraq and Mozambique, Mexico, Brasil, Azerbaijan, Russia and Indonesia, it’s easy to see why you’d be worried about a change of regime in Aberdeen.

If your company operates in places where there are dictators, constant changes of government, mass riots, political trials, extra-judicial killings, no free media, mass poverty, public corruption, no rule of law and drug cartels running whole towns and beheading the police, it’s understandable that the prospect of paying less corporation tax to do business in Scotland would freak you. But that’s the view of the fearless buccaneering American go-getter Bob Dudley of BP. Things could get difficult for Bob as he dodges into doorways on Union Street afraid of what calamity independent Scots might visit on him and his company.

And he’s right to be concerned. Remember this is the man who had to sneak out of Russia with unsmiling oligarchs on his tail when a joint venture went wrong. In 2003, he was in business with four Russian billionaire oligarchs. The Russians wanted more bang for their buck and the venture became a fierce power struggle, with BP executives alleging harassment by both the oligarchs and the Russian government. Dudley was sweeping his office for bugs and taking phone calls on his balcony to avoid being recorded. In July 2008, Dudley fled. His visa was set to expire, and it seemed that the Russians weren’t keen on renewing. BP was so paranoid at the time that they didn’t announce his departure until he was airborne, and refused to disclose his whereabouts. Dudley continued to run the company from his secret location. A Russian court banned Dudley from holding office in the country for two years.

Now that is exactly what I suspect Salmond plans. As soon as we’re independent he’ll muscle in on BP profits, demanding more and bugging Bob’s office and getting Aberdonians to spy on him. No wonder brave Bob is a worried man. Russia is nothing compared to the cold shoulder in Aberdeen where even the seagulls attack to order.

And let’s not forget a genuine tragedy afflicting BP which is, how can I put this, unlikely to occur in the Forties Field… the Amenas gas plant in Algeria was attacked last January by Al-qaeda and four members of staff and 36 colleagues from partners and contractor companies murdered among them two Scots Carson Bilsland of Bridge of Cally and Kenneth Whiteside of Glenrothes.  Doesn’t it ring hollow to you – and shouldn’t it do so to Dudley – for him to talk of uncertainties in Aberdeen and the North Sea when in recent times his company has confronted real, chilling difficulties which cost the lives of his own people in other much more challenging countries?

But Bob of course didn’t really mean that. He was playing politics and when asked at a press briefing about difficulties said he thought that “office costs” would go up. What is he talking about? Will Muriel in accounts demand a pay rise now she’s independent, will the price of rowies go up or will the cleaners demand more time off to go to Pittodrie now that Aberdeen are back up the SPFL? We are not told. But what we are told by Bob in his more lucid chief executive mode is this.

“BP has been given the go-ahead to develop the second phase of the massive Clair Field in the Atlantic frontier west of Shetland as part of a £10bn investment by BP and its partners over the next five years. The latest surveys of the 20-mile long field have also confirmed seven billion barrels of oil equivalent are in the giant reservoir, making it the UK’s largest hydrocarbon resource. Global energy demand is going up, and the world will need 16 million barrels per day more in 2030 than today.”

So that looks like the end of the North Sea adventure for BP then. That investment and his remarks make clear there is no future in Scotland….

No, hang on. Here is Bob again reported by an industry journal. A third phase of the Clair Ridge is mooted (on the back of the £4.5b investment), the Quad 204 project to replace equipment at the Schiehallion field west of Shetland was also significant and BP confirmed plans to bring the Kinnoull field north-east of Aberdeen into production this year.

So what exactly is this prince of businessmen saying? Is he threatening to pull out of the North Sea? Definitely not. But you have to say that his unclear remarks hinting at big decisions ahead after a Yes vote are likely to spook investors who have thus far been reassured by most major businesses and investment financiers that independence offers no immediate threat.

Or perhaps the same businesses and financiers know full well that he is playing a political game which has absolutely no meaning whatsoever for the company and its operations. Indeed, the offer from independence is lower corporation tax and guaranteed industry consultations before any tax changes – to avoid uncertainty.

And where has uncertainty come from previously? Here is a quote from Douglas Fraser, Economy Editor at BBC Scotland: Oil and Gas UK, representing the sector links the sharp drop in production over the past couple of years to tax raids by Gordon Brown last decade and by George Osborne in 2011. Care to comment, Bob?

In his BBC interview Dudley named two other areas of concerns apart from “office costs”. He was worried about currency. There are two replies to this. First, the Scottish government has never wavered throughout the referendum campaign from its view that it will use sterling. The British have refused to rule it out, although they could. Or they could say it is likely. Either way, this is London’s call and Bob has a direct line to Number 11 so why doesn’t he use it and end his uncertainty? Second, I thought oil transactions were conducted in dollars. I hear there is a move to change that but if it happens it would be by going into the euro (much maligned in the UK) certainly not using sterling. Does Bob really understand his own business?

Then he is worried about EU membership…do you feel like screaming at this imbecilic nonsense? Brussels will only clear it up if asked by London and London refuse to ask – ergo, Bob – demand London clears it up…And if you’re so worried about EU membership what have you said to Cameron about his referendum plan?

Can a man in charge of one of the world’s biggest companies really be so dim-witted about areas which he himself says are crucial to his business? Eh, yes, he can.

He seriously infuriated the waiting oil industry community in Houston at the annual CERAweek conference by failing to read their mood and brushing aside the Deepwater Horizon issue for which the company is on trial in New Orleans. Eleven men died and millions of tons of oil polluted the Bay of Mexico in the BP spill and for which the company is paying out billions in compensation, hitting their profits today. One report said: “He canceled his post-speech press conference, likely because he didn’t want to be asked about the likelihood of settling with the Department of Justice. And in his speech he neglected to speak much at all about the changes that he has wrought during his 2.5 years at the helm of BP. This is too bad, because what the gathered suits would really like to hear from Dudley is a litany of reasons to believe that BP is back, solid, secure, safe.”

So there he goes again…avoiding the key point and running away. When asked to be specific about independence in Scotland he declared himself “against Scotland drifting away”.  Does he know something about geology we don’t? Or does he read into Salmond’s statements as an oil economist anxious to work with the industry to secure its future profits and help his country that he somehow is going to become less interested in Scotland’s North Sea bonanza? The sad truth for Dudley is that if a politician had made such weak, unsubstantiated statements they would have been laughed at. But because he carries the mantle of corporate power he is revered and lauded for his courage. Well, not in my house. And I’m not sure how many oil people in Aberdeen will welcome unhelpful vague innuendo about their future.

And here’s a thought to ponder. Why DID he voice those “personal views” yesterday? Try this virtual conversation between a BBC business correspondent and BP’s media man.

BBC: Profits down 30 per cent? Doesn’t look good.

BP: All because of Deepwater Horizon.

BBC: Ah yes, how is the trial and payment of billions in compensation going?

BP: We’d rather avoid that. Can I suggest you ask him a question about independence. He might have something to say.

BBC: Righto! Thanks.

And what is everyone talking about today? What was wall-to-wall on television news? Did you hear that profits were down….or did you hear concerns about independence? Isn’t it interesting just how docile and compliant our media is when a story that fits their agenda is laid before them. And doesn’t it partly explain the imbalance in coverage by the broadcasters…all No has to do is say the world Fear and all intelligence and scrutiny evaporates from our journalists who seem unable to ask the most basic questions. They fall down in front of this guy in gratitude and take him at face value, do as they are commanded, follow his agenda, and are satisfied that journalism has been served. Surely the job is to report what he says and then analyse what he is saying and why is he saying it?

Normally when a businessman strays into politics a correspondent’s antenna would twitch. At the very least he would ask if this was what shareholders expected of him and doesn’t preferring one side over another alienate a market?

I realized overnight why that didn’t happen here. It is because what Bob Dudley was saying fits the bias and agenda of the journalists. Their mindset is that independence is silly, dangerous, anti-English and disruptive of business and here is someone in authority backing up their prejudices. It isn’t that Dudley shouldn’t say it, it’s that the journalists forget their primary duty when reporting it. The coverage today lacked balance but worse, it lacked basic questioning journalism and is turning our debate into Punch and Judy…he says something, she hits him over he head.

This moronic journalism came up last night at the launch of Murray Pittock’s revised book Scotland – the Road to Independence? at Blackwell’s in Edinburgh. There is a growing sense that the combination of outrageous, insensitive, dismissive messages from London government and Labour, the unremitting dependency offensive of No and the parroting of all this by an increasingly mistrusted media is slowly backfiring. It is reaching the end of its worth and is turning in on itself. Nor am I sure that the media is right in assuming that the public is intimidated any more by the garlanded statements of businessmen. The banking crisis destroyed the last vestiges of respect for the corporate elite as moral leaders as surely as the expenses scandal did for Westminster politicos.  Mr Dudley may be misjudging the Scots, just as he did those Russians, the Texas oilmen and the bereaved families of his dead workers.

(My contributor Mac provides this illuminating quote from oor Boab on just how worried he is about political change. .. At the height of the Libyan civil war in 2011. “The Libyan crisis has not disrupted any of our businesses at any point so far. Our activities are far away from any of the troubled areas, but time will tell. BP is committed to improving the business in Libya regardless of the political situation”.

Of course if Alex Salmond is in charge, we’re out of here…!

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44 thoughts on “Bob bob bobbing along

  1. Brilliant response Derek. Thank you

  2. Excellent stuff as usual Derek.

  3. When journalist start peddling what is essentially state propaganda serious questions arise about the “free” press.
    A free press is one of the corner stones of any democracy but what we are seeing from the London based media (and the Scottish variety) is a concerted effort to deny Scots that very right.
    You expect politicians and their friends like Bob to make partisan statements but when this is not exposed by any of the media (except your good self and a few others)
    then democracy is under threat.
    Since Thatcher,the London establishment has always gone for quick fixes and prefer to kick the can down the road whenever possible.
    In this case,they are prepared to damage the longer term need fortrue democracy in Scotland in order to hang onto Scotland’s resources (the few million mainly Labour supporting voters are of no interest to them).
    People of the world,this is what happens when you get between the London establishment and it’s greed/need for your resources.
    Many in the Arab world know this only too well.
    Thanks Derek,really good.

  4. Excellent piece Derek it did cross my mind that Brent crude is always priced in dollars and I did think of the disaster in the USA and you have explained that in detail Thanks

  5. Brilliant piece, Derek. Now we’re walking on air despite the dreary weather today!

  6. Did the BBC ask BP for the raw data before publishing the or broadcasting the story?

  7. My goodness no wonder corporate Britain is reticent about giving its views on Scottish separation.

    • Err, it didn’t really. BP said they had ‘concerns’ – a perfectly natural state for any business to take and certainly not the exaggerated panic that it’s taken to mean from the unionist press.

      Bob Dudley gave his opinion that the UK should stick together in a personal capacity. He says it quite clearly.

      As for the rest of corporate Britain, I hear the CBI rant on against Independence (although not recently) and on the other side I hear the pro-Independence Business for Scotland members (all 1270 of them) favour Independence.

      Plenty of business people have had their say, many probably aren’t bothered as Independence won’t affect their business. Once again what we see from the unionists is that of you haven’t spoken up yet, you must be frightened and against Independence. Let’s count the ‘Don’t Knows’ as ‘No’s’ is what is being suggested here by Falkirk.

      I realise I’m taking my life in my hands replying to Grahamski, God knows if he takes the huff he might sign us all up as members of the Labour Party without our consent.

      • Roibert a Briuis

        OH NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO he cant – have you not seen that this is IMPOSSIBLE unless he has your CC details ANOTHER wee thing (LIE from the LIEBOUR Party) I ‘think’ it was the REV STU who tried to sign up Call me Dave and failed miserably

    • Aye, cause they constantly talking pish. Not having to listen or care what corporate “Britain” (BP are an international company, majority owned by US corporations, and the person in question who is speaking is an American) says is one of the main points of voting Yes for me.

      I dare say he’ll be looking mainly at the fawning reception he’s received for his comments from every single part of the mainstream media in the UK and thinking “job well done”, rather than feeling slighted at blogs which disagree with him btw. Is that why they’re feared to comment? Because their word will just be accepted rather than questioned by a pliant media who think their role in this debate is not to question anything said or anyone who is on the side of the political establishment in the UK who are all saying don’t vote yes?

    • …because they’ll be found out, Grahamski, is that what you mean? One wee blog against the combined might of every newspaper and broadcaster in the land…poor poor Bob.

    • cynicalHighlander

      Big bowl of British Flakes for breakfast today was it?

  8. The guy was clearly parroting what he was fed, and by doing so, surely damages his credibility. On a serious note, there appears now to be a move, intimated at Scottish Questions, that big business should ”advise” their employees of the dangers of voting YES. There is so much nasty NO stuff going on, and being ignored by our media, that I fear for Scotland if there is a NO vote. There are many angry people out there who know what the media are doing and feel powerless, and its to their credit that they soldier on with the cause.
    Don’t know if you have any influential media contacts outwith these shores Derek, or if anyone knows of any UN type organisation who could take an interest, as something must be done, as there could be discontent, sooner or later, and we know which side would love that!

  9. Excellent information their Derek, I had forgotten about Dudley’s exploits in Russia.

    Many of the points brought up here by Derek were also raised by Ivan McKee on the BBC News Channel last night in an interview.

    For those that haven’t seen it, it’s available on the Business for Scotland website over here:

    http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/ivan-mckee-bbc-news-surprises-interviewer-with-size-of-bizforscotland-membership/

    Gordon, Ivan and the team over at Business for Scotland are proving themselves to be a great asset for the Yes campaign, I can’t recommend them enough.

  10. Derek, you use the term “journalists” throughout this post. In view of their actions and your justified critique of their lack of any apparent analytical skills, should you not enclose the word journalists in inverted commas to distinguish them from the genuine article? As a matter of interest, from your own background you must know many of these “journalists” especially at BBC Scotland. Are they all really as incompetent and unprofessional as their actions would suggest? If not, then the only conclusion is that their actions are deliberate and hence constitute interference in the political process of the Referendum. Such interference could be considered inappropriate not to say potentially criminal.

  11. When I heard his comments about GREAT Britain, he appeared to be a spokesman for Better Together. I am getting more disturbed by the lack of proper scrutiny by our media but can’t wait each day to get your analysis. It reassures me that there are some who understand the manipulation that is going on. Well done.

  12. If BP and other London Based operatives are going to take an anti Scottish line post independence (pigs might fly if there is even a whiff of money to be made) why don’t we start to make noises about a possible Currency Union with Norway. An independent Scotland would be a far closer match to our Scandinavian nieghbour and even if it didn’t happen think how strong a bargaining chip it would be in the poker game of post independence negotiations with the Former UK, EU and multi-nationals like BP

  13. Grahamski,Corporate Britain reticent! That will be a first, and surely not because we Scots might challenge corporate Britain’s expressed views? As Derek clearly writes, CEO Dudley was indulging in paper thin waffle at the behest of the Establishment, corporate Britain if you prefer.
    Beyond the clutches of corporate Britain, Putin and others declined the Establishment’s invitation, despatched by “our” foreign embassies, to indulge in decrying Scotland.
    Bob Dudley, from the Land of the Free, sadly is held in corporate Britain’s clutches.

  14. Excellent response. BP will hate it. Well done.

  15. Absolutely right that all this constant barrage of bad news stories is not working now. I hear people all the time now showing scepticism at reports. A few weeks ago it all felt overwheming, but last two weeks in particular have changed and folk are talking of the future and it’s possibilities!

    • I’d say scepticism is more prevalent towards the mindlessly optimistic promises from the Yes camp, who insist that the best possible outcome will happen every time.

  16. Excellent.

    If BP don’t want the profits, plenty of others do.

  17. I am presently at our condo in NW Florida in the final few weeks of our 3.5 month winter stay here. We have our beach front condo in a rental programme for the other 8.5 months of the year. Last year BP sent me a cheque for $25,000 to settle a rental income loss claim for years 2010 / 2011 and as a final settlement against any future losses directly related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. Presently, the BP brand name stinks worse than dog excrement on the sole of one’s shoes for most people here in the US Gulf States. Is it just possible that Mr.Dudley is hoping for a lower level of oversight of BP’s North Sea activities from his London chums than from an Independent Scottish Government?

  18. When at the EBC, Wonder if BOB dropped into have a drink with Baron Patten of Barnes, chairman of the EBC TRUST. ex minister in THatchers government, poll tax minister, ENTWISTLE pay off, then again Ibelieve LORD PATTEN is a paid advisor to BP, along with Baron Robertson of Port Ellon. OK I’m just a thick jock tell me any old shit and I’ll believe it. Tarathenoo

  19. Unbelievable. BP boss’s personal view on independence leads UK and Scottish news all day, including the lead item on BBC’s News at Ten. Dear oh dear, they must really be getting rattled if they’re leading with this bottom-of-the-barrel stuff.

    And even if I wasn’t a Yes supporter, I’d be getting really fucked off by now by this relentless too stupid / too poor / too wee stuff every single day. Only today Caroline Flint popped up on GMS to say that if we ‘chose to leave’ they’d, er, buy their electricity from France, so there!

    So good stuff again Derek. He’s a guy that deserved a kicking for his stupid comments. Mind you, can’t believe anyone took a blind bit of notice anyway, except the MSM of course.

  20. Here is an interesting quote, that has surfaced on other forums, by Bob Dudley that was made at the height of the Libyan civil war in 2011.

    “The Libyan crisis has not disrupted any of our businesses at any point so far. Our activities are far away from any of the troubled areas, but time will tell. BP is committed to improving the business in Libya regardless of the political situation”.

    BP’s commitment never flinched during a bloody and murderous Libyan civil war, but it now raises concerns about Scottish independence.

  21. Just back from the wilds and read the blog – brilliant ! Didn’t know this stuff about Dudley – sounds a bit of a car crash waiting to happen. Saw him on TV – is he also related to Donald Trump? quite a resemblance don’t you think? and he seems to have the same subtlety about him?

  22. BBC Scotland no longer report the news they just make up what suits their agenda

  23. I’m with the Lord Robertson of Glenbuck Cherry Pickers asked him to do Better Together a favour angle. All part of the UK government misuse of UK resources (FO / Ambassadorial briefings against Scottish Independence, UK Government scare documents, visits by Tory ministers to the Scottish sticks to speak to Tories about how dangerous independence is, Ian Davidson’s Scare Affairs Committee etc.) scheme to stop Scots voting ‘yes’.

  24. Ah, the fear of being approached on a dark, rainy Aberdonian night, by a shadowy figure in a Gannnex raincoat (do you still get them?), a husky voice whispers in his ear, “Fit like Boab?”

  25. Murray McCallum

    Dud Bobley is on the board of Rosneft http://www.rosneft.com/printable/about/board/

    After falling out with the wicked Russian oligarchs he sought the sanctuary of Putin’s state owned oil firm, Rosneft. BP have almost a 20% stake in Rosneft.

    I remember looking at the Rosneft board about a year ago. They have tidied it up a bit now. There used to be former senior Soviet KGB and military officers on the board. I guess Dud finds these folks nice and cuddly and reliable.

    I await the next publication of the honours lists.

  26. Excellent yet again Derek, your message shall be carried forth, every day I’m in different houses and every day I wear my YES badge and every day I tell the people what is ACTUALLY happening and where to get that info for themselves ( I’m a chimney sweep by the way , not a burglar that’s why I’m in different houses ) Keep up the good work and I’ll keep spreading the gospel !

  27. The bold Mags Curren has now entered the fray by raising ‘concerns’ at fmqs about nasty folk ‘insulting and intimidating’ poor wee Mr Dudley for ‘raising concerns’ about indyref.

    Surely she should be more concerned about the difficulties facing her constituents in the face of the austerity cuts.

  28. Thanks Derek for reminding us about how journalists should interview people like Bob Dudley which shows that Brian Taylor wasn’t doing his job last night.

  29. Dudley should be getting his peerage any day soon for services rendered to Project Fear.

    His tenure at BP has been a disaster for the company as time will show.

    By the way employees of BP (and Dudley is an employee) are prohibited by their conditions of employment for making politically sensitive statements.

    • Perhaps a deluge of complaints need to wing their way to the BP board, along with a request, that since one employee has been blatantly allowed to contravene this condition, the rest of the staff should also be allowed, without repercussions, to state their views publicly.

  30. Excellent article Derek. Can you get on ‘Newsnight Scotland’ as their news satirist…. would that not lighten up those dreich, self aggrandising programmes of doom and gloom passed of as critical TV journalism? Oops sorry forgot, here I go again thinking the BBC were a legit organisation

  31. @ Liz – My the Establishment really have circled their wagons. and there’s Mags Curran tearing a strip off her petticoat to bandage poor Bod Dudley’s wounds then picking up his rifle and firing back at her nation’s people.

  32. Here’s a CNBC video of him making his comments on his commitment to that lovely, safe wee place Libya. May take a wee while to load and you have to watch an advert first but the Libya comments start at about 1m 30s in.
    http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=1807661474&play=1%3Cbr%20/%3E

  33. Derek

    Oil , Money and Politics

    Don’t shoot the messenger , he’s only delivering the message and we can be relatively sure that BD was fully briefed and his specific use of “uncertainties” pre approved . There is nothing whatsoever in the BP 2012 Annual Report and Accounts and subsequent Quarterly reports which might suggest BP may have reservations over any operational aspect of their North Sea operation and which merited attention by shareholders .

    His intervention at this particular stage of the Indy debate is surely being driven at the behest of Westminster.
    Whenever oil is discussed it is always in the context of money and politics ; and this Conservative Government, through their continuing appointment of NEDS , has ensured that they are extremely close to the money men , North Sea Oil and BP.

    The chief fixer and head NED is the Sun God , Lord Browne of Madingley formerly adviser to Tony Blair and of course ex CEO of BP . His current interests seem to be centred on Riverside Holdings LLC who have significant investments in UK fracking with Cuadrilla and North Sea Oil with Aberdeen based Fairfeld Energy.
    Then we have, in no particular order :
    Gerry Grimstone ,chairman of Standard Life who are a top 20 investor in BP with a not insignificant share holding of some 1% .
    Sam Laidlaw, chairman Centrica , he cut his teeth in North Sea Oil with Amareda Hess . He incidentally is the son of Sir Christopher Laidlaw former chairman of BP. Centrica have now jumped into UK fracking through a partnership with Cuadrilla.
    Ian Barlow , former partner at KMPG , and since his retirement a sometime adviser to the oil industry.
    John Manzoni , is the latest recruit to the Sun Kings growing Empire within Government . Manzoni is well acquainted with Lord Browne as he is a BP veteran and until last summer was CEO of Talisman Energy (formerly BP Canada) .

    These are all powerful , successful and knowledgeable men working at the heart of Government. It would be naive to imagine that Government could not harness their collective knowledge and contacts in order to suggest BP became involved in the referendum debate by raising the somewhat spurious grounds of future “uncertainties” presented by an Independent Scotland .

    Oil , money and politics has always been both a holy trinity and a dirty game . Nothing changes .

  34. He’s a dimwit and he shows exactly the kind of people who reach the top in USA and UK businesses today, ie the sycophants, brown nosers, bend overs and back scratchers. Intellect and knowledge hardly come into it.
    From the minute he opened his silly mouth his whole statement was fizzling out simply because he opened up the door to immediate criticism of his views to Business for Scotland on BBCtv, No one with brains in Scotland believes a thing the BritNatz and its lickspittles say. One could see that easily from the damage limitation exercises being engaged in by the NO-Men today. But of course poor Johann isn’t bright enough to know that, and today she jumped into the deep end at FMQ without her lifebelt as usual.

  35. […] all of it vague and unspecific. His remarks prompted rebuttal from commentators as diverse as Derek Bateman and Alex Massie.  No matter, his intervention captivated the mainstream media: here was a big man, […]

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