Driver and rider matching service Uber has found recently that doing business in London is becoming more testing: new Mayor Sadiq Khan is proving rather less easy to manipulate than his all too occasional predecessor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, many drivers are becoming unhappy at having rate cuts imposed on them, there is an upcoming court case on payment of VAT to contend with - and now the Mail is on their case.
That today’s Mail hatchet job on Uber is serious can be seen by taking one look at the name on the by-line: Guy Adams is the go-to hack when the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre wants to dole out the paper’s equivalent of a punishment beating, or what The Italian Job’s mastermind Mr Bridger would have called “A good going over”. So why has the Mail suddenly decided that Uber is not their kind of company?
Ah well. The principal villains targeted in Adams’ article tell you why: Dacre never really liked now former PM David Cameron, and when he found that Young Dave had approached Viscount Rothermere - Dacre’s ultimate boss - in an attempt to have him fired, the dislike turned to full-on detestation. Dave’s former next door Downing Street neighbour, the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, is also involved - and Dacre does not approve of his money-grubbing exploits.
An absolute Muppet. And Elmo from Sesame Street
Cameron and Osborne were pals with one Rachel Whetstone, wife of Dave’s now former advisor Steve Hilton. Dacre is not impressed with Hilton either. Ms Whetstone had just gone to work for Uber when it is widely believed that Cameron and Osborne - plus, it seems, Sajid Javid, Oliver Letwin and others - leaned on Bozza to lay off Uber.
The suppression of Bozza’s moves to get some proper regulation and control into the private hire sector in London is well known within City Hall and the taxi trade. The belief remains that Cameron and Osborne were acting like Uber’s own lobbyists. The difference today is that everyone else is now becoming aware of this scandal; sometimes the Mail can perform a useful function. If only it happened more often.
What everyone else is also learning is that Black Rock, where Osborne has an advisory role, has a total stake in Uber of around £500 million. But more significantly, Adams makes sure Daily Mail readers know that Uber pays UK tax at a rate of around 1%, with the company structured so that punters’ money is paid over to a company in the Netherlands, all helping to avoid paying that taxman what the little people have to.
And it gets a lot worse: Zelo Street can reveal that the Mail has seen much more damning evidence of Uber misbehaviour that has been revealed in Adams’ article. So if Cameron, Osborne, Bozza, Hilton and Ms Whetstone think that this is just going to be one harrumphing broadside from the Vagina Monologue, from which they can dust themselves down and move on, they have another think coming.
The supremacy of Uber in London was for a time, but not for all time.