As Nick Davies observed in Flat Earth News, his go-to book on the machinations of the Fourth Estate, “I know of nothing anywhere in the rest of the world’s media which matches the unmitigated spite of an attack from the Daily Mail”. And now Travis Kalanick and his fellow modern-day transportation robber barons at driver and rider matching service Uber are beginning to realise exactly what he meant.
Because today we learnt that the Saturday salvo fired by the Mail was not an isolated occurrence: this morning, their campaign against Uber has been escalated to front page lead status with the headline “Downing St accused of withholding emails about its secret campaign to help online taxi firm … CAMERON AIDE’S UBER ‘COVER-UP’”. The “cover-up” cannot at present be proved - hence the quote marks - but the Mail is getting close.
Once again, the story is not new, but having it get out to an audience of millions certainly is. Underpinning the story, as on Saturday, is the move by London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson to impose some regulatory control on operations like Uber - like ensuring its drivers had a reasonable command of the English language - only to cave in very soon after announcing them.
Bozza’s tone changed almost overnight from complaining that Uber were breaking all sorts of regulations and needed to be brought into line with other private hire operators, to then shrugging his shoulders are excusing his U-Turn by telling that one could not stand in the way of new technology. In the intervening period, Bozza is widely believed to have been leant on by Young Dave and his next door neighbour in Downing Street.
Cameron, though, has since that time gambled once too often, and along with his Uber-supporting pal Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, is no longer running the country. The Mail’s legendarily foul mouthed editor Paul Dacre never really liked Cameron - or Osborne - and now that the latter has exhibited the kind of greed of which even Dacre disapproves by taking on yet another job - pretending to be a newspaper editor - they are both in line for a good kicking.
This the taxi trade understands well, and coming in the wake of recent court setbacks for Uber, on the status of their drivers and failing to overturn new Mayor Sadiq Khan’s move to ensure those drivers demonstrate a decent command of English, know that the tide is turning against Uber, which on top of all that is losing money hand over fist.
Does the Mail’s story have any real substance? Well, yes it does: one of Cameron’s aides claimed in response to an FoI request that there were no emails between his side and TfL to disclose. But when the same request was made to TfL … three emails were disclosed that should have been turned up in the first FoI trawl. Labour MPs are taking the opportunity to pile in on behalf of cabbies. And once more, Rachel Whetstone and her closeness to Cameron and Osborne is under the spotlight.
And, as this attack is backed by a suitably judgmental Daily Mail Comment, we can be sure it has Dacre’s backing. It would surprise no-one if Kalanick himself, and his less than professional past behaviour, was put be under the spotlight next. Get the popcorn in.