The usual suspects on the libertarian right were up in arms after Labour’s shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey passed adverse comment on driver and rider matching service Uber, denouncing their business practices as “morally unacceptable”. She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme “I don't like the way they treat their workers”. She was particularly severe on workers’ rights, or in Uber’s case, the lack of them.
The Spectator’s Steerpike column was especially sniffy about Ms Long Bailey’s intervention. The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog sneered “Freedom-Hating Socialism Is Back”, ensuring readers knew “This morning Guido was driven in an Uber”. Not for the Fawkes mob the shame of using the public transport that takes most Londoners to and from work. What would their press pals say, eh?
But all those who had eagerly reported Ms Long Bailey’s remarks were, by complete coincidence you understand, silent yesterday morning when the gloss came off the Uber wagon big style on Brighton’s Grand Parade. Not only was a BMW being used as an Uber car involved in a traffic accident, it was subsequently seized by the Police. It transpired that the driver had been running the vehicle without insurance.
The Brighton Argus had the story. “A BMW driver has had their vehicle seized after a two car crash … Emergency services were called to Grand Parade at 9.45am on Friday to a collision between two cars … A Sussex Police spokeswoman said no-one was injured … One of the vehicles, a BMW, was seized for having no insurance … PC John Winter, of Sussex Police, said the vehicle was being used as an Uber car”.
What the Argus missed was that the BMW had not been licensed in Brighton. This will be familiar to Zelo Street regulars: this blog has already noted how Uber is encouraging drivers from as far afield as Manchester and Liverpool to come to Brighton, and not just for the sea air. The BMW seized yesterday had been licensed by Transport for London. How TfL gave it the OK, despite the lack of valid insurance, is an interesting one.
Thanks to TaxiLeaks
And what is also familiar to Zelo Street readers is that the local taxi trade has caught several Uber drivers visiting Brighton from out of town having to sleep in their vehicles. Billions of US Dollars have been pumped into Uber, yet its drivers make so little money that they are reduced to sleeping in their cars. That much is merely eyebrow-raising - what happened yesterday morning is plain unforgivable.
But there has been no word from the rest of the press, or their hangers-on. No acknowledgement that proper background checks would have picked up on the vehicle having no insurance. No criticism of Uber for not doing its own checks. No admission that having out of town vehicles come to Brighton is a way of circumventing the high standards that local vehicles have to meet - like CCTV in all taxis and minicabs.
Part of the silence is the tacit admission that there is nothing to defend here: Uber has been caught breaking the rules again, and potentially endangering its customers. The shockingly poor standards exhibited and encouraged by Uber are bad enough, but the inability of the press to hold them to account is far worse. I’ll just leave that one there.