While driver and rider matching service Uber was getting established in London, putting on thousands of new drivers and behaving, shall we say, creatively when it came to observing Private Hire regulations, there was always the suspicion that the Tory Party, which had so shamelessly courted the taxi trade when they wanted their votes in the 2012 Mayoral Election, was not exactly a disinterested party to the expansion.
Even the accusations of there being a Tory “chumocracy” backing Uber’s rise were never nailed down. But that was then, and this is now: the Tories are now unequivocally the party shilling for Uber. We know this as they have deliberately turned TfL’s decision not to grant the firm a renewal of their licence into a political issue, one where they are using the ban to attack Labour and especially current London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Under the heading “GIVE LONDON A CHOICE”, the Tories tell anyone listening “Sign our petition calling on Sadiq Khan to rethink the Uber ban”, demonstrating their woeful ignorance of reality. As any fule kno, TfL made the decision not to renew Uber’s licence, and Khan was not involved. He merely supported the decision that they made.
But on they go: “While we agree Uber must address safety concerns and that it is important there is a level playing field across the private hire market, we don't believe a blanket ban is the solution … This will only cause massive inconvenience to millions of Londoners, while showing the world that London is closed to business and innovation”.
And how do they reach that conclusion? “We believe Londoners want competition and innovation that provides choice, lower prices and the opportunity for extra income for tens of thousands of people”. What does this really mean? As even the Evening Standard has conceded, Londoners have choice without Uber, and would have more choice if a co-operative app were developed, as I discussed at the time.
There is choice, competition and income generating opportunity already. But what was the one I missed? Ah yes - lower prices! Not for the Tories the inconvenience of having to confront the loss-leading (Uber is shipping hundreds of millions of US Dollars a year), poverty pay for drivers (many earning less than the living wage), and rampant tax avoidance by Uber (VAT not paid in the UK, and very little Corporation Tax either).
No, all the Tories can say is “We back the majority of people who want the taxi trade to have fair competition - not protection - where the rules are upheld fairly on both sides”. Except most Londoners think the ban was right. And to conclude “Once again, Labour are taking it too far and ordinary working people will pay the price for it” is just coming it.
The Tories couldn’t care less about “ordinary working people” - all they want is to get chauffeured around London for next to nothing, and stuff the consequences.
Londoners are, in reality, coming round to the same view the taxi trade had already formed - the capital can get along without Uber and its little Wild West Show.