Osborne Defends BlackRock’s £500 Million Investment on Standard Front Page

George Osborne has defended his employer BlackRock’s half-a-billion pound investment on the front page of the Evening Standard. In the most glaring conflict of interest since his editorship began, today’s Standard blasts Rebecca Long-Bailey as “out of touch” for criticising Uber, and favourably quotes her own colleagues who support the taxi app. BlackRock, which invested in Uber in 2014, has a stake now worth some £500 million. BlackRock pays Osborne a salary of £600,000 for 48 days work per year.

BlackRock keeps Osborne on retainer and it is in BlackRock’s direct financial interests to see Uber defended, Osborne will no doubt argue that he defends Uber on the Evening Standard front page for liberal reasons. Guido did warn him that as editor he would have to navigate a minefield of conflicted interests when he took the job. This was inevitable…

UPDATE: The first edition of the Standard had no mention of Uber on the front page. Second edition splashed it. Did someone pick up the phone to the editor? 

Freedom-Hating Socialism is Back: Using Uber “Not Morally Acceptable”

This morning Guido was driven in an Uber by a student who liked the work because he could log on whenever he had spare time and whenever he liked. Choice, convenient for buyer and seller. Corbyn’s authoritarian Labour would run them off the road…

May an Analogue Prime Minister in a Digital Age

In the May v May interview in City AM this morning, Theresa May’s answers to Christian May’s quickfire round were revealing:

Hayek or Keynes? “I have one theory which is you have to live within your means.”

Well that is hardly true, is it. May’s manifesto pushed back the never-ending deficit reduction horizon to 2025. 

Black cabs or Uber? “Black cabs are a great institution.”

Safety first as ever from the PM. Oh for the the days of Digital Dave’s backing for forward-thinking, freedom and innovation. 

Coq D’Argent or Simpson’s Tavern? Simpson’s Tavern.” When I point out this is Nigel Farage’s favourite City haunt, the PM changes her mind.

Says it all…

Owen Jones Meets a Unionised Worker

owenjonestweet

You spend your entire adult life defending unionised workers and what do you get to show for it? Last night poor old Owen Jones was nearly knocked off his bike by a dangerous black cab driver, who then wound down the window and told him: “I f***ing love it when you cyclists die”.

jones-tweet-2

By contrast last night Guido took an Uber home in peace, no grief from any self-entitled unionised loudmouth…

Labour’s Nonsensical Plan to Enshrine Uber Ruling

uber-apps

Labour are seeking to enshrine Friday’s hotly-contested ruling that Uber drivers are workers entitled to various benefits from the owners of the app. Shadow Culture minister Louise Haigh has put down an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill to enshrine the ruling, despite it still being subject to an appeal from Uber. Haigh’s amendment potentially affects other companies which use apps in similar ways, meaning thousands of other people would become ’employees’ of the apps they use. For example, self-employed black cab drivers who use Hailo or Gett would become employees of their apps. This is a completely nonsensical proposal from Labour: someone could be logged into Uber, Hailo, Gett and Deliveroo at the same time and be eligible for a minimum wage from all of them…

Khan Caves in to Taxi Unions

khan

Sadiq Khan has caved in to the taxi unions and awarded black cab drivers a staggering £65 million taxpayer subsidy, 100 new taxi ranks across London and the installation of 90 highly expensive rapid chargers, which electric private hire vehicles will not be allowed to use. At the same time the Mayor is forcing new red tape on private hire drivers, including “advanced driving” and written English tests which black cab drivers will not have to take. So how did the taxi unions end up getting everything they wanted?

Khan’s “action plan” contains 27 measures, almost identical to the 28 measures in the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association manifesto. The day before the plan was published the Deputy Mayor for Transport took part in a photo op with the head of the LTDA. Sadiq himself met the head of the LTDA on his hundreth day in office. By contrast Uber has not been consulted on any of the new measures – indeed the Deputy Mayor for Transport has ignored two invitations to meet Uber drivers. It’s notable that the LTDA are the only people outside City Hall and TfL in today’s press release – it’s clear that they have been heavily involved in drawing this up while private hire firms have been shunned. Sadiq promised he would be a Mayor who doesn’t give in to vested interests. Instead he’s capitulated to the taxi unions. Rather than level the playing field by reducing regulations on cabbies, he’s slapped red tape on the innovators who make travelling across the capital so much cheaper and easier for passengers…

New Uber Rival Tries to Get Unions Onside

DAVID ISHAG KARHOO UNIONS

Karhoo is the new challenger to Uber, offering a “marketplace” for existing minicab firms to compete for your lift. Announcing its expansion today in Parliament, a gathering of taxi firm operators, politicians, and even a GMB representative turned up to hear the British CEO Daniel Ishag talk-up the firm’s three to five minute wait time in central London. The GMB private hire drivers’ union is this week challenging Uber over workers’ pay in the Central London Tribunal. Acting as an aggregator for minicabs, Karhoo is seeking to get around all the difficult TfL regulations, letting cab firms sort it out for themselves. Karhoo handing out £25 gift cards for MPs in attendance doesn’t do them any harm, either…

Uber, But For Brexit

whetstone

Isabel Oakeshott’s write up of working the room with Arron Banks at the White House Correspondents Dinner is filled with nuggets. She reveals the Uber app comms chief Rachel Whetstone is backing Brexit:

“Hovering at entrance to the 30,000-square-foot ballroom, we are surprised to bump into David Cameron’s former policy chief Steve Hilton, now US-based. He greets us exuberantly but his wife Rachel Whetstone looks like she’s swallowed a fly. She warms up when Hoey gets her talking about Brexit, saying she supports Out and wishes she could do more for the cause. Hilton keeps his powder dry but I know he was deeply unimpressed by Obama’s intervention in the debate.”

Whetstone’s grandfather Antony Fisher founded the IEA and the ASI. She is also of course married to Steve Hilton and is one of the PM’s closest friends…

TFL Forcing Cabbies to Take Cards

Cabbies

Yesterday Guido had a look at how Action for Cabbies are looking to raise £600,000 to mount a legal challenge to TFL’s plans for mandatory card readers in black cabs. Under the proposals drivers would be forced to install a fixed card reading unit in the passenger compartment of their vehicle, bringing an end to the “Sorry, cash only guv” era. Action for Cabbies don’t seem best pleased by this, and the group’s protest has stood in sharp opposition to the LTDA’s call for a “taxi revolution”, with card readers and WiFi in every hackney carriage. So what’s it all about?

It turns out that the anger of Action for Cabbies isn’t focused on the principle of installing of card readers, they object to TFL’s restrictive proposals for how they should be installed. Most significantly, under the plans cabbies would not be able to pass on card processing fees to passengers as they can currently. This could cost each cab driver a proportion of their income, and is a restriction that virtually no other industry in the UK has to operate under. That is including private hire firms. Guido is for cabs having cards in them, however it doesn’t seem very fair to restrict the choice of cabbies and prevent them passing on costs to the consumer if they want to. Though if they do, it won’t help them compete with Uber…

Cabbies Try to Block Card Machines in Cabs

black cab card machine

The black cabbies’ union has launched a PR offensive to convince Londoners they are willing to modernise, vowing to spark “London’s taxi revolution” with super-fast wifi, credit card payments and ranks outside night tube stops. All sensible, consumer-friendly suggestions from the black cab industry, which needs to innovate to keep up with the competition. 

Unfortunate then that a group of cabbies are also crowdfunding legal action against new TfL rules to install credit card machines in their cars. Despite the fact that there is huge public demand for this service, Action For Cabbies is asking for £300,000 to challenge TfL over the machines in court. Publicly they want to look like modernisers, less publicly they’re challenging the very same modernisations they claim to support. Why could they possibly be so keen to make sure they’re only paid in cash?

Meanwhile leaked emails show the United Cabbies Group is setting up a clandestine attack unit to do in TfL and Uber:

“we can assure you that the team we have chosen have a track record. They work under the radar and do not make a “song and dance” they are very low key but very effective. TfL and Uber won’t see these people coming. Of course they will know that something is happening but they will be on the back foot as to the tactics because they won’t know who we are using and hence what their modus operandi are. We have already paid for a team of investigators to start the background work.”

Not that “under the radar”, it turns out…

Happy ‘I Heart Unions’ Day

Hundreds of unionised Luddites in black cabs bring Millbank, Whitehall and Parliament Square to a stand still this afternoon. Doing Uber’s marketing for them…

Uber Tries To Kill Hailo

App War

Uber have offered black cab drivers the chance to use the ride sharing app for no fee for the first twelve months. It’s a move unlikely to placate all the irate cabbies, 5,000 of which plan to protest in the capital on Wednesday over the deregulation of the industry. But could this “olive branch” actually be part of an attempt to kill off the black cab apps Hailo and Gett?

The most telling part of the press release states:

While both black cab and licensed Uber drivers go through exactly the same background checks, taxi drivers have additional hoops they have to jump through. The Knowledge, for instance, is rightly legendary. But it means memorising 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks – a skill that can take up to four years to master.

In the age of GPS and live traffic apps, is such an onerous test still needed? Could a modern version of The Knowledge that took advantage of new technology and only took a year to complete be just as effective? And when a black cab typically costs more than £40,000 to buy and thousands a year to run, shouldn’t taxi drivers be given a broader choice of cars, including green and hybrid vehicles?

Somehow Guido doesn’t think that Uber suggesting abolishing the knowledge is about altruistically helping out the cabbies and leveling the competitive playing field. It looks like bringing Black cabs onto the app is more an attempt to standardise the qualifications required for Uber drivers and cabbies, and destroy Hailo and Gett in the process. We wait to see how many cabbies will be tempted…

French Cabbies Protest Uber With Smoke Bombs and #JeSuisTaxi Hashtag

Uber Je Suis

Paris taxi drivers have brought the French capital to a halt in another protest against Uber. Some 300 taxi drivers blocked major roads, lit fires and threw smoke bombs during the ugly scenes. Even worse, the Luddites are protesting under the banner “#JeSuisTaxi”:

Such bad taste is reminiscent of London cabbies’ exploitation of the Leytonstone jihadi incident last month. Stay classy.

Victory! TFL Scraps Silly Uber Crackdown

Uber Wait

Victory for progress as TFL climbs down and drops the most punitive regulations imposed on taxi firm Uber. Gone is the dangerous stipulation that customers would have to wait five minutes for a ride. As is the proposal that locations of Uber cars should not be visible in the app to customers. Making private hire vehicles pay the congestion charge and raising minicab license costs is being considered instead. Boris has embraced technological progress, too:

“There were some ideas consulted upon that did not find widespread support and I think are not sensible. They’re trying to turn back the clock on technical progress, we cant disinvent the internet or apps, they’re making things much easier in our city”.

Increasing regulations on Uber was never the solution, relaxing rules for cabbies is the only sensible way to level the playing field…

Taxi Union Weaponises Leytonstone Terror

The anti-progress Licensed Taxi Drivers Association are really angry about the Leytonstone stabbing… because it seems the knifeman may have once been an Uber driver:

Who knew cabbies had such advanced Photoshop skills?

H/T @jimwaterson

UPDATE: The LTDA probably shouldn’t be so pious:

Uber Victory: High Court Rules App Not Illegal

The ruling clarifies that Uber’s smartphone app isn’t breaking the law as it isn’t operating in the same way as the regulated meters used  by black cabs to calculate fares. The cabbies will be furious…

UPDATE: The luddites have already appealed

UPDATE II: Uber have responded

“This is great news for Londoners and a victory for common sense. Now the High Court has ruled in favour of new technology, we hope Transport for London will think again on their bureaucratic proposals for apps like Uber. Compulsory five-minute waits and banning ride-sharing would be bad for riders and drivers. These plans make no sense. That’s why 130,000 people have already signed our petition against these proposals. We hope TfL will listen to Londoners and let Uber keep London moving.”

Uber Appoint Ex-Balls Spad as Head of Comms

Uber have appointed former Ed Balls SpAd Alex Belardinelli as their new Head of Communications for UK and Ireland. Wonder if he turned on surge pricing during the contract negotiations…

Let’s hope their drivers don’t go too far, too fast…

Drunk Tory Delegate Accidentally Takes £311 Uber Back to London

tory uber ride

A Tory delegate woke up in London this morning with an epic conference story. He accidentally took a cross-country Uber ride back to London…

The delegate, who until recently worked as a researcher for a Conservative MP, told Guido the midnight ride was a costly accident:

“At the end of the day, drank too much with friends. Stupid. Got in an uber. And accidentally must have put in my home address. No money left now – thank god I worked over summer!”

Apparently he fell asleep and the driver didn’t wake him up to question the marathon journey home. No word on whether he took his suitcase with him. Lad.

Taxi Lobby Slapped Down on Newsnight

City AM editor Christian May gave the London Taxi Drivers Association’s Steve McNamara a schooling on Newsnight last night:

The cabbies’ spokesman finishing up with a pretty defamtory conspiracy theory. Taxi for Mr McNamara…

London Tories Tell Boris to “Think Again” on Uber

boris taxi

Seven London Tory councillors have written to Boris urging him to “please think again” about Transport for London’s proposed crack down on Uber:

“we are worried by Transport for London’s proposed regulations on Uber. Red tape will hit Londoners who want to get a taxi without paying the higher prices that black cab regulation generates… We are sympathetic to black cab drivers who feel TFL’s existing regulations are onerous.

[…] Read the rest

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Alan Sugar on Jeremy Corbyn:

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