Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the last few days, you’re probably aware of the recent banning of the taxi company Uber by Transport for London. Their reasoning was that safety procedures weren’t being met, disallowing their license to be continued. The decision has been polarising to say the least.
While the likes of London Mayor Sadiq Khan and trade unions have been supportive, others have been more critical. Conservative candidate for London Mayor Shaun Bailey and Institute of Economic Affairs representative Kate Andrews are against this decision, all the while groups like Turning Point UK have been critical too.
Despite this, I support the decision of TFL. Why is that?
There a few reasons for this, some more sentimental than others. Let’s start with the sentimental. It’s undoubtedly true that the likes of London has been losing its Britishness over the last few decades now, mainly through its more cosmopolitan outlook on social issues, as well as deliberate policies to change the character of the city, mainly of mass immigration. As such, conserving any part of older London can solely be a good thing; casein point the black cabs. They are a traditional part of London, especially with their USP called ‘The Knowledge’, of which dates back to 1865, and has given generations of working class Londoners (especially cockneys) a good living.
Why should they be sacrificed for the sake of cheaper costs? I appreciate that black cabs can be more expensive, but surely the reliable service of black cabs (not to mention their verified qualifications, something that can’t be said for Uber) is worth it, giving many working class people a good living, especially in a city where they’re constantly being priced out. Former London Mayor commented upon trade union leader Bob Crow’s death that the only well paid people in London these days from the working class are Tube drivers, and surely maintaining other well-paying jobs for those people would be a good thing, no? Given that the inevitable cheaper Uber drivers cut wages for these people, why should it always be a race to the bottom? To embrace the free market? Not good enough.
Despite this, there are more concerning reasons as well. Uber has a notoriously bad track record concerning customer safety. Why is this? Many of its drivers are criminals, and the service some of them provide the kind of horror stories that only such unregulated business can provide. Take for example Temur Shah, who sexually assaulted a 27-year-old passenger. Or Shaken Sabrina, who was attacked by one of these drivers. Or one anonymous story involving a driver offering oral sex to a passenger, and then offered £20 to keep her from reporting him. Or one driver racially assaulting one passenger. The man behind the Buckingham Palace attack was also an Uber driver. Even Uber themselves have had to investigate 2,500 drivers over such behaviour (including sexual assault), which isn’t a good sign.
That’s not even mentioning the hatred that Uber seems to have for regulation of any kind, to the point where they took 14,000 possible customers on dangerous journeys, with 14,000 drivers faking their identity on the Uber app. That alone contributed to TFL’s decision to revoke Uber’s license, but it gets worse. Government ministers have even been critical of this behaviour too.
So if this is such the case, why do many on the right back Uber? It’s more on the problem with the right than anything else. It’s that over the last few decades or so, the centre-right have embraced economic liberalism, in line with Milton Friedman, Frederick Hayek and Ludwig von Mises. It’s what has informed most of the right economically over that era, in particular those of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
While this has undoubtedly led to economic freedom, it has also done a lot of damage to the working class around the world, with many old businesses dying off and wages becoming stagnant. This hatred against protectionism is rather silly, especially as in the case of protecting innocent women from being attacked, a working class trade continuing to thrive and regulations simply being ignored to provide cheap profit, one should morally trump another.
That is why Uber was right to be banned by TFL. At least that’s something good Sadiq Khan can be behind, if not much else.