Listening to LBC yesterday, I was interested in a debate that presenter James O' Brien was having, about yet another claim that Uber were taking our trade to the cleaners.
Apparently, although I haven't seen the piece myself, the origins of it came from an article written by seasoned journalist and former MP, Matthew Parris.
The article was titled:
It’s the end of the road if black cabs don’t wise up
By Matthew Parris.
As I say, I haven't read the article myself, but listening to LBC, it appears that Mr Parris reckoned that with Uber around, anybody contemplating years on the Knowledge, must be crazy.
Many journalists would have had an even superior academic education than James O'Brien, but I must say, I have rarely heard anybody in modern life, who is such a wordsmith. O'Brien has a thorough and enviable grip of English Language, and I admire his constant encyclopaedic use of it throughout his programmes.
My only criticism of him, is that on the rare days he finds himself on the back foot of a debate, he will use this honed language skill to intimidate a lesser educated opponent. That said, James is still young, and I wager he will mature into a leading journalist.
One thing I will say about James O'Brien, is that not only is he a great supporter of our profession himself, but he understands perfectly, the criteria we have to adhere to and the process of how we go about being part of London's Finest. I am grateful for that.
However, during his programme today, I feel that he, along with Matthew Parris, were missing the trick.
I phoned the station and tried to get on air, but sadly, time ran out before I could do.
The thing is, there is an enormous amount of hype surrounding this Uber firm. Currently, they appear to be enjoying the notoriety of their set up. They have rubbed officials up the wrong way worldwide now. Despite this and with around 50 million dollars of investment, and an awful big slice of it from Goldmann Sachs, the Uber boardroom are naturally convinced they are on to a good thing.
Apparently, a large proportion of the public, and an ever increasing amount of journalists, are bemused why on earth then, are people still signing up or continuing with the London Knowledge ?
After all, Uber drivers have Sat Navs, don't they ? No need for the old fashioned Knowledge test then ? They (currently) also operate on a "surge price" system, which apparently means that they alter their prices according to market demand.
James O'Brien personally commented that he was having a drink with his wife and friends in a pub in Herne Hill, and when closing time came around all his friends dialled Uber. It appears that Matthew Parris and friends did the same, and were betting on which Uber car arrived first.
The Spectator's Lara Prendergast is on record as saying that Uber is for Londoners, and Black Cabs are for tourists.
Lara continues........"The black cab’s plight is self-made. Technology is increasingly being used to offer customers better, more reliable and cheaper options, and any industry ignores this at its peril. In the battle between iconic and innovative, it’s hard to feel too nostalgic when you’re being offered a better deal. Capitalism is alive on the roads of London – and for a 24-year-old girl trying to get round the city, that’s great news."
Really Lara? Sounds great, doesn't it ? Perfect even ! I'm almost tempted to agree with you and Matthew and you other hacks, but I wager that you may find that it is not such great news after all !
I will tell you why I think you fair weather friends have got it wrong.
First of all, The great London Taxi Trade have been innovative from day one in technology. In fact, we have led the way. We were instrumental in the use of GPRS vehicle locators incorporating computers and satellite.
We also have our own Apps, which do everything that Uber Apps can do.
However, due to Uber's massive financial backing, they have attempted to ride roughsod over established Hackney Carriage Law, which clearly states that Hackney Carriages (ie Black Cabs) are the only service licensed by law to use a taxi meter, which the Uber App certainly mimics.
Now, knowing what vivid imaginations you journalists have from birth, I want you to image a scenario.
Close your eyes. Lay back and relax. Pretend you are relaxed in the back seat of your favourite Uber driver's Prius on your way home, guided by a person who was working in Lidls last week, relying totally on a Tom Tom.
On your way home in this "cheaper option" that you are so chuffed to find yourself in, I want you to imagine that for 6 months, there will be no London Black Cabs in London, whatsoever. Your Uber ideology can really come to the fore now. With 50 million in the bank, expanding the Uber Fleet and depleting Aldi of their entire workforce, should present no problem !
So that's the scenario. Not a Black Cab on the road, and Uber have the lot to themselves. What do you see ?
Let me tell you what you would see. Utter and total meltdown ! Despite their wealth, Uber or any of the other fraudulent, one trick imposters come to that, would never, ever cope!
I will guarantee you that Londoners would definitely not see the London Taxi Trade as vehicles for tourists then !
Furthermore, I wager London Taxi Drivers would be begged to come back with a financial incentive !
I'm sure you are all aware of how stressful it is to be going to a job interview, a court appearance, a funeral, a christening, etc ?
How much more would your blood pressure rise if the person who picked you up had not the faintest idea of where he was driving, other than listening to a navigation app that had not updated?
Five to Six years learning London isn't demanded by my professional trade for nothing.
It costs about £100 to have a white filling in your teeth done. It takes the dentist doing it 6 years to train and become proficient enough to carry out the procedure.
If I got the backing of Merryl Lynch to do these fillings for 30 quid each, and had a dental surgery on every street corner in London and taking the instruction from a DVD on a laptop, would you let me do yours, Lara?
How about you Matthew ?
After all, going on the 24 year old young girl's advice that ignoring the cheaper option is perilous for industry, I expect Lara to be first in the queue for her 30 quid filling, as I routed around in her mouth whilst watching the DVD for the procedure.
You can awake now. It was just a dream ! Luckily for you journalists, there are indeed ample black cabs in London. And even more fortunate for you, each and every one of my colleagues have been thoroughly tested on millions of roads, streets, back doubles, parks, synagogues, hospitals, pubs, clubs and newspaper offices.
Notwithstanding, our meters are meticulously governed by HMRC and Transport For London. We are medically fit, with an enhanced Criminal Records check. Our vehicles are inspected to the highest standards TWICE a year, insured to platinum standards and our integrity and judgement tested regularly.
Don't kid yourself. Our Iconic trade is as popular, loved and respected more today than it ever was before. Sure we have had our problems, what industry or profession hasn't ?
The Law Commissioners, Hendy, TFL, and all the other knockers may very well underestimate us and make the playing field uneven.
But I will bet my mortgage on it, that way before the festive season kicks in at any minute now, Matthew Parris's and Lara Prendergast's little mitts will be stuck up in the cold night air in our capital, just praying that the next iconic yellow light, stops for them.
And that goes for millions of other Londoners too. The London Taxi Trade hasn't lasted almost 400 years due to luck. Our training is steadfast, our service is exemplary and we are here to stay !
By the way, I understand there's a cheap dentist in the city somewhere, doing fillings for a 15 quid ! Be warned though, the white wears off and the silver shows through within a fortnight !
Know what I mean ?
8829 Semtex. (Licensed, Qualified And Proud To Be Professional)