One man on his own is a nuisance, one man and his mates is an army!” That is the maxim of Mick Smith, founder of the new proactive presence on the streets of Mayfair and the Square Mile.
Before attaining his green badge, Mick had been a Yellow badge holder in the Croydon sector for 13 years and worked minicabs for 17 years before that. He began to notice similarities between the demise of work in the suburbs and what is currently being experienced in Central London suburban drivers, over time, deserting town ranks in favour of train stations and unwittingly handing minicabs a free reign. That induced Mick’s belief to help create taxi occupancy on ranks at all times.
Last January during the mother of all kipper seasons, disenchanted Mick joined Twitter where he soon met like-minded cabbies who desired more involvement in their destiny. Before long 15 - 20 of Mick’s new comrades decided to ‘blitz’ high profile venues in Mayfair, reclaiming taxi ranks that had been overrun by Private Hire and valet parking.
At this point, the moniker Mayfair Mob was coined.
In March, Peter Stringfellow contacted the Mayfair Mob and hastily arranged a meeting involving Deputy Mayor Isabell Dedring, Head of TfL Compliance Steve Burton, MM and Peter Stringfellow.
There were also subsequent meetings with Tessa Jowell MP, Green Party candidate for the next London Mayoral election Sian Berry and Chief Superintendent Matt Bell of TfL Compliance.
Success followed quickly; word got around, more drivers joined and rooms were created on Twitter for instant communications. Hakkasan at Bruton Street even shut down their PH satellite office due to the attentions of the MM. Work was being won back from PH due to constant use of ranks by taxis and also by creating a permanent presence.
The Mayfair Mob are not vigilantes and don't indulge in any illegalities. They are legally proactive and their efforts eventually persuaded the ‘powers that be’ to grant new ranks on Hakkasan and Novikov at Berkeley Street and an agreement to extend the rank at Forge in Cornhill for four taxis.
TfL have now agreed to fund marshals for Novikov and Fodge at weekends.
Other Mayfair Mob initiatives are to communicate with councils, MPs and Mayoral candidates. They are also planning to visit Knowledge schools to enlighten students to the etiquette of our trade and the importance of communication skills.
They also intend becoming involved with police training in regard to cab law.
Ultimately, it’s a numbers game and there is strength in numbers. The more drivers coming on board, the easier the ranks will be to hold and progress to further areas.
Mick, affectionately known as The General, feels that our trade has to adapt to how the game has changed if we are to survive. The key is education for old and new alike. We are a service industry and need to act and look accordingly. Mick responded to my inquiry regarding the ethos of the Mayfair Mob with:
"Doom and gloomers talk the trade down. MM talks our trade up. We don't do negatives and don’t know the word surrender!”
MM Scab Busters meet once a month, (new venue and time to be announced).
In Mick’s own words:
“There's no hierarchy, no egos and no politics. As long as we breathe, the cab trade shall never die.”
When you think the Mayfair Mob have only been in existence for barely 8 months, what they've achieved thus far has been miraculous!