The London Black Cab Trade are very lucky to have some wonderful men and women in their ranks. Pardon the pun ! Seriously though, we are an extraordinary bunch of human beings, with some extraordinary talent too. Indeed, our very own Fred Housego even managed to scoop the winning Mastermind trophy some years ago, just an example of what achievements some of London's finest can aspire to.
Dave Davies, is one of these people. Dave is a very passionate, committed and intelligent ally of our trade, and I have an immense amount of respect for him, and love him to bits. Dave has also been a victim of our judicial court system too, and sadly lost a hell of a lot of hard earned honest money from his wallet, trying to fight the parasites that feed from us. And I'm sure Dave wouldn't mind me saying, it was a hell of a lot of dough too.
Despite that defeat though, Dave remains a believer in the democratic system of fairness through the courts, and along with a huge amount of our other colleagues, are calling for a Public Inquiry into the management and conduct of senior officers of Transport For London. I respect Dave's and our colleague's decision entirely, but have my personal reservations. I will explain why.
In contrast, I am a very militant man. But like Dave Davies, I too am passionate, committed and hopefully as intelligent as my colleagues, but as hard as I try, just cannot convince myself that a Public Inquiry is the way forward. And although a militant stance by our trade appears to be a blur, I will tell you why I fear the democratic, judicial route.
I was still serving in the military when I got my green badge. I had worked my way up to quite a high rank and had access to intelligence that I am still restricted to share, due to the Official Secrets Act.
As you can imagine, I would rather die than betray an act that is in place, for very good reason of Britain's security. Notwithstanding, I was also an Officer in the Civil Service, a position that I eventually detested, and left way before my scheduled appointment expiry. I don't want to come across as some Walter Mitty, Dad's Army or 007 wannabe character, but as a result of this perspective, I was in a position where I witnessed the different sides of situations, both Nationally and Internationally. And what I saw, didn't impress me. In fact, the high ranking Civil Service frustrated me and disappointed me no end. In my experience, the greater majority of Government meddling, was only realistically dealt with, after last minute military or at least militant, intervention.
Due to a unhealthy respect and low opinion when it comes to Members of Parliament, Law Courts and Civil Servants, I find I am not that qualified to demonstrate my knowledge through the legal process fields. So as a result of many of our colleagues calling that a Public Inquiry is the most tangible option, I did a bit of digging around, emailing, researching and phoning . Sadly, my initial fears were confirmed, as of course, the objective of a Public Inquiry is to be forward looking and improve our trade by highlighting mismanagement at TFL.
However, there is no doubt that Public Inquiries are surrounded by paradox and problems. To me, one of the biggest problems and fears is the fact that Public Inquiries themselves are chaired and conducted under the stewardship of an ex- senior Civil Servant. The very same targets that our inquiry would align through their crosshairs ! But furthermore, in almost all of the cases I studied that were dealt with via a Public Inquiry, it were the Lawyers that came out laughing...........all the way to the bank. The costs in some of these high profile cases were absolutely unbelievable.
What worried me even more though, was that despite a Public Inquiry set up to show good intent, exposure, transparency and promote justice, a large percentage of Public Inquiries DO NOT go on to lead to improvements, and restoration of public confidence. So even if we were able to pull up enough dough to square up with these overpaid leeches, the end result isn't even guaranteed to improve our standing.
There is though, a much more valuable commodity that I fear our trade can ill afford, when it comes to taking this court room route, and that of course is TIME ! We just haven't got it, have we ? Even if we launched the Inquiry, even if we raised the obscene bill at the end of it, how can we possibly wait that long ? It took 5 years to get to the point when the poor relatives and victims of the 7/7 attacks in London reached the Public Inquiry stage. And after the inquest and at the advice of their lawyers, they were advised to drop it as they felt that a Public Inquiry would likely to be unsuccessful and cause further anxiety and distress.
One of the relatives described the legal procedures as being mentally and emotionally draining and utterly exhausting. Of course, and thank God, I realise that our inquiry wouldn't be as mentally excruciating or personally soul wrenching as the 7/7 attacks, or The Hillsborough Disaster or The Bloody Sunday shootings, but judicial court hearings have no sentiment, and for reasons of evidence gathering, witness collaboration and lawyers paperwork..............that is how long these things take, unfortunately.
Obviously, no two Public Inquiries are identical, but the lack of guidance to determine the circumstances in which a Public Inquiry should be instigated, is hugely problematic. And don't forget that clock folks, there's no stopping it, even if you take the battery out! Iv'e already tried, but it just keeps ticking ! Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick................
One of the things that stuck out to me as well when reading the Government guidance notes, was that the Government were keen to emphasise that a court room is not the place to justify a Public Inquiry, where the sole aim is to allow people to air their grievances. Furthermore, Public Inquiries have poor success results, when the evidence is backed up by sensitive and personal matters.
The very point of a Public Inquiry is to expose the truth after a scandal, huge mis-management or major controversy. Hopefully too, the Inquiry should decide who is culpable, and make recommendations to ensure that it doesn't repeat itself. Quite often as well, to provide a moment of catharsis, if not the truth in total, then at least a healing of wounds, or a public acknowledgement of a real injustice.
High Court Judge, the Rt Hon. Lady Justice Smith was the Judge who prepared the infamous Shipman Inquiry, a report and Public Inquiry on the Harold Shipman serial killings. This lady is on record as saying " If the success of Public Inquiries is judged in terms of regulations and legislation, then we cannot often claim to achieve that. Positive proposals can be very slow to emerge and even if they eventually do, they are often diluted. This is an issue of great regret regret to me."
When I saw this, and reminded myself that it would be a Senior or ex-Senior Civil Servant running the show, should we launch our own case, my fears were confirmed.
Naturally, there are exceptions of course, where a Public Inquiry has done what is says on the tin. I had a job to remember the case of The Ely Public Inquiry, until I researched it, into a mental hospital outside Cardiff, and also into South Ockendon, which were what were then known as the homes for the mentally handicapped. Both however, and as a direct result of the Public Inquiries, assisted the process to close down the awful conditions of the Victorian Asylums, and led to the introduction of Care In The Community.
There is no doubt though, that the decent and democratic process of a Public Inquiry against the ludicrous and inconsistent management of our regulators TFL, is a valid path of travel. It could even up as a groundbreaking force for the good, and exposing the lies, deceit and woeful management that we try to earn our coin around . In an ideal world, culpability will emerge as a result of an Inquiry, and retrospective action taken to deal with it.
But as i say, that is in an ideal world. Unfortunately, and as far as my 60 years on this earth has indicated, there is no such world.
I could give you several accounts of betrayal, back stabbing and nest feathering witnessed during my Military and Civil Service, but I choose not to. This wasn't by the tea boy or mail room clerk either, but by Senior Civil Servants who went on to become leading political and Government anchors. But you can see where my inherent distrust and suspicions originated from, can't you ? If you thought that Gove's display to put the knife into Boris was disgraceful, that's for babies, it is far worse than that ! Betrayal is a contagious flaw of character that has infested Portcullis House and the elite Civil Service for years and years and years.
Until such times though, I will stick to my inbuilt natural instinct alarm that has ensured my safe passage and kept my pulse beating in some extremely volatile situations in life's obscure and perilous path. I don't trust MP's or Civil Servants. I have never trusted them, and neither should I have done. I will divulge something of interest though to our colleagues who have an interest in human psychology.
Anyway, back to reality. If our trade believe a Public Inquiry is the best way forward, I suggest that it is launched without further ado, as the Great London Taxi Trade Clock is ticking it's little tickers and tockers off ! It could take years to get this inquiry into a court room, and if colleagues of ours think we have realistically got that amount of time to spare, then maybe i'm a pessimistic, wary old git !
Obviously, there is a third choice, of which I was hesitant to mention. A choice to which my heart fears could well be our final destiny. And that is........to do nothing !
If we choose that route, then rest assured folks, that with the onslaught of Uber, an untrustworthy Regulator and lacklustre representation as a trade............WE ARE DEAD IN THE WATER !!
The London Transport Museum in Covent Garden will make space for the very last London Black Cab, alongside the horse drawn Hansom Cabs, and Trams.
As mentally tough as I have had to have been through life both professional and personal, I would find it tearful and emotional I am sure, to look back at our majestic old black cab on it's WC2 burial plot, in the middle of a City that it had served so proudly. Further tears would have to be no doubt choked back, as I told my grandchildren "That's what Grandad used to drive."
There is absolutely no need whatsoever to allow the bent shysters to kill off a perfectly serviceable, proud and world famous Icon folks ! We are still the best, we are still the safest, we are still the most professional, we are still the most knowledgeable, and we are still by far the most superior Taxi service in the World, let alone London !
Dave, I love ya to bits mate, you know I do. But if we are going to defeat this mob in the courtroom, we need to get it up and running pronto ! I will of course do everything I can to help, even if I am dubious. You can count on me. I won't let you down. But one thing is affecting my day to day life like a very serious case of Tinnitus. It is the noise in my head. It's not voices, it's not God telling me to hurt people, it's not voices pretending to be the devil. No. Its neither of those noises. It's a noise that has grown so loud, that it is terrifying me. It goes...............Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick tock, tick.............and gets louder and louder each day !
Of all the things I have stopped as a professional, of all the things I have stopped as a father, of all the things I have stopped as a husband and of all the things I have stopped as a man................do you think I can stop this poxy clock ?
Be lucky all.