When I was a butterboy and first got my licence, I lived in Kent. Driving in to do a shift, I would see some of our own driving the opposite way, after doing their nightshift. Invariably, we would wave, nod or flash our lights, to acknowledge that we were part of a Brotherhood sort of thing. As silly as it sounds, I used to like that sort of camaraderie, it was something I was used to in the military.
It used to make me feel good, a sense of belonging and strength, and tiny little things like that would all add together and make a more enjoyable day. In my little brain anyway. You don't see it as much these days, do you ? Why is that, do you think ?
The other day, I thought I would catch up with an old pal in the trade that I haven't spoke to for some time. The phone rang, and it went on to answerphone. I left a brief message to say it was me, and if he got a chance, ring me back later for a chat. Not more than ten minutes later, I got a text from the fella.
Now, before I say anymore, I would like to say that this man has done a huge amount for our trade. I have stood shoulder to shoulder with him on most of our demo's and meetings over a very long time, and consider him as a very good trade friend and ally. For the record and despite what I am about to tell you, I still do. I respect this man a great deal. He has put thousands of hours into our well being, and could never be paid for his commitment and loyalty. Anyway, I digress.
I wont write the text down word for word verbatim, as the style and language would give away who it was, but it said more or less something like this. " Hello Steve. Saw your piece in Jimmy's blog. I know your heart is in the right place, but you really ain't helping those of us who are trying to make in-roads with the authorities. The nearer we get to scoring a hit, you come out with a piece like that and give them all the hump again, and its back to square one ! You are hindering us more than helping us".
I read the text, and immediately phoned my pal back, but again, straight onto answerphone. I can safely assume he didn't want to talk to me. I was honestly truly gutted. I thought about it for a few hours, and conceded and went to text back to apologise. I was absolutely choked to think that ANY of our own would think I would deliberately go out of my way to harm the trade that I love, worse still, undermine my colleagues hard work, to put them in a position whereby they think I had been responsible for sabotaging their hard graft.
That is the very last thing I would do. I hated myself. I'm not kidding, it really affected me. Before sending the text of apology, I sat on it for a few hours and thought about it. And when I did, I got angry. I got angry that yes maybe many of our mates had indeed worked hard to pave the way by befriending the authorities, ministers and MP's. But what actually had we achieved by it as a Trade ?
Apart from an extra rank here and there, and some other bits and pieces, what advantage have making the authorities as allies, given us? ?
And it wasn't as if I was being impatient, we have had 400 years to do this. After winding myself up about it, and still well choked, I decided not to send the text at all, and not to ring back either. I was not only upset, I was embarrassed and felt guilty, but justified as well.
But what a bloody shame. What a tragedy. Although I am not 100% sure yet, it appears that I have lost a good pal over a piece I wrote for Taxi Leaks, trying to expose the bad guys. But I'm not the only one, it seems. I know of a case of two of our leading trade stalwarts who actually went to school with each other and did the knowledge with each other and got their licences together. No longer on speaking terms because one of them belong to one org, the other to another. Isn't that an absolute tragedy ?
I think that is absolutely dreadful, honestly I do. Stuff like this really upsets me. I am sure that the man himself Jim Thomas, who has done more for this trade than any other person I know, would agree with me too. I know for a fact that he regularly sees this happening and has been on the end of it himself. It's criminal, I reckon. I honestly do. I made the mistake of saying to a mate that I thought our trade was better using a professional spokesman when it came to media interviews. He has never spoke to me again ! My observations were seen as a direct attack on the man himself, which of course, was the very last thing I intended. That upset me too. It's crazy.
But why has this happened to us ?
I think I know.
First of all, I can tell you that I have been a member of every single trade union, club org or society that is out there. Today, I am a member of none. That is not to say that they are all useless, although some are. But I find the football supporters mentality within these orgs, quiet disturbing. I have been a member of an org in the past, when another org has called a demo or meeting for a very good cause. And yet, the org I was in, forbade me to support it ! Why not ?
They are my mates ! They are London Cabbies ! They are in a different team to me, but they drive a cab ! What's the problem ?
But folks, please believe me, there was a problem..........a bloody big one according to the leaders. And it's ludicrous that there is any problem at all.
When the RMT Cab Drivers Section was formed some years ago, I was one of the pioneering first members. Their militancy appealed to me, and I have always, and still do admire the leadership skills and fear that Bob Crow, bless his soul, used to strike into his adversaries. Anyway, not long after their formation, we had our first active service call, after the Carriage Office decided to give an ex mini cab driver and murderer their blessing to start the knowledge to be one of us.
We got wind of it and decided to confront the authorities over it with direct action. The LTDA heard about it, and thankfully, decided to support it too.
So far so good then. Great. This, I thought, was what it was all about. Professional Unity from ALL sides. However, unbeknown to me, what I witnessed on that pavement outside the carriage office in Penton Street, was probably the catalyst of the premiership nonsense we see in our battered trade today.
The RMT arrived first. We set up right under the windows in Penton Street. Megaphones blaring, traffic police in attendance, banners waving and roads started to grind to a stop all around. Shortly after, the LTDA arrived. But they deliberately made sure they were nowhere near the RMT stall !!! You think I'm joking don't you ? Ask anyone that was there.
There was an obvious and very defined gap on the pavement between the RMT and LTDA that day. There was nothing else in the gap, just empty, as though it were filled with ectoplasm ! This would have never happened in the military, so seeing it, surprised me, and it played on my mind for ages after. I thought, why didn't they just all stand together and make the attendance look even more awesome and massive than it was, a trick used in many infantry battalion battles in the past ?
But nope, they didn't.
The LTDA ensured there was a deliberate visible gap away from us in the RMT.
Strange, I thought, and as I say, I pondered about the psychology of it for ages after. I wasn't comfortable with it at all, and mentioned it to several trade leaders. Over the next few years, other orgs were formed, and If I though I had imagined what unfolded on the Penton Street pavement that day, I certainly wasn't imaging it now ! I had confirmation in stone. There was most definately a nasty, blatant, football supporting mentality creeping into our trade, at a time when it was surely the very last thing in the world that we needed.
Run the tape on a few years what have we got. I will tell you what we've got. We've got a London Cab Trade fractured and divided to bollox. Mates are no longer mates, buddies re no longer buddies, purely because they give their monthly subs to different "teams". Orgs are all concentrating on different briefs, often in secrecy, not to stop the targets from getting wind of it, but to prevent another org from taking the "glory" !
Drivers walk into cafes and canteens and it goes quiet. Not because the driver is Clint Eastwood, Ronnie Kray or Frank Sinatra, but because he is in the LTDA and his mates are in the Club ! Embarrassing isn't it ? Nuts isn't it ? We need our brains testing folks ! It's absolutely inexcusable ! That is one of the reasons I am in nothing. I find it deeply disturbing. Dropping a man out of the tea round because he pays his subs to a different org than the rest of the table ?
Lunacy ! Outrageously unnecessary.
It has clearly shot us in the foot though, and resulted in what we see today, when we need to defend ourselves. Useless ! No support, no unity, no brotherhood, no teeth. And our opponents and authorities out there who want to kill us, are rubbing their hands together ! It is EXACTLY what they wanted ! They know what we apparently don't. And that is, STRENGTH IN UNITY. POWER TO THE PEOPLE.
Bob Crow and any formidable union leader like him, would turn in his grave to see how splintered us lot are. That is partly the reason also, that when we do manage to make a half hearted attempt at unity, we all go out with a different message. The Media and Press interview us and we all give a different reason for being there. We get laughed at and nobody takes us seriously. That is a direct result that all these orgs have caused folks. Org leaders may think they are being clever, but between them they are breaking this trade of ours down into sawdust. The exact opposite of what they should have been formed for!
What then, is the future ?
How do we put it right ?
Not such an easy answer, I fear. Every one of the Trade Orgs will tell you they are the best, it's a natural response. If I had my way, I would get the lot to amalgamate into one massive union. A union with teeth, a union with foresight, a union with plans, a union with action, a union with spunk and a union with authority and clout. A union with a direct brief to attack and destroy any authority any unfair competition and any unruly treatment. But that of course, is in my dreams. It will never happen.
The "Men" that I predicted would kill us so long ago are well and truly established now. They are loading, firing and picking us off one by one, and day by day taking more and more of our fire power.
You don't need to be Montgomery to realise that if the enemy keep progressing as successfully as they have been doing for so long, the battle will be in grave danger of a grave loss on our part. Imagine the 400 legacy of a Great British Heritage, lost to the shysters whilst on our watch. Unimaginable, isn't it ?
The lightning deployment and accurate targeting by our colleagues in The Mayfair Mob and Dads Defending Daughters should be the gold standard that every org leader aspires to. It is just a pity that these proper fighters are by virtue of their numbers, more established and supported.
My post this week then is more to our trade leaders than the rest of us. We are in desperate need of some realistic representation out there right now. Trade Orgs have to have some tangible appeal for people just passing out and gaining their badge this week. Who do they give their money to ?
Bollox to the diaries, stick the holiday discounts up your arse, and stop thinking that gaining an extra rank space is a game changer. It ain't and we are dying out here. The authorities are running us ragged, the public are deserting us, and illegally licensed mini cab firms are having too much to say.
Just like me, according to my mate of twenty years or so !
Folks, this Football Premiership Trade Org bollox has to stop. If it doesn't, I guarantee you that our trade will be lost for eternity during the next two years or so. We have the backing, we have the numbers and we have the skills.
There are some absolutely top, top people in this trade of ours, and together we could blow the opposition or anyone intent on harming us, away, instead of ignoring phone calls and dropping each other out of a cup of tea. Let's at least try to end this football team premiership arseholes folks, we are grown men and women. We just need the elite to get together, amalgamate, unite and fight. After all, that is what they are supposed to do......isn't it ?
Be lucky all.