- Boris Johnson moved to regulate Uber in 2015, calling them ‘bumptious’
- The then London mayor faced a barrage of messages urging him to keep clear
- Some of the messages are believed to have come from Osborne and Cameron
- An investigation has revealed the links between Cameron’s chum-ocracy and Uber’s top bosses
The run-up to Christmas 2015 was hectic for David Cameron and George Osborne. It involved a tense Commons vote on Syrian air-strikes, crucial pre-referendum negotiations with EU leaders and a state visit by the President of China.
Behind the scenes at Downing Street, however, something very different was providing them with food for thought; and it had nothing much to do with the usual day-to-day business of British government.
In late September that year, Boris Johnson, then the Mayor of London, had threatened to curtail the activities of modish Californian internet company Uber.
When Boris Johnson moved to regulate Uber in 2015, accusing them of being ‘bumptious’ and breaking taxi licensing laws ‘in lots of minor ways’, he was bombarded with angry messages from Downing Street. George Osborne (pictured getting out of an Uber cab) and David Cameron are believed to have sent forthright texts to the Mayor’s mobile phone
The firm runs a smartphone app that allows users to hail a minicab at the click of a button. It then sends a named nearby driver to their exact location using GPS (usually in minutes), calculates the cost of the subsequent journey using an algorithm so you have a good idea of what it will cost before you start and collects payment via the user’s credit card.
Uber tends to be between 30 and 40 per cent cheaper than traditional black cabs. But its drivers are relatively unqualified, and unlike their counterparts, have not acquired the ‘Knowledge’ of London’s streets, relying instead on satnav directions.
So although the firm achieved huge success after launching in our capital in 2012 (hundreds of thousands of users swiftly signed up, and by 2015 London had more Uber drivers than black cabbies), there were growing fears that its ultra-cheap fares were putting traditional taxis out of business.
Uber was also being blamed for an explosion in the number of minicabs on London’s streets from 55,000 to 89,000, which critics believed was increasing congestion, air pollution, illegal parking, and accidents.
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