Being Prime Minister is a big job. You have a country to run after all, so it's not like Theresa May wouldn't normally have enough on her plate. Right now she also has to deal with Brexit negotiations, and the seemingly ever-present threat that Boris Johnson will try and pinch her job. So naturally she has no time to complain about the fact Uber isn't getting its London licence renewed.
Oh wait. That can't be true, because she did exactly that.
The PM said that lives will be damaged by TfL's decision, which is backed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, telling BBC London:
"At a stroke of a pen, what the mayor has done is risked 40,000 jobs and of course... damaged the lives of those 3.5 million Uber users. Yes there are safety concerns and issues for Uber to address, but what I want to see is a level playing field between the private firms and our wonderful London taxis, our black cabs, our great national institution. I want to see a level playing field. I think a blanket ban is disproportionate."
*sigh* Where do I begin?
Let's start with the logical points. May wants a "level playing field" between taxi firms and the black cabs, which is a nice idea. And that's far from the case. Black cab drivers famously have to pass the Knowledge test, which proves they have the capitals roadways memorised, while Uber drivers on the other hand get to use SatNav and need to attend minimal training. But Black cabs have a reputation for being expensive, particularly in London, which is why services like Uber are so popular. Customer pay less money, and they have the added convenience of literally summoning a ride instead of having to flag one down in the street.
But those 40,000 jobs aren't the same as being employed by, say, a big chain supermarket. Uber adamantly argues that its drivers are not employees, and are not entitled to any statutory benefits as a result.
As for the 3.5 million Uber users in London, well they should be fine. London has a one of the best and most convenient public transport systems in the UK, and even if they do need to get a taxi there are plenty of Uber alternatives that haven't been banned. More of them might be on the way as well. Plus TfL's decision seems to put an emphasis on the safety of those users. Criticising its approach to reporting criminal offences, how it obtains drivers' medical certificates, how it carries out criminal record checks, and its use of 'Greyball' technology that's reportedly designed to help it evade law enforcement and regulators.
You'd think the former home secretary, and leader of the country, would have taken the safety of people into account before she opened her mouth.
Is the Uber ban going to last? Unlikely. The company has already launched an appeal, which lets it continue operating until the whole process is complete, and it's already made it clear it's willing to negotiate with TfL. The system needs fixing, and seeing as how Uber has resisted past calls for change (all over the world, not just in London), extreme tactics were needed.
But just like the time she criticised the plan to silence Big Ben during renovations to Elizabeth tower, it feels as though the prime minister wasn't actually thinking when she said what she said. Maybe she should, thinking and logic are pretty important when you have to make decisions that affect the lives of millions of people. Lets just hope she's thinking about more important things. [London Evening Standard]