The decision not to renew Uber's license has set tongues wagging across London. But did Transport for London do the right thing?by Maurice Glasman, Stephanie Lis / September 22, 2017 / Leave a comment
Maurice Glasman: We need to preserve trust and expertise
The history of the Hackney Carriage is an instructive one. In London, the home of finance capitalism and the prime mover of deregulation, in which the ancient guilds of the City were all co-opted by finance and banks, the “gentlemen of the whip” preserved their status and licences. Anyone could present themselves as a carpenter, a plumber or a bricklayer but the status of the cabbie was preserved. Why was this?
It was an issue of public safety and of expertise. London was a dangerous place, to be alone with a driver in an enclosed space was one of intense vulnerability. The passenger needed to be sure that the driver was accountable, safe and would not act as a rogue highwaymen, robbing them of their money and jewellery.
The second issue was that in a higgledy-pickeldy City such as London, with its absence of a grid and its curious side streets and traffic congestion, there was a need for the ‘knowledge’—a knowledge of London.
And so it was that in an increasingly deregulated metropolis the black cab drivers preserved their apprenticeship, known as ‘the knowledge’ which gave them a privileged status in the labour market. Their monopoly of private car hire was challenged by the mini-cabs but their status was retained. Only black cabs could pick up while in motion, have fixed spots at stations, airports and other public places and could use the bus lanes. The apprenticeship had its rewards.