Uber has called out London’s brash mayor Boris Johnson. Jo Bertram, who heads up UK operations for the San Francisco-based behemoth, has publicly challenged Johnson, who is seeking to cap the number of minicabs operating in his city in order to limit emissions and unclog roads jammed with drivers checking their smartphones. Johnson has yet to agree to have any such conversation.
But he might be open to it and we hope he is.
A spokesperson for the Mayor has already said that Johnson isn’t on a “Uber witch hunt,” which is probably true and also a pretty solid instance of protesting too much.
For his part, Johnson has been uncharacteristically diplomatic about the whole thing, which is why the notional debate is so exciting. Johnson’s natural reaction to cameras is to yell into them, and a debate between him and the emissary of an arguably irresponsible Silicon Valley monster would ramp up quickly. Bertram should be nervous. Here’s why:
1) Johnson Makes Debates Personal
2) Johnson Cares About Emissions
Before the Uber debate came to the fore, Johnson was proudly championing a program to make all new taxis in London zero-emissions capable by the start of 2018. His argument against Uber isn’t just about oversight, it’s environmental.
3) Johnson Is Under Pressure From Some Pissed Off Cabbies
London’s Black Cab drivers famously have to go through an elaborate test called “The Knowledge.” This may seem a bit unnecessary given that they’ve all got smartphones, but that’s the way it is and it does keep the riffraff out. Being a cabbie is a very respected thing in London (or should be anyway) so Uber drivers are considered to be lesser interlopers.
4) Johnson Likes Jobs
A London Taxi Company facility in Coventry is going into the process of turning £250 million into 1,000 jobs. Not a small thing.
5) Johnson Doesn’t Care About Parliament
Well, cares in the sense that he’s a member of it, but he doesn’t care in the way Bertram hopes when he says that parliament won’t support a cap “on the whim of the mayor.” He might be right, but he’s dead wrong if he thinks Johnson worries about being caught disagreeing with Parliament, which isn’t exactly the most popular body in Britain anyway.
6) Johnson Could Be POTUS
He may live in London, but Boris was born stateside and raised partially in New York, which explains some of his politics (the guy loves public transport) and also means that he can run for President if he feels like it. One never knows. As a child, he apparently boasted of a plan to be “World King.”
7) Johnson Is Great at Insults. Here’s a small sample:
- George W. Bush = “Cross-eyed Texan Warmonger”
- Tony Blair = “Mixture of Harry Houdini and a Greased Piglet”
- Nick Clegg = “Wobbling Jelly of Indecision and Vacillation”
- Nick Clegg Redux = “A Lapdog who’s been skinned and turned into a shield [condom]”
- Arnold Schwarzenegger = “Monosyllabic Austrian Cyborg”