Prime minister Theresa May described Transport for London’s refusal to grant Uber a new operator’s licence last week as “disproportionate”, escalating the political war of words between Labour and the Conservatives over the US ride-hailing company.
May blamed London mayor Sadiq Khan for the decision, telling the BBC:
“I think at the stroke of a pen, what the mayor has done is risk 40,000 jobs and damaged the lives of those 3.5 million Uber users. Yes there are a 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.”
Uber has said it would appeal Transport for London’s (TfL) decision in court, and its case will be bolstered by Theresa May’s words. According to James Titcomb, a journalist for The Telegraph, Uber’s chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi is to meet TfL’s transport commissioner Mike Brown next week. Uber has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Senior politicians across Labour and the Conservatives have used Uber to cement their respective party positions on areas like competition, regulation, and workers’ rights, as both parties go into annual conference season.
For the Conservatives, TfL’s decision under a Labour mayor is a useful tool to bash the opposition on their stance towards business, technology, and innovation. For Labour, Uber flouts much-needed regulation and treats its workers poorly.
May’s remarks are an almost word-for-word imitation of those made by government minister Greg Hands last week. Hands similarly criticised the ban and Sadiq Khan, though the mayor has said he did not participate in TfL’s decision.
Labour politicians have conversely backed TfL’s decision, saying that Uber needs to make changes to the way it operates.
On Sunday, shadow chancellor John McDonnell described Uber as a “disgrace.” He told ITV: “The company is a disgrace. You have to abide by the law. If the company was outside the law, what could Transport for London do?
“I think the company is at fault here. Four months ago they were told to get their act together and they didn’t.”