The Conservative former cabinet minister David Mellor may be boycotted as a passenger by London blacks cabs after he was secretly recorded calling his driver a “smart-arsed little git” and a “sweaty, stupid little shit”.
The former MP and barrister was criticised by trade unions after he told the 38-year-old driver to “fuck off” and threatened to embarrass him on his LBC radio show.
Mellor has expressed regret for his behaviour, which happened during a dispute about the best route, but faces calls for a full apology. LBC is under pressure to consider his suitability as a co-presenter of its Saturday morning show with former Labour mayor of London Ken Livingstone.
The incident occurred after Mellor had attended Buckingham Palace with his partner, Lady Cobham, chair of VisitEngland, who had just been awarded a CBE. A recording was given to the Sun newspaper, in which Mellor was heard to say: “I don’t want to hear from you, shut the fuck up. You’ve been driving a cab for 10 years, I’ve been in the Cabinet, I’m an award-winning broadcaster, I’m a Queen’s counsel. You think that your experiences are anything compared to mine?”
He added: “Just shut up. Drive me whichever way you want, and keep a civil tongue in your head.” Mellor also accused the taxi driver of ruining his partner’s day, adding: “Are you proud of yourself?”
Mellor told the Sun: “This man seriously provoked me and ruined a wonderful day. Once I had lost my temper, which I regret, he then secretly recorded me. I will leave the public to judge his actions.”
Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, said it should be no surprise that his black cab members across London were considering “a boycott of the Tory toff David Mellor over his outrageous, pompous and disgraceful tirade against one of their colleagues”.
He said: “His sneering and snobbish verbal assault says it all about the elite that run this country and their attitude towards the working classes that they expect to transport them. Taxi drivers have a tough enough job already, dealing with ill-conceived and damaging regulations handed down by the mayor Boris Johnson, confronting illegal touting and navigating around the congested streets of London, and at least the Mellor tirade has poured some light on the kind of aggravation our members experience day in and day out.
“To subject a taxi driver to a volley of aggressive abuse, and threatening to use his position to name the driver on his radio show, is frankly disgusting and intimidating and has distinct echoes of the Plebgate row. RMT is in consultation with our taxi members over the possibility of a boycott of this obnoxious and abusive character.”
An RMT spokesman said it was a matter for LBC to decide whether to continue to employ Mellor as a presenter, but added: “If he’s supposed to be presenting a balanced debate there’s a question about whether he is a fit person to present the programme.”
LBC had no immediate comment.
Simon Rush, president of the GMB union’s professional drivers branch, said: “Whatever the reason for this loutish verbal attack on a working person by this politician, it is unacceptable behaviour, not only on the road but in any workplace. This is not the first time we have seen arrogance and conceit from Mr Mellor. A public apology from Mr Mellor is in order.
“It doesn’t seem to matter how long you have been a fully qualified and experienced taxi or private hire driver, some of your passengers think they know better than you do. People are using their mobiles to tell you which route to follow and sadly this often leads to abuse of the driver. The implication is that you are dishonest when in fact you will be taking the quickest route based on your accumulated knowledge of all the factors such as time of day, traffic flow, road works etc, none of which the maps software will take in to account.”
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