Boris Johnson’s relationship with the capital’s black cab trade has become further troubled after the Sun and Daily Mail newspapers released a video showing the mayor of London on his bicycle telling a taxi driver “to fuck off and die – and not in that order”.
The exchange in Islington, north London, was caught on camera by a passerby.
The driver, one of many black cab operators furious at the way Transport for London, overseen by the mayor, has allowed Uber drivers to undermine their trade shouted at Johnson: “You’re one of them mate. That’s what you are. One of them.”
The footage shows Johnson replying: “Why don’t you fuck off and die, why don’t you fuck off and die – and not in that order.”
The cabbie then drives away yelling: “Yeah bollocks, I hope you die.”
Johnson is easily identifiable wearing a distinctive yellow helmet with his trademark blonde hair poking out at the sides and a charcoal suit.
A source close to the mayor said: “Boris has dozens of chance conversations with Londoners every week. Many are productive and friendly, some are colourful, I know most end happily. I believe this particular cabbie however is a serial heckler.”
It is difficult to know if the exchange will confirm Johnson’s admired status as someone apart from mainstream politics or instead the sight of him hurling abuse in public will make voters think he lacks the gravitas and restraint to be prime minister.
Johnson, now an MP, is clearly waiting to challenge for the leadership against the chancellor, George Osborne, when David Cameron resigns.
The general secretary of LTDA (Licenced Taxi Drivers Association) laughed off news of the heated exchange that took place as Johnson was cycling down St John Street in Islington, north London, at just after 12.20am on Friday 5 June.
Behind the row is a serious dispute between the black cabs and the Conservative party over the extent to which they are willing to let Uber take over the business of black cabs by undercutting their fares.
The black cab trade claims Uber does not pay taxes and uses unlicensed drivers who come to London from outside the capital for three days and lack any knowledge of London’s streets, relying instead on satnavs to get them around the city.
By contrast the black cab drivers say they have learned the knowledge over four years and provide a superior service. The black cab trade also says that the strategy of Uber is to undercut the prices of the licensed trade and then after destroying that trade raise its prices, with a monopoly and a lower level of service.
The mayor was told last month that London’s black cab trade would die “on his watch” if he didn’t change the laws to block the smartphone app.
At recent industry meeting he was accused of lacking “the guts” to stand up to Uber, which is blamed for putting hundreds of cabbies out of work in recent months.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010