Speaking during his regular phone-in show on LBC radio, Farage jumped to the defence of London’s black cab drivers after the capital’s mayor, Boris Johnson, described them as Luddites for protesting about the effect new taxi smartphone apps, especially Uber, are having on their business.
“I thought for Boris [Johnson] to want to go to war with the London cab drivers frankly was a very silly thing to have done,” said Farage, adding: “My experience is this: I believe that the London taxis – far from being Luddites – are the best taxi drivers in the world. That knowledge test they do is an incredibly difficult thing to do. It’s like an apprenticeship.”
“Of the thousands of cabs I’ve taken over the years, 99.9% of cab drivers have been polite, amusing, informative and also innovative – if they see a traffic problem, they think of a way round it.”
Farage said of Uber: “My experience of Uber – and I’m sure there are some wonderful drivers working for Uber – but some of my experiences of Uber is I’ve got into cars with quite loud music playing, with people that don’t speak English and who use the sat-nav because they haven’t got a clue where they’re going in London and they’re not innovative.”
Although Farage declared it would be “ludicrous” to ban the taxi app, he said: “So I actually think what Boris should have said, is that whilst new technology is welcome, provided it is registered and within the law, we should champion London black cabs, because if people want quality, they’ve got to pay a little more for it.”
Speaking on Wednesday at mayor’s question time at city hall, Johnson infuriated black-cab drivers protesting against what they see as the government’s failure to fairly regulate private hire firms by calling them Luddites.
The meeting had to be adjourned after a scuffle broke out between city hall staff, police and black-cab drivers, and a security worker was reportedly knocked unconscious.
London’s black-cab drivers have consistently criticised the mayor over Transport for London’s handling of regulation for private car companies such as Uber. Whereas black cabs are regulated by TfL, which requires drivers to get background checks, pass a medical test and take the famously difficult ‘the Knowledge’ exam, the regulations governing private-hire operators are much less strict.
Boris Johnson was recently filmed in a foul-mouthed row with a black-cab driver, in which the mayor shouted: “Why don’t you fuck off and die – and not in that order.”
This article was written by Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Friday 18th September 2015 17.14 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010