Three Reasons why The Uber Decision Is a Disaster

Transport for London’s decision to stop Uber from operating has received widespread criticism. The vast majority of people do seem to recognise that TFL’s choice was a fundamentally bad one. So far a petition to overturn the ruling has attracted over 600,000 signatures.

Much has been said about the Uber ban so here are the top three reasons why it is a truly terrible decision:

Uber is popular and there are good reasons for that. The app is extremely convenient because it does away with the need to wave like a lunatic at every passing taxi when you need to get around. You can track when your ride will meet you as well as check out the driver before you get into the car. Uber is also good on price, often costing less than a black cab.

In theory, this should be possible with a private taxi company, but many of these businesses are small and rarely employ more than ten drivers. Go to a city centre where Uber doesn’t exist at around two o’clock in the morning. You will see hordes of people milling around waiting for ‘their’ taxi to turn up. Some of these people will have been waiting for over an hour for their cab because the local companies are all too busy. Uber eliminates this problem.

Uber employs lots of people. Unlike the black cabs, Uber drivers do not need to go through a series of expensive ordeals in order to work. Employees can drive their own cars rather than pay top dollar for a black taxi. Uber provides employment for around 40,000 people in London. It would be a mistake to assume that all of these drivers use Uber as their primary income source. However, there are many reasons why somebody might prefer a more flexible approach to work.

Uber is safe.There have been horror stories about people’s experiences with Uber and these should not be ignored. Yet, the law already has the tools to deal with the cases without banning a company from operating. Taxi drivers harassing or praying on vulnerable individuals is terrible, but this tragic development was not invented by Uber. The number of crimes reported by Uber drivers is staggeringly small given the number of drivers the company employs.

If we listen to some of the comments made against Uber. We might be forgiven for thinking that it flouts safety regulations on a whim. Nothing could be further from the truth. Uber has passed every inspection that TFL has carried out.

Since the ruling Uber has apologised and plans to fight the decision in court. It is quite clear that this was a political decision by TFL who is under pressure from the black cab cartel.

Let us hope that the people who oversee the law see more sense than the people running London’s transport.

 

Trident must be renewed

In his speech at an anti-Trident rally in February, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “You don’t achieve peace by planning for war”. Of course the opposite is true, and Corbyn knows it; nothing would make us more vulnerable to an attack than showing that we are unprepared or unwilling to defend ourselves against it. War may always be the last resort for a free country, but if it’s completely off the table, that country won’t be free for long.

This raises the question of why the left is so vehement in their opposition to the UK’s nuclear deterrent. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament claims its aim is “to rid the world of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction”, but most of the organization’s efforts are focused in the UK, which the CND happily admits it wishes to disarm unilaterally. If these efforts are successful, we’d have to trust the leaders of North Korea, Russia, China and Pakistan, not only to never drop an atomic bomb on a UK city, but to keep all their bombs, as well as the technology and materials used to build them, out of the hands of anyone who would.

Some supporters of unilateral disarmament go as far as claiming that our having a deterrent “drives proliferation”, in yet another version of the left’s inclination to blame everything bad that happens in the world on the west.
But most opponents of Trident aren’t arguing that there’s any danger of a British government suddenly nuking our enemies. They realise it’s there to deter our enemies from nuking us. So for what reason could they oppose it? The cost? Whenever security issues come up, many in the left are suddenly concerned with the amount of “public” money a program costs, a concern which they rarely voice on other issues.

Another argument used by supporters of unilateral disarmament to divert attention from the risks of their plan, is the notion that nuclear weapons wouldn’t help us deal with some of the threats we face today, such as terrorism. Leaving aside the obvious short-sightedness of this argument (the fact that terrorists have yet to acquire nuclear weapons is no guarantee that they won’t in the future), this can be said of any weapon and any defence strategy; it is efficient against certain types of threat, not all of them. The threat against which this particular weapons system protects us is a nuclear holocaust, so it should be at the very top of our defence apparatus. Abolishing it would be tantamount to an announcement to the world that the UK government no longer sees nuclear weapons in the hands of our enemies as a serious threat to national security.


A related tweet:

Christopher Snowdon [@cjsnowdon] Releases the First EU Nanny State Index

Christopher Snowdon of the IEA has released the first EU Nanny State Index and it makes depressing reading for those of us in the UK. According to the analysis, that assesses the tax and regulation of ‘sins’ such as smoking and drinking, the UK is rated 3rd worst — far, far behind places like Germany!!

This is important work by Chris so go check it out and share it far and wide…

nanny_state_index

Beware Outlawing the IT Contractor Mr Osborne

It seems Mr Osborne’s attack on contractors continues apace… In the last 12 months or so we’ve had VAT Moss, the Dividend Tax and the proposed but defeated 1 month IR35 rule.

One suspects Mr Osborne really doesn’t like contractors and now we’re going to have to watch the budget, once again, very closely

George Osborne is planning a clampdown on a tax dodge used by media stars and mandarins who have their salaries paid through special companies to save thousands of pounds a year.

The Chancellor is expected to use Wednesday’s Budget to tackle the practice of paying staff ‘off the books’, which costs the Treasury more than £400 million a year.

As many as 100,000 people – including senior civil servants and NHS staff – receive their income through personal-service companies: it is intended to benefit temporary workers, but is widely used as a perk by long-term employees.

A couple of points to make here… First you shouldn’t base legislation around a minority of celebrities and useless, overpaid bureaucrats. It won’t end well…

Second the £400m figure lost to the treasury has clearly been plucked out of thin air. It is based on what contractors are paid today. If contracting were outlawed wages would drop dramatically so there would be far less to tax — also no VAT to collect. My prediction, an even bigger black hole in tax receipts…

But my main point here is that huge swathes of Government IT infrastructure is supported by contractors. The very people George wants rid of. The reason is simple to understand, contractors are far more flexible and they don’t add to the employee head count. If George continues with his war he will shoot himself in the foot eventually and I can imagine a little conversation in a few years time between him and one of his SPADs…

SPAD: Wake up George, wake up!!

Gideon: What… What is it..?

SPAD: Nothing’s working George! None of it’s working!!

Gideon: What do you mean, ‘none of it’s working’?

SPAD: The servers, the applications, the IT infrastructure… It’s all offline, it’s all down!!

Gideon: What!! How?!? Is it the Chinese?!?

SPAD: No, no, not the Chinese… There’s no one left to maintain it… I mean there’s that guy Steve who we promoted from admin to Head of IT, but no one else.

Gideon: How?!? How is there only one man maintaining our whole IT infrastructure?

SPAD: Well sir, and you’re not going to like this, you outlawed contractors.

Gideon: Didn’t you offer them permanent positions?

SPAD: Yes, but as one developer put it, “I’m not working on a Government IT mind fuck for £35k a year!”

Gideon: But that’s a good wage, you said they could earn 50 if they worked hard for 10 years? I mean where have they all gone..?

SPAD: Yes, yes we told them all that, but they just laughed and said they were going to work in Advertising…

Gideon: Advertising?!? Why?

SPAD: Well it turns out you get free coffee, a beer trolley on Fridays and there are floors and floors of young, normal, attractive people who might talk to you…

Gideon: Shit!!

The European Arrest Warrant: a useful tool (for a tyrant)

The erosion of liberty continues apace. Watching it happen over time is like observing the crumbling white cliffs growing ever weaker as the waves crash into them. It is generally a gradual, continuous process but eventually comes the moment when a great chunk crumbles into the sea and is washed utterly away. Today is such a day; a sad day for Britain and a shaming one for Parliament. Most distressing of all is how few people are aware of it, and how even fewer seem to care. Make no mistake; this is a significant time in British history, one that will be studied far into the future. We are in the late stages of a long process in which we are willingly surrendering the independence of our legal system. It is the Conservative Party that is leading us down the dark, illiberal path to subjugation. For shame.

David Cameron has tried to portray himself as some kind of British bulldog fighting our corner in Brussels, he even disingenuously claimed to have secured the “greatest ever return of powers to the UK”.  In May the Government opted our of 100 trivial criminal justice measures that have already been duplicated by national legislation or had never actually applied in the UK in the first place. The 35 measures that the Government have opted back into are the most dangerous and illiberal and consist of a large-scale transfer of sovereignty to the European Union. It is nothing less than a step towards the usurpation of the English legal system, which is necessary if we are to be fully integrated into the political state and be part of a common EU criminal justice system. Of all these measures there are none more potentially tyrannical than the European Arrest Warrant.

Not only does is it a total violation of our sovereignty, meaning we have to surrender our own citizens to other EU states on request. It is also another dangerous power for the British state to use and abuse at will. Only a fool trusts in the fear mongering line of defence that the EAW is an absolute necessity to defend us against the great bogeymen of our time, terrorists and paedophiles. It was possible to extradite terror suspects and sex offenders before the European Arrest Warrant was created and would be if were to remove ourselves from its jurisdiction. Furthermore, only a tiny amount of the people arrested under the EAW are accused of terrorism. Opting out of the EAW simply means that we would revert to having extradition agreements that we had before, the kind we have with many non-EU states

How often is the line carted out that the EAW is a “useful” or “essential tool” that the police and security services need in their arsenal? It gives the impression that the British authorities are deft craftsmen who will only use the “useful” tool when absolutely necessary and appropriate. One of the primary considerations when restraining the state is to think of how a certain power, or law, can go beyond whatever its original purpose was and lead to abuse or misuse in the future. An example might be when the social services and police hysterically overreact when a mother and father decide to remove their son from NHS care and seek treatment elsewhere. Oh well, he was only traumatised a little, and they were only held without cause, evidence or trial for a few day. All’s well that ends well.

This argument must be treated with the contempt is deserves. If we gave the police and security services every “useful tool” they asked for we would not have a shred of liberty left.   The same propaganda is used to justify identity cards (which would’ve sealed our identity as serfs), 90 day detention, secret courts and mass surveillance. This is to be placed in the file which reads “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”– the mantra of the slave.

Under the European Arrest Warrant no evidence is required to justify extradition and in any case British courts have absolutely no power to consider whatever evidence there may be. It is a trivial bureaucratic matter, in other words, a simple form has to be filled in and then a British citizen can be carted off to a court in a foreign judicial system. That’s it, plain and simple; our centuries old protections of liberty can be dismissed arbitrarily because of a vague accusation made in another EU state without any evidence being provided. Not a peep of protest from EU fanatics, neither from the so-called “liberal” left who caused an uproar when the USA issued an extradition order for Gary McKinnon but raise no objections about the EAW when its tyrannical sights were set on Andrew Symeou or the King family or Keith Hainsworth (and there are many lower profile injustices). Incidentally, if Gary McKinnon was wanted in an EU country he would have been cuffed and extradited hastily back in 2002.

Extradition between countries is often necessary, however, it is surely only right and correct that before the suspect is extradited a court should consider if there is a case to answer? There would be an uproar if somebody was held on remand in Britain without any evidence of wrongdoing, how can anybody (let alone a self-styled conservative or liberal) support a situation in which someone can be dragged off to another country without a court in Britain being able to look at the evidence?

This is the crux of the matter. This European Arrest Warrant is a disgraceful interference in our internal affairs, a further blow to liberty and a violation of our national independence. It is one step further towards a pan-European criminal justice system. Theresa May’s amendments and guarantees are flimsy and it is the EU parliament that decides when they apply, not our own. Britain has, or rather had, some great pioneering traditions of liberty; Habeas Corpus, the presumption of innocence and the guarantee of a fair trial by jury to name but a few. Today in parliament they have been disgraced and we have been betrayed.

Police want in to congestion cameras

Apparently unsatisfied with the millions of “reads” they get from number plates already, the police would like access to similar ANPR equipment used by TFL to enforce the congestion charge and low emissions zones.

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These systems record the times and places your car visits, whether or not you are under suspicion.

Here is the email from TFL, requesting my view:

Dear Mr Gibbs,
I am writing to let you know that you can give the Mayor of London your views on his proposals to allow the Metropolitan Police to have access to Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras for crime prevention reasons.

We use these cameras to monitor and enforce Congestion Charging and the Low Emission Zone.

For more information and to share your views, please click here

To take part in this consultation, please use the link above. Any responses to this email will be passed to the Greater London Authority along with your name and email address, so that they can reply to you directly.

This consultation will close on Tuesday 8 April.
Yours sincerely,

Paul Cowperthwaite
General Manager Congestion Charging

How your MP voted on the Gagging Law

38 degrees have published a handy list of MPs and how they voted for key ammendments My own MP Jim Dowd of the authoritarian Labour Party did okay. Did my letters work?

Meanwhile, the Backbencher has more information about the problems and politics around the Act, it includes a little good news and a few ideas:

Although the bill has been passed, many are still vehemently protesting against it. Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) said that “We must be clear: civil society must never lose its voice. We must stand up for our beliefs and refuse self-censorship. ACEVO will work tirelessly to ensure that this Bill does not gag charities and campaigners”. Thomas G Clark who writes for the blog Another Angry Voice suggests that nationwide dissent may be the only viable response: “One possibility is that mass non-compliance with the rules will render them literally unenforceable. If charities, voluntary organisations, protest groups, trade unions and religions all refuse to comply with the regulatory burdens of the legislation, what can the Tories actually do about it?”

Read the whole thing.