A Corbyn backed Labour mayor, who supposedly represents the party of the working people, just threatened the livelihoods of 40,000 Londoners at the stroke of a pen. Sadiq Khan’s decision as chair of Transport for London is the first time the ideological inconsistencies that many Corbyn voters face has come to light.
It’s the conflict between comfort and workers’ rights- between the gig economy and personal convenience, between the innovative free market or ethical business, and for the first time the convictions of the young Corbynites will be tested.
But not enough blame is being paced on Uber, who have gone unchecked for far too long. Repeatedly have they gone to court to stress how those who drive for them are not employees, and thus shouldn’t be guaranteed the rights that unions have fought for over the years, including a minimum wage or paid holiday leave.
They have had 32 drivers investigated on sexual harassment claims, and on multiple occasions they have chosen to exclude the police from investigations.
On one notable instance, a driver who was investigated for sexual harassment was allowed to drive again, and went on to commit the same offence- their lax attitude towards medical and criminal checks for their drivers has put the population of London at considerable risk.
But Labour’s response cannot be an immediate revocation of their licence- that is betrayal of Uber drivers. 40,000 people cannot be sacrificed at the altar of an ideological battle. It is rightful of the Labour Party to combat rogue business. Traditionally, the ideological faultlines in British politics have seen Labour take the side of working people, while the Conservatives have supported unregulated business under the banner of the free market. Uber is the exact outcome of that unregulated market- business that doesn’t respect people, but purely respects profit.
But while the Labour way is to tackle dodgy capitalism, it is not to deliberately catch working people in the crossfire- business’s like Uber won’t defend them, they cannot face threat from Labour too. Becaue of this, steps should have been taken beforehand to ensure the safety of the passengers, prior to banning the entire company, it is an unfair response to years of Lassez-faire regulation to suddenly crack a previously none existent whip. Khan could have fined Uber, he could have imposed tougher regulations and he could have done it all over a longer period of time to help regulate the industry, not destroy it.
But credit where it’s due- Sadiq Khan’s initial strong-arming of Uber seems to have worked. The organisation has publically apologised for their actions and their treatment of workers, and constructive talks are underway with Transport for London in order to ensure Uber can continue to practice in London in a safe manner.
It’s important that these talks progress well, and that Khan’s hand isn’t forced too heavily by the anti-Uber unions.
If this is the case, then Labour voters should throw their full support behind the Mayor’s actions- rogue business cannot be allowed to thrive because it is convenient, it’s the thin end of a long wedge of crony capitalism and with a bit more nuance, Labour should oppose it.