Clippings: The paradox of UBER losing its London license

UBER App

The latest issue, this time business based, that has people split down the middle in the UK is UBER losing its license; after five years of operating in the UK capital, Mayor Sadiq Khan, Transport for London and countless black taxi drivers turned around and said that the corporation’s ability to operate would not be renewed. Khan said: “all companies in London must play by the rules and adhere to the high standards we expect – particularly when it comes to the safety of customers”. Since the decision, a petition also rose to repeal it, with many crying foul at the decision.

UBER has long been criticised for its intrusion into local taxi businesses among other things.  I have a relative who works for a local black taxi company in and around Chester; when I asked him about the decision he said: “It was always going to happen when the laws and rules are repeatedly ignored and the safety of the public was constantly being ignored great news for us black cab drivers hopefully now the rest of the country will follow suit”. He’s just one of thousands who believe chastising the corporation was the right move to take. The company is said to exploit its drivers; before April this year, employees were not given sick pay among other rights that other workers have had for years. On top of that, another controversy has arisen regarding UBER’s plan to introduce driverless cars, which would cost thousands of jobs regardless of the licence decision. Taking away their license does send a straightforward and blunt message that their conduct is unacceptable.

On the other hand, though, many believe that UBER offers a reasonable and affordable service that’s done entirely from an app; others have said that they feel much safer and more secure taking a service that gives full details of the driver. But by far the biggest complaint registered by the company is the loss of jobs that will come if UBER cannot operate in the capital. This year there was said to be 30,000 drivers in the city and with the non-renewal coming into effect, many employees and their families are anxious as to how they will pay the bills. There’s no doubt the cancellation of UBER’s license will have a knock-on effect on its employees but is a price worth paying to teach the corporation a lesson in lawful business etiquette? Do we stand up to big business at the expense of those working under them?

UBER Protest
UBER Protest in Portland, United States

Or could there be a happy medium between the two sides? A means to punish bad corporate behaviour without removing their operations completely? Perhaps a company fine would be more sufficient, a chance to improve their business ethics? Personally, I can’t speak for the service as a whole; I used it just once when I headed to New York and journeyed to Fairleigh Dickson University. It was helpful to have payment done by card rather than cash in hand, not to mention the driver calling me on arrival to save massive phone use charges abroad. It’s good to have an efficient service for customers, but at the same time relying too much on corporate companies gives them more influence to the point where they can control the market; this is where the rules and ethics fly out the window, infecting other aspects of the economy as a result, particularly public services. Whether UBER will succeed in repealing their licence remains unclear, but it’s drawn quite the vocal reaction from both sides of the debate.

(Images sourced from Google, labelled for reuse)

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Clippings: UKIP’s end and their impact on British politics

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Of all the political parties in the UK, it’s UKIP who have been the biggest wild card. Formed from a set of disillusioned Conservatives who broke away to build their own party, UKIP has been difficult, a thorn in the side of their former party for years. Even the entire EU referendum was proposed by David Cameron to get the rebels in line. Last year, the United Kingdom Independence Party was one of the staunchest supporters of the leave campaign and celebrating across the country when the result came; Nigel Farage declared Brexit the UK’s Independence Day and despite only having a single MP in parliament, the party nevertheless made their mark.

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(Image credited to The Independent)

Almost one year later and UKIP is singing a different tune; its entire namesake was based on leaving the EU and once they got what they wanted, the tide began to change for the party. Nigel Farage would step down on July 4th 2016, having achieved his goal and was replaced by Paul Nuttall who has proven to be an incredibly weak leader; his lies concerning Hillsborough and the bending of the truth in general have dragged his reputation through the mud, putting a lot of people off UKIP as a whole. Media coverage slipped away as Farage went off to join the LBC (Leading Britain’s Conversation) radio station, directing much of the traffic towards him instead. There may also be a problem with funding for individual members as well. In the lead-up to local elections I spoke to a UKIP candidate who said that they had no team, no office and hardly enough funding to get their message out. All they could do was man the polling stations from time to time; when a party is this weak on a local level, it’s hard to see them making an impact.

Image result for Nigel Farage LBC
(Image credited to LBC.co.uk)

Is UKIP on its way out? Maybe; the local elections on May 4th 2017 saw the party lose almost all of its seats on councils all over the UK, setting them up for “annihilation” at next month’s election. This is sure to be good news for the Conservatives as many members of UKIP may re-join their side through assimilation as the June General Election approaches. Just as the Liberal Democrats lost massively in 2015, the same now happened with UKIP. Why? Because no one can take them seriously anymore. But ironically as they spiral down their outlandish ways have been adopted by both press and politicians. Speak to the people in loud, simplistic repetition and you’ll win them over in no time. By playing to people’s fear and anger it was UKIP’s ideas, not their political strategy that stood out recently, so much so that the Conservatives have adopted this mind-set too.

Theresa May 2017 Front Pages

Recently Theresa May scolded the EU for apparently interfering in the upcoming UK elections in June. This manner of speech combined with the papers following along is a nasty way of framing proceedings, painting a superiority complex, something personified by the party’s 2015 slogan: “If you believe in Britain, vote UKIP”. Alex Salmond, the former leader of the Scottish National Party hit it on the head recently: “The sort of extreme language that Theresa May used in Downing Street the other day, that could have come from Nigel Farage”. Sadly with such a massive disengagement with politics nowadays, this divisive in-your-face attitude is quickly becoming the norm when it comes to winning votes, especially in the right-wing campaigns. In the end, UKIP was a party that could not be ignored; they may not have made it into parliament but their mannerisms did and that could stick around in UK politics for a long time to come.

(All images used for the purposes of review and criticism under fair use)

Clippings: Giving in, appeasement and the roles they play in the modern political game

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As 2016 comes to a close, politics is looking to the future after a set of thunderous earthquakes; there’s one particular trend I’ve noticed. After a Supreme Court ruling, the triggering of the Brexit process was debated in Parliament. I had some hope that the Labour and Liberal Democrats would be able to halt its progress. Perhaps both parties could have pulled together and fight the Brexit con, letting the people know why their vote was the product of lies and manipulation. But it was not to be as parliament voted vastly in favour (461 for to 89 against) of making the Conservatives release a plan for Brexit and aiming to trigger article 50 for next year at the end of March. The controversial move is all but confirmed; quite disappointing but did they really have much of a choice? To go against a vote, even if it was a con would be a bad move from any party wanting to win the next election. Consider the tabloid media’s attack on the UK’s judicial judges after they stated that Brexit could not be triggered without a vote in parliament first (Which is a fundamental part of our democratic process). If Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron denied Brexit from going through, the media would tear into them relentlessly and they might as well kiss the 2020 election goodbye. It’s this kind of acceptance that compels parties to act for the bigger picture rather than making moves that could anger the populous. It is also indicative of just how much sway external forces and the media have over the UK. Conversely, the move is certainly holding the current government to account; if Theresa May and her cabinet fail to deliver a comprehensive Brexit plan before then, they will be held as incompetent by their rival parties, thus diminishing their own reputation.

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It’s not just the UK who is tossing around ideas of appeasement; Germany’s next election is taking place between August and October 2017 and this has brought further measures which could be tied in with the events to come. Chancellor Angela Merkel has recently endorsed her party’s proposition for a partial burqa ban, stating that “the full facial veil is inappropriate and should be banned wherever it is legally possible”. When an election is bearing down on you, do you maintain your common policy or alter it somewhat to put more emphasis on integration while also making a light appeal to the far-right sects that have become more common in recent years? It’s easy to suggest that the need to stay in power and win elections is the principal goal of any political party, but this may well come at the cost of inclusiveness. The far right and populism is a side that can no longer be ignored in this regard and it’s possible that aspects of that political viewpoint may slowly become a larger consideration for the left to deal with in the future. We’ll have to watch 2017 carefully.

(Images used for the purposes of review under fair use. Tabloid headlines in public domain)

Clippings: An argument for City University’s motion against the UK tabloid press

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Update (November 27th 2016): With the amount of media attention the motion has received, City University is looking to undergo a more vigorous discussion over whether or not the tabloids should be taken off of campus stores. The person behind the motion has also stated that ban may have been too extreme a word, suggesting boycott be used.

City University has made the choice to stop selling tabloids on campus and I was one of around 200 students sitting in the Great Hall on November 17th, looking to get a sense (As a uni program rep) of how student concerns were being taken into account and implemented. After a few fairly simple motions, a lone student (whose name I won’t give to avoid personal attacks) announced a motion to ban the sale of tabloid newspapers because of the hateful messages they put out. The move was being done in partnership with the Stop Funding Hate campaign, which has been encouraging companies (most recently LEGO, the Cooperative and John Lewis) to withdraw their advertising and remove their association with a nasty set of newspapers. The decision is not unlike Bournemouth University’s choice to remove lads mags a year or two ago.

british-tabloids

There was much debate with some comparing the move to fascism, before we eventually chose to pass the motion; but is this really the case when confined to a single institution? One which aims to promote diversity and cooperation? Will the papers be forced to disappear overnight because one major institution chose to stop selling them? No; all students are still more than welcome to buy them outside the campus; we did not call for a complete ban across the nation for the tabloids. It is instead an effort towards changing their vile tone which could be achieved with enough support from companies and universities alike.

I read an article from Conservative magazine “The Spectator” recently which had much criticism of the decision; one interviewee argued that the best way to deal with bad journalism is to “do it better”; this was a message directed squarely at the university’s journalism students. But I ask critics this: How can you change the way the tabloids are ran when their owners and other people at the top will always set the agenda and the way their papers are made? If an editor at the Sun suddenly turned around and said that their negative tone needed to be scaled back then it’s possible their superiors would find someone else to follow through.

The bottom line is that the tabloids will not care about open discussion, especially the moguls who own them; they only want to sell as many papers as possible and the only way to challenge that corporate status quo is to put a dent into their profits. Only then will they realise that their rhetoric is not acceptable in a modern society that can and should be committed to embracing people from all walks of life, not demonising people who aren’t British citizens. The passed motion I feel is not a contributor to censorship; rather it is aimed at rejecting the hateful messages that these papers have been writing endlessly in recent years while also cosying up to the power elite on the side. The UK media has many flaws and I view this as a step towards changing things.