When sharing isn’t fair

In Silicon Valley, renting out is the new selling —and renting out stuff that belongs to other people can be far more profitable than renting out your own. Over the past few years, companies like Airbnb and Uber have made a great deal of money by pioneering a business model of connecting consumers, who want to use things — such as apartments and cars with drivers — with other people, who want to provide them. For public relations reasons they promote this model as the ‘sharing economy’. And who could be against ‘sharing’? But this isn’t the kind of sharing your mother taught you. The term entered the technology vernacular

Sadiq Khan threatens crackdown on Uber, saying allowing its taxis was a ‘mistake’

The worldwide Uber debate is quite helpful in that it forces politicians to answer a simple question: are you for the people, or the vested interests? Sadiq Khan, the Labour candidate for Mayor, declared his hand today in an LBC phone-in. Challenged by a (Scottish) black cab driver about his views on Uber, he said: There are almost 100,000 private hire vehicles in London. Over the last three years there has been, roughly speaking, a 10,000 increase in the number of private hire vehicles. The black taxis are now as low as 23,000, for the first time in a generation, there are fewer people doing the knowledge. And I’m afraid

Tom Goodenough

Today in audio: Bored Bercow lashes out

John Bercow hit out at Greg Hands for his ‘long-winded, boring and unnecessary’ answer in the Commons: Ken Livingstone said that his history of rebellions, as well as those rebellions orchestrated by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, proved they were right: The former London mayor also said Labour was ‘completely out of kilter with the membership’ and that it was time for Labour MPs to come to terms with Corbyn: George Osborne had a dig at Labour’s appointment of Yanis Varoufakis. The Chancellor said he was signed up by the party because ‘Chairman Mao was dead and Mickey Mouse was busy’: And Sadiq Khan vowed to crack down on Uber

Why the greatest innovations do only one thing, but do it well

McDonald’s got rid of cutlery. Uber does not allow you to pre-book taxis. Amazon began by selling only books. Conventional logic would suggest that successful innovations are best when they allow you to do lots of things. Actually, if you want your innovation to change behaviour, it is often best to launch an innovation which does only one thing. It is much easier to adopt a new technology if its function is unambiguous. The device solves one simple problem, and solves it very well. If X then Y. I have never had much luck with multi-purpose kitchen devices. Although theoretically they have a plethora of different uses, their application is

Not all Uber drivers are Islamists, just like not all London cabbies are John Worboys

Uber aren’t going to be thrilled to hear that Muhaydin Mire, the man who has been arrested on suspicion of knifing a man at Leytonstone station, while shouting ‘This is for Syria’, was reportedly one of their drivers. On social media, London cabbies have already started to capitalise on this, by making the case that you’re better off sticking with them if you want to avoid catching a ride with a jihadi. A new hashtag is currently doing the rounds: #HeWasAnUberDriverBruv – and the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association has been quick to adopt it, while also wondering how many more ‘TFL licensed terrorists’ are out there. While the tweet has now been deleted, it originally

I have no sympathy for people who complain about ‘sharia Uber drivers’

Actress Frances Barber has complained about her taxi driver after a night out in town, tweeting: https://twitter.com/francesbarber13/status/668598758473654272 The man had allegedly told her she was ‘disgustingly dressed’ and that ‘women should not be out at night’. This was after she had remarked about the weather being cold. That’s the problem with liberalising the taxi market to let any random person drive you around – it reduces the level of trust. As Rory Sutherland explained in this magazine a couple of years ago, trust is extremely important to capitalism and that’s why having hurdles such as the Knowledge is necessary: ‘Reciprocation, reputation and pre-commitment are the three big mechanisms which add

Technology podcast special: the disruptive impact of digital innovation

This podcast was sponsored by King and Wood Mallesons. Is technological change a good thing for the British economy? In this View from 22 special podcast, The Spectator’s Fraser Nelson discusses the disruptive impact of new technologies with Julian David, CEO of Tech UK, Andrew Pinnington, CEO of Hailo and Rob Day, a partner at King and Wood Mallesons. What does digital innovation look like and what can businesses do, if anything, to prepare for it? How is the British economy coping with the speed of technological changes through new innovations like Uber and Airbnb? Which industries have struggled the most to cope with new innovations? And are big or small businesses most likely

Uber victorious in High Court battle against black cabbies

Power to the smartphones! The High Court has ruled in favour of Uber this morning after Transport for London and the taxi lobby asked it to clarify whether smartphones in private hire vehicles counted as taximeters. In the ruling, Mr Justice Ouseley said that the drivers’ app may be essential for calculating the fare but that did not make it the device ‘for’ calculating in the fare — which would have put Uber in breach of taximeter laws: ‘A taximeter, for the purposes of Section 11 of the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998, is not a device which receives GPS signals in the course of a journey, and forwards GPS data to a server located

Uber is useful, convenient and safe. How can TfL justify cracking down on it?

Oh, Transport for London. How could you? That was my reaction when I read the plans to crackdown on Uber in the capital. And it seems over 80,000 people agree with me, judging by a petition that was launched on Tuesday. For a city which is meant to be the centre of global commerce, with Boris Johnson who supposedly loves markets as its mayor, London really isn’t doing too well. First the night tube service, which was meant to start on the 11th of September, got delayed thanks to pressure from the unions, and now Transport for London (TFL) is protecting taxi drivers from innovation and competition. Lest anyone think this is actually about public

Cabbies storm London City Hall over Uber row

Boris Johnson’s war with black cab drivers stepped up a notch today. His monthly Mayor’s Question Time session was abruptly shut down after cabbies packed out the public gallery of London City Hall to protest about what they see as Transport for London’s unfair regulations for Uber. As the video above shows, Johnson’s description of the cabbies as ‘Luddites’ did not go down well at all and the London Assembly’s deputy chair decided it should end. Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, has told the Evening Standard Boris’s ‘Luddite’ was to blame, saying it was not ‘the smartest of moves but it escalated out of all proportion’. The fracas

Powder to the people

It’s Notting Hill Carnival this weekend. Two days of skanking, dutty dancing and daggering (the dance, rather than the weapon). No carnival experience would be complete without rum punch and jerk chicken, or for that matter crime, cannabis and cocaine. Drugs are part of the fun at Europe’s biggest street festival. There were 76 drug arrests at the festival last year, and 88 arrests made before the party even started as part of a dawn raid seizing machine-guns and crack. Not that partygoers are about to let a little thing like the law get in the way of their bank holiday. A survey earlier this summer from the European Monitoring

Isabel Hardman

Could a row with Uber be taxi for a London mayoral candidate?

One of the striking things about the contest in Labour for the mayoral candidacy is how many of the candidates are keen to admonish private taxi firm Uber. Sadiq Khan has described it as a ‘problem’ and said he is ‘on the side of the back cab driver’, Tessa Jowell is ‘enormously concerned’ and doesn’t have an Uber account, while David Lammy wants to ‘protect the institution that is the black cab’ and wishes there had been a confrontation between the Mayor and Uber as there had been in Paris. But perhaps these candidates should take heed of what has happened to another mayor who confronted Uber. Bill De Blasio

My hope for Uber? That something better overtakes it soon

I’m as irritated by Uber as the French seem to be — though I wouldn’t go as far as they did last week in arresting the ride-sharing company’s managers. Uber has hit official resistance everywhere from Johannesburg to São Paulo; but a disruptive free-market technology so readily adopted by users that its name has entered global language is bound to win the argument in the end. The only question is whether it will be overtaken by something better. I certainly hope so. Deep in Clapham, a fellow dinner guest offered to call ‘an Uber’ to take us back north of the river. Sure enough, a scholarly-looking fellow with a clean

Good and bad politics: the Budget against a backdrop of Greek chaos

George Osborne’s Budget was good politics: not so much in terms of tactical point-scoring, though there was plenty, but in terms of striving for big objectives of fiscal rectitude and wider prosperity by incentivising sensible economic behaviour and discouraging casual reliance on the state: ‘a country that backs those that work hard and do the right thing’, in David Cameron’s phrase. Some of it will provoke rage, some of it will swiftly unravel, but it was a real attempt to steer the UK in a positive direction. How sad that it had to be presented against the backdrop of the Greek crisis, which is the most howling concatenation of bad

Jemima Goldsmith: my Tinder has ‘loads of Pakistanis and people with beards’

Jemima Goldsmith’s love life has been well documented by the red tops in recent years, with her former loves including Imran Khan and Russell Brand. So Mr S was pleased to hear that – in the name of research – she has been adopting a new approach and experimenting with the dating app Tinder. Goldsmith took to the stage at Vanity Fair‘s digital summit to conduct a Q&A with the app’s founder Sean Rad. Things started off politely with Jemima, who is the sister of Zac Goldsmith, quizzing Rad over why he had come up with the idea for the app, which has over 50 million active users: ‘I think meeting people should be

Podcast: Cameron’s second coalition dream and the problems of the sharing economy

David Cameron is secretly planning for a second coalition, according to the new Spectator. In this week’s View from 22 podcast, James Forsyth and Miranda Green discuss the possibility of another Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition after the general election. Would it be more difficult than it was five years ago to strike a deal? Will the Conservative party back Cameron if he falls short of a majority and decides against a minority government? And why is 30 MPs the magic number for the Liberal Democrats to enter into another coalition? Fraser Nelson and Alex Massie discuss our interview with Alex Salmond and his plans to hold Ed Miliband’s feet to the fire. Instead of doing a coalition deal with Labour,

That’s not a ‘sharing economy’: that’s an invitation to sell your whole life

Technology businesses have a genius for inflicting indignities on us and spinning them as virtues. When they don’t want to respect copyright, they talk about the ‘democratisation of content’. When they want to truffle through our contact lists and browsing histories, they talk about ‘openness’ and ‘personalisation’. A hundred years ago, when a widow had to take in lodgers to pay the bills, it was called misfortune. Today, when an underemployed photographer has to rent out a room in his house or turn his car into a taxi, it’s called the ‘sharing economy’. First Google took his job. Now Airbnb wants his house. Next they’ll be after his pets. In

The joys and sorrows of two-way ratings systems

‘J’ai failli attendre’ — ‘I almost had to wait’ — allegedly said by Louis XIV when his carriage drew up just a few seconds before he reached the bottom of the palace steps. Pathetic, I know, but I try to re-enact this moment with taxi booking apps: I watch the car approach on the map on my phone, then time my departure to emerge from the building exactly when the car pulls up at the kerb. It is a moment of synchronicity which delights the trivial mind — in the way many men enjoy timing the flushing of a lavatory so that the end of the flush coincides with the last moment of

Dear Mary: How do you stop someone wearing leather trousers to work?

Q. My husband employs an ageing rocker in his shop. She is highly efficient, and is an extremely nice woman. Our problem is that she will insist on wearing leather trousers to work and the noise is driving my husband mad. She is not the type to complain of harassment but how do you suggest he approach this delicate issue? — Name and address withheld A. In the early days of rock, it was thought that there was no better vehicle with which to display a good figure than leather trousers. The modern alternative — as worn by photographer Lady Brocket — are leather-look trousers, often with a waxed ingredient.

Yes, Wonga lent at shocking rates – but it was customers who lied

‘Payday Lady is not trading at this time,’ says her website, sounding a little like La Dame aux camélias. Indeed (since I could not find her anywhere) the message may indicate that Payday Lady is not just temporarily indisposed, but has given up the game altogether. I’ll be glad to hear from her if she hasn’t. Meanwhile I can report that her rival Cash Lady (who promises she’ll be ‘here to help you’ within three minutes) was still out there — despite having her television ads banned last year — and so were Purple Payday, Pounds to Pocket, Peachy Loans, PayDay Pig and CashCowNow, all at colossal ‘representative APRs’ that look