An aspirational and famous speech by Churchill, and perhaps, a little dramatic for this piece. But actually, maybe it's perfectly fitting!
Standing under the UCG's "Totally Failing London" banner at the bank yesterday, shoulder to shoulder with colleagues who really care, left me in a unfamiliar state of mind.
The same old faces, the same concerns, the same commitment...........................but all getting older !
I have been on most of our trade demos, way back since before the Victoria Coach Station one, so many years ago. And even then, it was the same old colleagues, fighting and taking their stance in hope of a better, stronger trade.
To a large extent, we achieved much. The Killer On The Knowledge success, being one that springs to mind. The thing is though, and what makes me really sad is, we could have achieved so so much more.
Since I have been a trade scribe now, which covers a fair few years, I have never commented, denounced, criticised or bad mouthed any of our trade organisations, as I was convinced that they were all trying to win a better working environment for us, albeit with varying ideas. Nothing wrong with that of course. But yesterday, and for the first time ever, I got the mephitic feeling, that maybe there were some strange vibes from within our own ranks, and after sleeping on it, have awoken this morning convinced that there are indeed !
For the first time ever, I publicly say that in my opinion, as a working London Taxi Driver and member of all of the organisations in my time..........................I think they have a lot to answer for.
Not just that either. I have always accused TFL and City Hall of dubious and murky goings on within their fabric, but yesterday I came away from the Bank thinking that the very same thing is happening within our own structure too. And that shouldn't be the case......should it ? If there is any truth in that, then it would explain how a group of 25000 professionals, can be in such a weak and professionally perrilous corner !
Not one official backing from any of the "others" was given to the UCG at the Bank. AND YET, colleagues from all sides turned out in their thousands from every single one of the clubs, organisations, unions, associations and groups ! I don't understand that ! If a driver was happy with their chosen representing trade organisation, then surely he or she would be obliged and indeed, willing to take the stance of the organisation's views on the demo ? Right ? Well, actually.........No ! They didn't !
From where I stood on the front line, I don't think it was just a case of supporting the UCG, but a case of supporting somebody, someone, some thing or some group, who were actually trying to DO SOMETHING to protect their livelihoods !
The banter from our colleagues was one of obvious disenchantment too. I can perfectly understand that. Why are we in this position? I am quite an anorak when it comes to studying various strategies in any form of battle or campaign, and I can confidently tell you, that any progress that our trade has made to either hold on to, or better our lot.......HAS BEEN MADE BY THE FEW!
It is a worrying but accurate fact that colleagues such as the TAG Hit Squads, the Mayfair Mob, The Club Hit Squads and other splinter groups among us, have made more progress and achieved more success than any of our trade representation, some of who hold millions of "fighting fund ?" money ! How on earth can that possibly be ?
I tell you what my opinion is shall I ?
I think "The Few" succeed because they are resolute and genuine.
I think they succeed because they honestly don't concern themselves with playing at being politician wannabees, they ain't concerned with making enough money from membership subscriptions to prevent them from mushing a cab, and they ain't concerned with carving out an alternate cushy position in "the office" whilst masquerading as a caring colleague. They are out there to do a job...........and they do it incredibly well !
In future, before I go spouting off about Boris, Daniels, Hendy, Emmerson and the rest of that rabble, it wouldn't do us any harm to study some of our own high ranking management first ! I believe there is collusion and betrayal at the very top of our trade, just like at TFL, that has absolutely no appetite for a safer and more secure playing field for London Taxi Drivers, rather than the longevity and comfort of the obvious gravy train that purports to represent London Taxi Driver members.
Naturally, I wouldn't want my opinion to whitewash the genuine hard working trade reps and club officials who work ridiculous long hours in a GENUINE AND HONEST effort to make progress. But don't let us kid ourselves, they're are some wrong un's flourishing from within our ranks, who have had an astonishing comfortable free ride from our trade, as it sinks slowly but surely into the Suwannee !
And I think it is these traitors who are deliberately leading our great London Taxi Trade along a path that will eventually replicate Operation Market Garden!
What was NOT to support yesterday's demo ? What did the trade org's gain from a demo mutiny ? Of course, I respect the colleagues among us who disagree with the demonstration action, but what alternate assistance do they offer ? Judicial Reviews ? Court Action? Meetings? Courts? Litigation? Ministers support ? Yeah yeah, course we will ! Blah blah, bloody blah ! They didn't say what century ! That's the problem isn't it ?
Do you realise how much these specialist litigation briefs charge for all of this representation by the hour ? Who's gonna pay for it ? Ghostbusters? Absolute pie in the sky folks ! It ain't gonna happen that way, and if I'm alive to see TFL and City Hall in court, then lets hope we can re-create the Great Train Robbery with 6 extra coaches to pay for it ! That's all I can say !
Meanwhile, we slip very slowly into extinction. Our once great trade, which has served London, Londoners and the World's travelling public in platinum professionalism and service, reduced to a pile of rubble and merely awaiting our stall in the London Transport Museum !
May I say, that it was an incredible proud part of my life to have fought and stood in hope and staunch resistance in my time on the London Taxi front lines. The calibre of men (and women) who I have met along the way have been an inspiration to me and I am honoured to have them as friends.
Standing at the Bank Junction yesterday may just have been another battle honour, but as I walked back to my taxi, it dawned on me that not only will we never have complete trade unity, but perhaps it was never there in the first place. My rose coloured glasses have at last lost their lenses !
To my mind and for reasons mentioned above, I can only see the UCG as becoming a stronger and even more respected force out there as time goes on, as our downtrodden colleagues view their alternatives. Len Martin is a good man, and holds the reins in confidence and skill. Perhaps all is not lost, but time is ticking by.
I must say, that the Gold Control Commander and his team from the City Of London Police, were not only incredibly fair up at the Bank yesterday, but professional and refreshingly approachable too. When we can work in democratic and compliant cohesion as we did yesterday, the whole demo has a sharper and better looking edge.
Just before I left my colleagues at the UCG and friends that I have met along my time as a proud one of "The Few", I got genuinely choked up as a roar went up for a lone Knowledge Boy, beeping the horn on his moped as he weaved among the motionless taxis at the Bank.
I know only too well the pride he was feeling. His "today's runs" were pinned to his knowledge board as he waved at the crowds of his future mates standing under the banner.
What is HIS future ? I asked myself. Will he eventually make it ? Will he be one day standing here with us as we still fight on ? Will he have a secure and respected future as a result of the trade representation who "look after" us ? Or will he be doing it all for nothing?
Either way, in mutual respect, I stood my brolly up against the wall by the tube entrance, and joined in the crowd to give our future colleague a standing ovation !
He didn't have to be there. He didn't have to care. He didn't even know if he would make the grade eventually. But he came ! He drove to the Bank, he cared and supported the men and women who one day God willing, will be his colleagues in trade.
What more could you ask ? Whoever you were my friend, total respect to you, well done and let's hope we can keep something for you to join us in.
And to the "Few" who know who they are, stand proud my friends, for it is only you who have managed to hold us together thus far!
London Taxi Trade Representation ? Some of our lot couldn't spell Representation, let alone carry it out !
Never Was So Much Owed...............................
Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock, Tick........................