The Mayfair Mob and Me
I can hardly believe that it is 18 months since I made my first tentative steps into the world of the London Black Cab, when I made a telephone call to LBC in support of the drivers’ big demo in 2014. Not for a moment did I imagine how deeply I would be drawn into this trade. I certainly could not have envisaged that I would become an activist of sorts, and nor could I have expected to make such a range of new and loyal friends. Among those friends are members of the Mayfair Mob, for whom anyone who follows me on Twitter will know my admiration knows no bounds.
How did this begin? As I made it my business to find out more and more about the trade I discovered Twitter – it’s ironic that I was introduced to using social media by a group of people unfairly called Luddites by politicians and the media. As well as the actual tweets themselves, I was, not unnaturally, intrigued by the choice of Twitter names. My own shows no such imagination, just a problematic spelling challenge. One day at a Mayor’s Question Time, I was sitting on my own in the café before the session began. A group of drivers came to the same table and one of them looked slightly familiar. I suddenly realised that I knew his face from Twitter – he was an imposing looking figure, but, not being particularly shy, I said to him “Are you Starve a Scab?” and he replied in the affirmative.
A couple of weeks later, I was picked up by a driver who knew him, and I asked him to put me in touch. I was already interested in the tweets I was seeing, and the rousing clarion calls put out by Mick Smith (to use his real name!) had, I felt, a positive quality that was obviously getting noticed and getting results. Shortly afterwards I went on a tour of the ranks around Mayfair with him and began to see for myself the Mob’s modus operandi.
At around the same time, I started going out at night in the Advan with Michael Calvey, and this was the real turning point for me. To see up close and personal, as a member of the public, the blatant flouting of the law that went on at night among PHV drivers, touts and doormen shocked me to the core. At the same time I saw for myself the utter ineffectualness of TfL’s much trumpeted Operation Neon and it was clear to me that the so-called regulator seemed to feel that painting over the cracks rather than acting as a powerful deterrent was sufficient.
The Advan and the Mayfair Mob working in conjunction made a potent cocktail, and seeing the shoulders of the door ponce (the only appropriate word) slump when we parked opposite Novikov, for example, was highly satisfactory.
As time has gone on, the Mob has achieved what might have seemed nigh on impossible – ranks have been extended; there are marshals outside Novikov, the Forge and in Wardour Street; ranks that have been previously unloved and ignored are now being used, and work is coming off them.
The achievement of a group of drivers working independently of the organisations is extraordinary. So what is their secret? Like all the best success stories, it is remarkably simple.
1. Do not turn down jobs, take credit cards, keep the cab clean, use the ranks, and be polite ( this last I am aware is quite a challenge when faced with some of the alcohol-fuelled idiots out there.) These recommendations are all geared towards the punter (who oddly enough is often overlooked by the trade).
2. Rise above internal cab politics — anyone can join regardless of whether they are in any of the orgs or not. This is key in my opinion, as the trade cannot avoid being fragmented when it comprises 25,000 independently minded people. Sniping in a public forum does no one any favours. Showing a united front is crucial at a time when the trade is so much under the cosh. Feeling part of a team of like-minded people is important for morale and .taking control of one’s own destiny is empowering.
3. Move the scabs off the ranks by asking as politely as possible. No matter how frustrating this is, arguments will always be seen by members of the public who will spin them to suit their own likes and dislikes.
The numbers of those in the Mayfair Mob’s rooms are growing and I for one could not be more pleased. I feel honoured to be the only non-driver member and I am confident that my friends will go from strength to strength. I salute them.