London Mayor and MP Boris Johnson has defended his foul-mouthed exchange with a cabbie saying, that he was simply "getting the ball back over the net".
Boris was captured on video telling a black cab driver to "fuck off and die" after an exchange in Islington, North London. The driver had earlier heckled the politician, telling him: "You're one of them mate. That's what you are. One of them."
Approached at his Islington home on Thursday, the politician was asked if he was going to apologise to the taxi driver and offered a tennis metaphor as a justification instead.
Video: Boris Johnson says he was "getting the ball back over the net" when he told cabbie to "f*** off and die" http://t.co/kOXGsYVD2Q— Sky News (@SkyNews) June 18, 2015
"I think it comes under the heading getting the ball back over the net," Boris said, while astride his bicycle.
"It was a gentle attempt to return of service, that is what it was."
He then cycled off.
The video exchange with the taxi driver was captured on a mobile phone by an onlooker and given to The Sun newspaper. According to the report, the driver accused Boris of failing to protect the capital’s traditional black cabs, which have suffered from competition from app-based companies, such as Uber.
Boris then replied: “Why don’t you fuck off and die, why don’t you fuck off and die -- and not in that order."
The driver retorted: “Yeah bollocks, I hope you die."
A “source” close to the mayor told The Sun: “Boris has dozens of chance conversations with Londoners every week. Many are productive and friendly, some are colourful, I know most end happily. I believe this particular cabbie however is a serial heckler.”
The incident, which happened around midnight on Friday 5th June, is reportedly part of a broader dispute between city hall and the black cabs, the latter claiming the mayor isn’t doing enough to protect the trade against competition from Uber. Cabbies claim the smartphone app uses unlicensed drivers from outside the city with little knowledge of the capital’s roads.
According to The Guardian, attendees of an industry meeting excoriated Johnson in May for not having "the guts" to tackle Uber, preferring to let black cabs "die on his watch."