A Tory minister has sent a mocking tweet aimed at taxi drivers who have brought central London to a standstill in a "go slow" protest over a new controversial app.
As cabs converged on Trafalgar Square on Wednesday afternoon to protest the Uber app that allows people to book cab journeys around London, Skills Minister Matt Hancock, who is close to George Osborne, tweeted: "What's this #uber app everyone's talking about? It sounds awseome. I'd never heard of it until today.."
He is not alone in making the discovery - publicity around the cabbies' actions has caused downloads of the app to increase by 850%, according to ITV News.
Does anyone have details of this #Uber app everyone's talking about? It sounds awesome. I'd never heard of it until today...— Matt Hancock (@matthancockmp) June 11, 2014
Black cab and licensed taxi drivers who went on the protest said the app was leading to unlicensed drivers being contacted, with no checks on whether they are legitimate.
Protesters in Trafalgar Square chanted "Boris, Boris, Boris, out, out, out", while taxi drivers beeped their horns as demonstrators held placards.
Organisations including the Rail and Maritime Transport union (RMT), London Cab Drivers Club (LCDC) and Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) are all represented at the ongoing protest.
Derrick Hoare, of the LTDA, said they wanted to highlight the length of training - between four and seven years - taxi drivers undergo before being licensed.
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The RMT's Ian Beetlestone said he hoped the demonstration would send a message that Uber is "operating in a grey area".
He said: "We are not objecting to competition. We have had competition for years from minicabs but we haven't caused gridlock over it.
"We have to jump through hoops to be regulated and we don't feel people involved in these new apps are being subjected to the same regulations."
Congestion in Whitehall as seen from above. Apologies for the disturbance from ourselves and the media aircraft. pic.twitter.com/XuEZ2D5h4p— MPS Helicopters (@MPSinthesky) June 11, 2014
The cabbies earned unlikely support in the form of controversial TV personality Katie Hopkins, who said: "Uber is not efficient. Surge pricing multiplies costs by 7.75%. Take away the sat nav and you have an idiot behind a wheel.
"Black Cabs are the capitals 2nd police force. If ever I am in trouble, it is a black cabbie that saves the day."
Speaking of the 850% spike in downloads, Jo Betram, the UK and Ireland manager for Uber, said: "Londoners are voting with their fingers, tapping the app in support of new and innovative services as we see our biggest day of sign-ups in London today since launch two years ago.
"The results are clear. London wants Uber in a big way. Unsurprisingly, the LTDA, which is stuck in the dark ages, is intent on holding London to ransom and causing significant economic impact to Londoners."