17 seconds wait for a cab?

Digital Conference on Thursday. I am not sure how I got to be keynote speaker at this breakfast at the RSA – but here I am. The company that invited me – Panlogic – turns out to have come across me through one of their directors living in the constituency, reading my blog and visiting my website. As the research they are launching today is basically about e-marketing and demonstrates that the age group between 50 and 65 (us ex-hippies with conscience, peace and love man) are still desperately caring people who want to engage in issues and change things for the better. I think their research is spot on.

Day of two speeches really. In the evening I go to one of those wonderful old city halls as keynote speaker at the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers’ Dinner. To you and me – a black cab evening. I am hand-clapped in with the ‘Master’ and other honoured guests in time honoured tradition. I get a quick briefing on how I will address the company. Dinner is enjoyable and I am lucky in that the guest to my right, the Master and the Master Clock Maker (a woman on the other side of the Master) are all absolutely delightful company. In fact, Diana, turns out to have been a constituent but has moved away now. She is a wonderful example of the changing face of the city in that she is the first-ever female Master Clock Maker – and that spans about four centuries.

Anyway, I am there to give a speech after dinner. I have crafted it quite carefully as the LTDA (one of the representative groups for drivers) has previously attacked me for saying there are not enough cabs around due to a driver shortage. They counter-claimed saying that you never have to wait longer than 19 seconds to hail a taxi in central London. Tell that to poor Susan Kramer who waited 25 minutes outside Parliament only this last week! It was rubbish – but there is a kind of jobs for the boys section of the trade who do not actually want to reach the targets set by Transport for London. Last year when I annoyed them evidence had gone to the Transport for London Board showing that there was a shortage of 1,200 black cabs and 4,500 private hire cabs. The concern has to be that if there are not legitimate cabs to hand – people will use the touts with all the dangers that entails.

I wafted across the need to crack down on touts, the Olympics and told my David Blunkett joke. And then home. Or so I thought. Having come by Tube, I got on the Tube home. But – hey ho – it’s the Northern Line and the Barnet branch was suspended. So I got off at Camden and after half an hour waiting for my 19-second taxi I got back on the Tube and went to Golders Green. No 210 and no taxi. Dying of cold and now about quarter to one in the morning, I phoned a private hire company and eventually a mini-cab came for me.