There's something about Glasgow taxi drivers. Maybe it's the fact that my mother was the second woman in Glasgow to get a hackney license. She knew the city like the back of her hand and she had no time of day for day traffic - she was nightshift!
Oh aye, I remember my heroic, single-parent mother out there all night earning a "man's wage" in 70's Glasgow and when I got in the way she sometimes had me sitting in the little cabin next to the driver's seat and under the metre. I think I helped her pull in some tips. Taxi drivers have cash and so nothing was ever planned and I ate out of chip shops, Chinese, Italian and Indian restaurants and unlike my friends who had things, I had cash.
The stories and the characters. 'Chippy Tam', the obese Glasgow Italian who owned a fleet of taxis had a canteen where the city's cab drivers met up. If you needed a sub, 'The Chip' was the man. I remember the stench of diesel, colourful stories about celebrities in the cab or what happened to patrons who didn't want to pay and characters with nicknames like 'Scottish Soldier'. Taxi drivers were ex-squaddies, ex-shipyard workers, ex-everything. They knew politicians, prostitutes, cops, ex-cons, journalists, bankers, gangsters etc. Needless to say they knew the score. If you talked to a Glasgow taxi driver you could hear opinions about the provost, the shipyards, the world war, the Spanish civil war, capitalism, Muhammed Ali, John MacLean, Raging Bull, Ally MacLeod, Nixon, OPEC and the Bay City Rollers. You didn't want to end up on the wrong side of them but they were interesting and a vital part of an amazing city.
Please Martin Scorsese - make the movie!
Which brings me to this story reported on Newsnet Scotland:
Glasgow Labour Councillor in ‘Crime Cab’ Row
It would seem that a private hire taxi firm has secured lucrative contracts with Glasgow City Council. It would also seem that the said firm has been accused of having links with organised crime and now a Labour councillor, Jim Todd - who drove for the firm - has been accused of helping the company secure the council contract.
Now, if I remember anything about Glasgow cab drivers it is that they really despise private hire firms. Why? Well, while the 'hacks' are out there scowering the streets for business with their 'begging lights' on, the private hire lot sit around waiting for a call. And in so doing the hacks get to know the city inside out. I remember all sorts of stories about how my mother would drive along a certain road just as a certain office closed and she would be 'flagged down' and got a good fare to the airport and maybe even a hauf-decent tip into the bargain. It's a matter of honour and service.
So when in August this year every taxi driver in the city of Glasgow signed a petition against the awarding of Glasgow City Council contracts to private hire firms you can bet your house that the 'hacks' are more than just a bit hacked off!
Just to help you understand the intensity of feeling that is involved here I'll tell you a story: Once upon a time there was a turf war between 'hacks' and minibuses. The minibuses were picking up punters and taking them to the bingo and this didn't enamour them much to the 'hacks' but "all's fair in love and war" as my mother used to say. However, one night two minibuses off-loaded their patrons at the bingo and decided to go for a cup o' tea whilst waiting for the end of the bingo session and thought it would be a hoot to trap a parked taxi between them. That night both minibuses were petrol-bombed. I won't say how the addresses of the minibus drivers were procured or who the taxi driver was but you get the point; hackney drivers don't take to being shafted kindly and they're resourceful.
The private hire firm called Network Private Hire saw Strathclyde Police lodge objections against their license applications this month on the basis that a convicted criminal, James Baxter, held shares in the company. This week Mr. Baxter left the company.
Councillor Todd was recently made Chairman of 'City Building' - a company that was recently at the centre of the corruption allegations that surrounded the former Labour council leader Stephen Purcell who has admitted taking cocaine and who, it is believed, was thought by police to be vulnerable to blackmail by gangsters. As you would expect, calls for an investigation into corruption were blocked by Labour and Lib-Dem councillors. And on top of all that, the same firm has secured exclusive contracts by the BBC and the NHS (no Labour influence there is there?).
Now Councillor Todd is threatening to take legal action against SNP Councillor David Turner (who maybe having one or two sleepless nights) for the latter's allegations made in the council chamber. I imagine this will all be swept under the carpet by the unionist media and no legal action will be taken but there's one constituency that's being overlooked by everyone. No silly, not the electors but the taxi drivers.
In a City where Labour rules supreme, suddenly they have a formidable enemy - Glasgow's taxi drivers!
For decades the SNP have pondered over how to get a foothold in Glasgow. The City's tabloid The Daily Record is a loyal Labour propaganda organ and there is a revolving door between party members, trade unionists, media outlets and jobs in the public sector. Indeed, I can remember in the early nineties the wife of a trade-unionist securing a job as a secretary in an 'Unemployed Workers Centre'. She drew a healthy salary and typed with two fingers..
Could this open up a new front for the SNP? If I were an SNP councillor or activist in Glasgow, I'd be handing out a dossier on Labour's council corruption every time I took a taxi. Taxi drivers have friends and they talk to their punters. The nationalists have an opportunity to turn Glasgow taxi drivers into an activist base which is far more potent than those party members who have leafletted Glasgow's constituencies over the decades (like me) with no hope of winning.
And perhaps drivers could be convinced to support the new Newsnet Scotland online newspaper which was set up to counter-balance the unionist bias in Scotland's press and broadcast media. Just a thought.
As this story heats up, and it will, I'd bet on Glasgow's hackney drivers throwing some diesel on the flames. Care must be taken as this is local Glasgow politics but handled correctly this is a huge opportunity to help loosen the iron grip that Labour has on the city.
Taxi for Labour!