Uber Mea Culpa Hands London Mayor a Win at May's Expense

(Bloomberg) -- Uber admitted to making mistakes in London, promising to work closely with authorities as it tries to get its operating license renewed.

The apparent rapprochement appears good news for people wanting to get around the U.K. capital cheaply and more safely, but it’s an unwanted embarrassment for Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party.

Tory lawmakers weighed in to support the taxi-hailing app in September when Transport for London said it had failed to meet required standards and that its permit wouldn’t be renewed. There were petitions, protests and questions in Parliament in support of Uber, even though the police had also raised doubts about the safety of its cars.

May pitched it as a battle between the San Francisco-based company and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, accusing him of stifling competition. While Khan -- one of the opposition Labour Party’s most prominent politicians -- always said the decision was made by TfL and not him, he now appears to have won anyway.

‘Wake-Up Call’

“As we reflected on what had happened our initial response rightly changed -- we had to look to ourselves rather than blame others,” Tom Elvidge, Uber’s U.K. general manager, wrote in the Evening Standard newspaper on Thursday. “TfL’s decision soon became the latest wake-up call for a company that had grown incredibly quickly but still needed to grow up.”

Uber is working with police to “proactively report” any serious incidents, limiting driver hours and providing sickness, injury and parental leave, Elvidge wrote. Journeys will be tracked by GPS and the company will even commit to tackling air pollution as it seeks to win back TfL’s favor.

Khan’s office refused to respond in detail to the article because Uber is appealing the licensing decision. “It’s good to see Uber acknowledging that they, like other companies, have to play by the rules,” it said in a statement.

In September, May told the BBC that TfL’s decision was “disproportionate.”

Now she’s striking a rather different tone.

Asked about the decision, a spokesman for May said: “The Prime Minister said earlier this year that she wanted to see Uber address concerns around protections for workers and safety issues, to establish and enforce the standards and protections that can make this ground-breaking technology work for customers and employees alike. We welcome Uber’s commitment to address these concerns today.”

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