02/11/2010

Was a cab driver told to remove a sign because it's racist?

Here's a total non-story for you. Let's say a cab driver has a personal slogan painted on the side of his cab without getting the permission he needs from the council he works for. The council finds out and tells him he has to remove the signs. Bo-ring! What could possibly get something as mundane as that in the tabloids?



What if the council found out about the signs because people complained about it being racist? How about if the driver was a Gulf War veteran?

Then you'd get 'Gulf war veteran told to remove patriotic sign because it is 'too racist''. Ohmygid! It's political correctness gone mad! Yoocoodernmaykidapp!

I've already given you the facts, so you know the headline's bobbins.  (Update - as Andrew Hickey points out in the comments, the driver works for a private company which is licensed by the council, rather than working for the council itself).   The version currently on the site is still bylined DAILY MAIL REPORTER and hasn't been rewritten by a top flight journo, so it too eailsy reveals that DAILY MAIL REPORTER would know that the headline is bobbins too. It has mendacity quotes and everything.

I mean, we're only four paragraph/sentences in before:
Although the inspectors would not rule on whether the slogan was racist they said the handwritten sign would have to be removed anyway because it had been displayed without permission.
If some poor sap gets to rewrite this and have their name put to it, that will have to go. The final few paragraphs will be enough, with:
A spokesman for Cheshire West and Chester Council's's licensing enforcement office said: 'The authority has received complaints from two different members of the public who felt that Mr Woodward's sign was racist.

'The council has not made any decision on that allegation. It accepts that Mr Woodward did not intend any offense and that he regards his sign only as a reflection of pride in his own country.

'However, as a hackney cab driver he is not allowed to display a sign without applying for permission and was asked to take it down only on that basis.

'Mr Woodward has been told that he can appeal against this ruling.'
Although don't be surprised if the sentence about not making a decision on the racist allegation gets cut too.

3 comments:

Andrew Hickey said...

Just a minor point, but he doesn't 'work for' the council at all. He owns a private taxi company. This isn't his employers telling him he can't do it, but the council telling him what he can and can't do with his own property and his own business.

Now, there are arguments to be made on both sides as to how strictly councils should be able to regulate the appearance of privately-owned taxis, but it's not quite as simple as you make it sound - there is a genuine issue of freedom of speech/property ownership versus regulation there.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Point taken. I'll update te OP.

Cheers!

Paul said...

@Andrew Hickey

From the information available the gentleman concerned is a hackney cab driver, bound by his license.
Regardless whether he is employed by the council or working for himself he is a hackney cab driver and must abide by the regulations.

As 5CC has stated, the councils obligation was to uphold the regulations.
The council has not made any judgment as to what was displayed, only that something had been.

From my reading the gentleman was within his rights to approach the council and seek permission to add whatever he wanted to the side of it.
He chose not to do that, and contrary to the license, displayed it anyway.
Whilst the council may not have approved it, he didn't follow his obligation to seek approval. Should they have refused, then you can start talking about freedom of speech, but this case isn't one of them.

The facts are that two people raised objections, with at least one stating it was racist. That is all the involvement the people had.
The council did not need to verify the claim as any addition to the cab must be approved.

The mail ran with the headline; "Gulf war veteran told to remove patriotic sign because it is 'too racist'"

Firstly the fact that the individual is a gulf-war veteran does not invoke any exceptions to a license - and hence irrelevant.
Secondly the council have not referred to the sign as 'patriotic'.
Thirdly it was not removed because it was 'racist'.

A more fitting headline would be; "Taxi driver who didn't apply for permission to display sign, told to take it down."

The article has undertones that councils are removing the right to be patriotic.
Triggers such as 'patriotic', 'proud', 'father of four', 'PC world has gone mad', 'Englishman', 'Queen and country', 'nationality and heritage', 'patriotic to my country', 'proud to be British', 'law abiding citizen', 'it wouldn't have happened in Wales or anywhere else' and 'gulf-war veteran' are used to heighten emotion.

It seems as if the article was made a long as possible to add as many emotional triggers as possible.

Not a single point is relevant.

If you think the story can be justified based on the rights of ownership vs regulation, the story should reflect that.

Headline/story; "Taxi driver calls for no restrictions on vehicle signage"

But the story has not a whiff of it.