Here is the gossip we heard last night at Uber's Christmas party in London, where it faces an imminent ban

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Here is the gossip we heard last night at Uber's Christmas party in London, where it faces an imminent ban

Uber Jamie Heywood

Uber

Uber's Northern and Eastern European general manager, Jamie Heywood.

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  • Uber held its annual company holiday party last night and Business Insider went along to say hello.
  • Uber faces an imminent ban on operating in London.
  • Insiders at the party don't think the ban will happen anytime soon.

Uber's London HQ held its annual company holiday drinks-'n'-canapes party last night, at the Groucho Club in Soho, and Business Insider went along to say hello.

Needless to say, there was one existential question hanging over the get-together: Will Uber escape the November 25 ruling banning it from operating in the city?

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The answer we heard is "yes, probably."

The ban on Uber operating in London - one of its biggest revenue-generating cities - is set to come into force on or about December 16.

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While mingling with management and drinking free champagne, here is what Business Insider staffers learned last night:

  • Uber's legal team is confident it will win an appeal of the ban. The appeal will be filed in a magistrates court within the next few days.
  • The appeal will put the ban on hold for months, as the magistrates ruling can also be appealed to higher courts.
  • One likely argument Uber will make is that a ban of the entire company from the entire city is a disproportionate response given the "crime": The ban was imposed because 14 drivers out of a total of 45,000 had falsified their identities. Uber could argue that it can take measures against those drivers, and prevent the loophole that allowed their fraud, and thus regain its "fit and proper" status.
  • Jamie Heywood, the regional general manager for the UK and Europe, appeared unruffled by the ban, even though it pushed Uber stock down 6% on the day it was announced.
  • London Mayor Sadiq Khan is playing a game, Uber insiders speculate. Khan has to show he is supportive of the drivers unions who have campaigned against Uber and helped persuade the transport regulator, TfL, to ban the service. But he is up for re-election in 2020 and is probably afraid of a backlash from Uber's 3.5 million city users if Uber is actually banned. So while Khan officially supports the ban, unofficially he is probably hoping that some kind of compromise will allow Uber to continue operating.
  • Uber is thus hoping that the stars will align behind the idea that a complete ban is an extreme over-response, and a more graduated approach would be a better solution.
  • The Prime Minister's senior special adviser, Sheridan Westlake, was in attendance. Last year, cabinet member Matt Hancock attended. Uber in London has always been politically well-connected to the Conservative party, as evidenced by ...
  • ... the presence of Uber London comms chief Lottie Dexter. She was once named in a ranking of Westminster power couples by Politico. Her husband works for Lynton Crosby's CTF Partners, the consultancy that has advised the Conservative party on the election campaigns of former prime ministers David Cameron and Theresa May, and current PM Boris Johnson. She also used to work for former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith's social policy think tank, the Centre for Social Justice.

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