When I broke the news back in July about the anti-Israeli clause in the cable car sponsorship contract – a contract Transport for London had refused for 2 years to publish – the TfL press office worked hard to pour scorn on the story and claim it was all simply a misunderstanding on my part.
But emails between cable car boss Danny Price and redacted persons within Emirates show that internally TfL and, as I knew at the time, City Hall understood the revelation was actually very serious.
24 hours after my story first ran, Price told Emirates that: “The Mayors office and TfL are predicting a significant fall out over the Conflicting Person clause and see this as a very urgent issue.”
But why were TfL expecting such a fuss if it was just one journalist’s inability to read? As we know, the clause was picked on by other UK and international press, all of whom presumably read the contract and formed their own independent view that it said exactly what I reported it said.
Two days later, following further discussions with the Mayor’s office, Price told Emirates that clause 6.5, which prevented London’s freely elected Mayor or TfL from criticising Emirates, its unelected and repressive government or Royal families, would also have to go.
This was, he said, because “certain members of the media and public figures have chosen to misrepresent” it:
To the best of my knowledge, TfL have never explained how else we’re meant to understand a clause which says:
True to its word, TfL sent Emirates a reworded clause which removed all mention of owners, Royal families and Governments.
But – and remember here that all concerns were apparently only a misunderstanding on the part of London’s media – Emirates tried to insert a line preventing criticism of “the owner of the Sponsor”:
By now TfL had endured four days of negative coverage questioning how they’d ever agreed to the original clauses in the first place.
This seems to have helped them decide against agreeing to Emirates’ request because a senior official at Docklands Light Railway, a TfL company and legal owners of the cable car, told Emirates:
On July 24th, after correspondence between TfL and their lawyers, Price sent a further email:
But it appears the promise that TfL would “never, ever” criticise the UAE was insufficient and negotiations apparently continued.
Later that same day, the DLR official told Emirates’ legal advisors:
Why was TfL suddenly playing hardball with a company with which it had previously agreed such troublesome and inappropriate clauses?
The penultimate paragraph explains all:
A wave of negative coverage, which for the record I’m proud to have been part of, meant that clauses which should never have been agreed to were removed from a document TfL did its utmost not to publish.
TfL originally wanted to brush this off as a row stoked by my twisting of the original contract. But the truth is this episode was caused entirely by its own ineptitude and hubris.
Instead of blaming the media, TfL’s well-paid officer class needs to man-up and accept responsibility for their own screw-ups.
PS: Congratulations to the TfL legal team who, despite being unable to understand the contracts it negotiates, have been awarded the Legal 500 UK 2013 award for in-house team of the year in the field of transport.