July 18, 2018 / 11:13 AM / 3 months ago

Uber hires former adviser to David Cameron to lead lobbying in northern Europe

LONDON, July 18 (Reuters) - Uber Technologies has hired an ex-adviser to former British prime minister David Cameron to lead the ride-hailing firm’s lobbying efforts in northern Europe, less than a month after the company won a reprieve to operate in London.

The U.S. company has appointed Adam Atashzai as its head of policy for northern Europe, which includes the UK and countries in the Nordics and Benelux, an Uber spokesman confirmed to Reuters. His role will include engaging with governments as well as academics and charities, the spokesman said.

The appointment of Atashzai comes after Uber recently moved to improve strained relations in the British capital as it faced the threat of a ban in its most important European market.

Atashzai is currently a partner at Finsbury, a public relations firm owned by WPP, and was previously deputy political director to Cameron. He left politics following Cameron’s resignation in the wake of the June 2016 EU referendum and joined Finsbury later that year. He did not respond to an email and voicemail requesting comment.

Last September, Transport for London refused to renew Uber’s licence, citing failings in the company’s approach to reporting serious criminal offences and to driver background checks.

That prompted Uber to promise to “make things right in London” and in June it scored a partial victory when it secured a 15-month probationary licence to operate in the city after it overhauled its personal and policies in Britain.

However, the licence is far shorter than the five-year licence Uber was denied last year and is subject to strict conditions.

Dara Khosrowshahi was appointed as Uber’s chief executive in August last year and tasked with repairing the firm’s relationships with investors and revamping its image after a series of controversies, including clampdowns by regulators around the world.

The ride-hailing app company, founded in 2009, has grown quickly to operate in more than 600 cities and has a track record of turning to former officials to help it navigate transport regulations as they develop.

In 2014, it hired David Plouffe, who had been a political adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, and in 2016 it set up a public policy advisory board of former officials, politicians and business executives. (Reporting by Ben Martin; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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