UK & World News
Bob Crow: 'No One Likes Us And We Don't Care'
Bob Crow, who has died at the age of 52, was the best known trade union leader of his generation.
He was a man who relished his role as a bogeyman of the right-wing tabloid press but was not a member of the Labour Party or even a traditional British left-winger.
Mr Crow was a member of various political parties including the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Socialist Labour Party founded by Arthur Scargill. He had recently flirted with the idea of forming a new "Workers' Party".
A man of Leninist philosophy, he was not a traditional left-of-centre liberal and was, for example, in favour of the death penalty. He was also a campaigner for Britain coming out of the European Union.
He was elected overwhelmingly to head the Rail, Maritime and Transport†union in 2002 - and by common consent he was an extremely effective leader ready to take his members into industrial action but also a skilled negotiator with a command of detail.
Mr Crow perhaps anticipated the recent formal break between the Labour Party and Trade Union movement by taking the RMT out of the Labour Party and re-deploying its funds for campaigns of its own choosing.
At the time of his death Mr Crow's union was in the midst of a series of strikes against ticket office closures on the London Underground.
According to Ken Livingstone, the former mayor, Mr Crow's members were about the only working class people still to have good wages in London.
Born in east London, Mr Crow was a lifelong and vigorous supporter of Millwall FC who seemed happy to subscribe to the club's uncompromising slogan: "Nobody likes us and we don't care."
But in fact he was a skilled manipulator of public opinion who relied on making an impact. When floods hit Britain this winter he was quick to call off the latest round of Tube strikes.
An unmistakably pugnacious figure, he believed that nothing was too good for the workers. He was unapologetic when Fleet Street "exposed" he'd enjoyed expensive meals at the Mayfair restaurant Scott's and had taken a luxury holiday to Brazil this winter just before the Underground strikes.
Mr Crow came under criticism for living in a housing association property in London while enjoying a salary package of over £140,000 a year. But as a socialist he believed in provision by the state and was never tempted to make a killing by exercising his right to buy.
There seems to be a bit of a double standard by which the better-off are criticised if they live in public housing but also come under attack if they use private medicine or education. Those last two were something Mr Crow would never have contemplated.
For me an incident in 2006 summed up Bob Crow. Internal dissent in his party had forced Tony Blair to announce that he would soon step down as leader and Prime Minister.
He was in Brighton to give his last fraternal address to the Trades Union Congress, "probably as much to their relief as to mine", as Mr Blair joked. But there was still a considerable amount of unrest in the hall.
"Now Comrades the leader of the Labour Party is always welcome at the TUC", General Secretary Brendan Barber pleaded. "No he ain't!" Mr Crow shouted in his characteristically piercing London accent and marched his delegation out of the audience.
Paul Kenny, the leader of the GMB, put it best on hearing the shocking news of Mr Crow's sudden death: "Even people who didn't like what he did agreed he did it very well."
That view was clear in the tributes pouring in from such unlikely sources as Boris Johnson and the Conservative Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.
Mr Crow's death leaves a big hole in politics and the working class movement.
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