It was with surprise that I read last night that Bob Crow is no longer with us.
He died on March 11, 2014, of a heart attack and ruptured aneurysm.
My sympathies to his family and friends. His sudden demise must have come as a shock. He was only 52 and had been doing media interviews until the end.
That said, my memories of Crow are not pleasant ones. If we were to play word association, my response to his name would be ‘Tube strikes’.
On days of ‘industrial action’ it’s pretty easy for most people in Greater London to get into the centre of town. After that, it can take ages to walk anywhere. Occasionally, I took the bus, but the wait was such that I often thought, ‘I could have walked more than a mile by now’. Most recently, I got caught up in his February 2014 strikes in the cold and rain. I had an appointment I could not cancel.
And the uncertainty of Tube strikes and Bob was always at the fore. I was probably not the only person to have been surprised that this year’s actually took place. Many were the times from the 1990s through the past decade where my better half and I would watch the London news to get an answer to ‘Will they or won’t they?’ One never knew until the last minute.
On one occasion in the 1990s, we watched the news as protracted negotiations took place at ACAS. The broadcast showed a man entering ACAS HQ balancing a dozen pizza boxes. We turned to each other and wondered how long they argued about whether it would be pizza or fish and chips.
So, no, after all the inconvenience he caused our household over the years, I won’t be eulogising the RMT leader who said of Margaret Thatcher nearly a year ago:
Unlike Mr Crow’s wish for Baroness Thatcher, however, I hope that his soul rests in peace, even if he was an atheist.
Thinking back, it is odd that we never heard more about Crow’s politics during his tenure at the RMT. His Wikipedia entry states:
Crow was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and then the Communist Party of Britain after the CPGB’s dissolution, between 1983 and 1995, when he left to join Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party (SLP). He then left the SLP, though he remained an admirer of Scargill, and was not a member of any political party when he died, although he gave his support to the now disbanded Socialist Alliance, and believed all socialist parties should unite. In the 2005 general election, he endorsed Robert Griffiths, the Communist Party of Britain’s candidate in Pontypridd, calling him “a champion of workers’ rights”. Griffiths went on to win 233 votes (0.6%), coming last out of the six candidates.
Better known was the controversy surrounding his salary and his living in a council house. Andrew Neil confronted him about it last month on Sunday Politics (BBC1) but received no clear answer. At a time when affordable housing is at a shortage in Greater London and surrounds — Crow and his family lived in suburban Essex — many of us wondered how ethical it was for an avowed Socialist to remain in a council house instead of moving nearby so a low-salaried worker could live there. This issue also came up on Crow’s Wikipedia entry’s talk page. You can be sure if it were a Tory in such circumstances, the media din would have been deafening.
It will be interesting to see how the RMT will progress now.
One thing seems sure to progress for better or worse — I happen to think worse — is the increased automation on London Underground.