Bob Crow, the leader of the RMT union, is brilliant. Let me count the ways, ahead of the 48 hour tube workers’ strike scheduled to start this evening, before I can grumble about how hard it’ll make it for me to get to work.
1. He’s a proper union leader
Not for Bob the mealy mouthed mimble-wimbling you normally get from those in high office. He tells it straight and loud and clear. He’s there to safeguard the jobs, pay and conditions of his members. It does not matter to him that perhaps we don’t really need staffed ticket offices in tube stations any more when only 3% of tickets are bought over their counters. He doesn’t give a stuff about how important the public transport network is for the millions of people who need it to get around London. It’s not his problem if paying tube drivers £50k a year and having staffed ticket offices which don’t sell many tickets contributes to ticket prices being eye-wateringly high. Want to get paid extra for doing your job during the Olympics? – no bother, that’s what Bob’s there for. All that matters is that the guys who pay him to represent them get as much as possible. Members of other unions must cry themselves to sleep when they see how effective he is.
2. He lives in a council house
Council houses were meant to be for everyone and for life, so why shouldn’t he, on £100k+ a year live in the one he’s had for years? Why shouldn’t everyone? If that’s unrealistic or it means he’s depriving a vulnerable family of a home why should he care? At least he isn’t a hypocrite about it who’s tried to use his right to buy the house at a discount, unlike, say, Arthur Scargill.
3. He is in favour of leaving the EU because he thinks it is bad for workers
Not for Bob the post-1983 Labour view that we must be pro-EU because it is entertaining to watch the Tories tear themselves up over Europe or because it imposes a set of employment protections which can’t be overturned if the British public do anything as inconvenient as vote for a Tory government. No, he’s resolutely Old Labour on this one. British Jobs for British Workers. Last year on BBC Any Questions on Radio 4 he managed to be significantly clearer and more convincing on the topic of EU membership and why he thinks we should leave than the UKIP panellist. UKIP is picking up votes from Labour in Tory no go areas in places like South Shield and Rotherham because people agree with Bob and think populist Nigel will too.
4. He shows us what people like Owen Jones really would think if they weren’t middle class milksops
No “there’s been a 30 year conspiracy by evil capitalists to demonise the working classes boo hoo”. It’s all about fighting for your people rather than moaning about nasty big boys in top hats. Bob doesn’t really care who’s in Downing Street – once there they are all the boss class. Strike and strife until you get what you want. Predistribution? Pah. Just keep the ticket offices open if you want the tubes to run at all. You work out a way.
5. He reminds us why we must never go anywhere near the 1970s again
I can’t help but admire the chutzpah but what Bob wants is what millions of people gotin the 1970s. Decent, reasonable things like pay rises which exceeded increases in the cost of living, protection from job losses caused by changing market conditions and competition, the ability to provide subsidies to insulate industries and their workers from changes beyond their control. Except that of course, eventually sanity struck and Jim Callaghan had to announce that we were living beyond our means and this could not continue.
Beating the “Cost of Living Crisis”. Rebooting the market. Capping the prices of energy and holidays outside of school term times. Promoting the co-operative movement. Banning zero hour contracts. Guaranteeing jobs. Punishing predator capitalists. Sounding familiar?
All polite ways of saying what Bob says. Be careful what you wish for because actually, does anybody really want the country that Bob would make? Again?