Bob Crow RIP – Clegg pays tribute

Tributes have been paid across the political divides today following the sudden death of Bob Crow. Here’s the BBC report:

General secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union Bob Crow has died. The 52-year-old is believed to have suffered a heart attack and died early on Tuesday morning. … Mr Crow was elected general secretary of the RMT in 2002 following the death of former leader Jimmy Knapp. The BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson said Mr Crow “was, some argue, the most successful union leader in terms of securing jobs and pay for his members”. … In an interview broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on the day before he died, Mr Crow described himself as “talkative”, but said he did not like to be “gobby”. “At the end of the day, to be a general secretary of a union you’ve got to be larger than life,” he said. “[You can’t] walk around with a grey suit on and eat a cheese sandwich every lunch time. You want someone who’s got a bit of spark about them.”

Nick Clegg was among those to offer his condolences

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17 Comments

  • A fighter and a force?

    If that’s the most positive thing Clegg could say, he’d have done better not to say anything.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Mar '14 - 3:20pm

    Sad news indeed. I was only reading about him last night saying MPs should get a pay rise.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 11th Mar '14 - 10:18pm

    Chris, I thought it was a good and succinct tribute. Summed up the sadness, expressed sympathy and said something appropriate about the man. I’ve been thinking very much today about the friend I lost to a heart attack at a horrendously young age in 2011. If I’d seen that sort of tribute to him from a political opponent, I’d have been touched.

  • Credit to LDV for carrying this.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to trade unionists some Liberal Democrats tend to believe the myths and lies put about by the red tops . We ought to know better than to believe the Tory Press.

    A few facts about Bob Crow whose union increased in membership under his leadership, because he was seen as a leader who spoke out for and stood up for his members. (A lesson there for some other leaders!)

    Crow was born in Shadwell, East London, the son of George Crow and Lillian Hutton.
    With his older brother Richard, he attended Kingswood Upper School (a secondary modern school ) until the age of sixteen.

    While he was working for London Transport as a member of a tree-felling gang based at Loughton, he started to become involved in union politics. In 1983, he was elected as a local representative to the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) and then, in 1985, he became NUR national officer for track

    In 1990 the National Union of Railwaymen merged with the National Union of Seamen to form the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), and the following year Crow became the London Underground representative on the National Executive.

    In 1991, he became assistant general secretary, and on 14 February 2002 Crow was elected by the membership to succeed Jimmy Knapp as General Secretary.

    He received 12,051 votes in the election — nearly twice as many as the other two candidates put together (Phil Bialyk received 4,512 votes and Ray Spry-Shute received 1,997).

    Crow was a member of the General Council of the Trade Union Congress.

    So, someone who went to an ordinary school,. He started at the lowest levelin his trade union when doing a ‘proper’ job.
    He was democratically elected at all levels and worked his way eventually to the top.
    He is acknowledged to have been an effective, intelligent and committed man, devoted to the cause of working people.

    So why was he vilified by the media? Quite simply because he was devoted to the cause of ordinary working people!

    Imagine for a moment if we had a media that was not dominated by a small group of plutocrats, serving the interest of a rich elite. In such a media Bob Crow would have been celebrated as a hero and someone who by his own efforts and skills had reached the top. He would have been recognised for his achievements.

  • “If I’d seen that sort of tribute to him from a political opponent, I’d have been touched.”

    Are trade union leaders seen as “political opponents” by the Liberal Democrats now, then?

  • Ian Sanderson, thank you. Actually I was one of those people who commuted into London for almost all my 40 years at work. There were far fewer actual strikes than the fevered coverage in the media might have made you believe. There were often votes for strikes and threats of strikes which Crow and the union members carefully used to extract the maximum concessions from the employers. Many of the commuting public felt a common cause with the union members, knowing that they both had the shared interest of a safe and efficient rail and tube system.

    Bob Crow’s last tube strike was about keeping the jobs of people in ticket offices rather than abandoning the travelling public to the mercies of deserted stations with ticket machines and barriers that might or might not work. I am one of those who use the tube and would rather there were human beings working and available to help when things go wrong rather than be left in an empty and potentially dangerous underground environment. If there is a fire like Kings Cross or a terrorist attack, you cannot rely on a ticket machine to get you to safety.

  • Re: the direct topic, clearly he was a very competent and effective union leader who did well for his members.

    Slightly off topic, it isn’t just strikes that make some London commuters anti-RMT, it’s also the fact that Bob Crow’s success in terms of improving the pay and conditions for his members (e.g. tube drivers making £50k a year with generous pensions, leave and free travel for them and their partners) feeds through into the cost of tickets. For Londoners on low wages, the cost of simply getting to and from their place of work can be very expensive indeed (£57.20 a week for a zones 1-6 travelcard for example) and the unions’ success in promoting their members’ interests plays a big part in that. Whenever there are winners there are losers….

  • Obviously most people feel sorry for his friends and family in their loss but we are talking about a man who was comfortable with the suffering imposed on ordinary people in the former Soviet Union, according to the BBC. Train travel is now affordable only to those who receive similar wages to railway workers and not everyone, whatever the trade union they belong to, can get such high pay because not everyone can work for a state subsidised industry. Someone has to pay for those subsidies and we have to be competitive in our exports. I wonder what would have happened to our export industries if Bob Crow had represented their workers but I guess he just took advantage of a situation where weak management, sheltered by taxpayer funded subsidies, just caved in to every wage demand for a quiet life to save commuters from another strike. I suppose our intellectual elite think it is just too bad that the less well off struggle to pay the high fares that have resulted and should get another Bob Crow to push their wages up but those people have never had much grip on reality like the Communist elite Mr Crow apparently admired so much.

  • I don’t know where the ridiculously named “nvelope2003” has been for the last few decades but some of us travel on the bus, tube and rail entirely free. We have the famous BUS PASS, and excellent it is too in liberating the poor and the elderly enabling them to get out and visit friends and relations.
    Bob Crowe was a keen supporter of the BUSS PASS.
    Liberal Democrats used to be keen supporters of the BUSS PASS.
    And then along came Nick Clegg, who started to suggest that the BUS PASS should be taken away from some of us.
    You do not have to be a political genius to recognise that Clegg has only the weakest of grips on politics.
    You do not even have to be Elvis.

  • John Tilley;
    The Bus Pass does not give free train travel outside the Greater London Area. The clue is in the name – it provides free bus travel. Those who live within the Greater London Council area do indeed get free bus, tube and rail travel if they qualify for the FREEDOM PASS “Provided by your local borough council” (paid for by the taxpayers) but over the boundary it is a different matter. I am afraid this posting is typical of the lack of research into simple basic facts which is such a feature of political debate. Just for the record I spent most of my working life promoting public transport and am familiar with the details of the various free transport schemes. In rural areas the free BUS PASS has caused a reduction in subsidised and commercial bus routes because there is insufficient funding to maintain both free travel and the buses on which to use it. Another brilliant success for Central Government. In London of course you can get a freedom pass or its equivalent at the age of 60 so giving free travel to work but outside you have to wait until you are 62 and for many they will have missed the last bus by then. I think the old people of Dorset for example might be glad of a little of the subsidy that Londoners get so they can have a bus on Saturday. Needless to say there are virtually no Sunday buses.
    Yes I expect Bob Crow was indeed a strong supporter of the Freedom Pass because it mitigated the cost of travel for those entitled to it while pushing it up for everybody else through higher fares and taxes. What an uncomfortable thing reality can be.

  • A bit of a haughty response from nvelope2003 14th Mar ’14 – 11:54am
    But undermined by the fact that he failed to read my first sentence, the key part of which I will repeat here for him —
    “SOME OF US travel on the bus, tube and rail entirely free. “.
    So next time before he accuses others of ” …the lack of research into simple basic facts “, he might just read what he is responding to before making himself look foolish.
    As for the rest of his pseudo economic arguments against public transport, they resemble the sort of line that was put up against the London Fares Fare policy by Bromley Conservatives thirty years ago. It was a false argument then and remains so today.
    Old people in Dorset to my knowledge do not begrudge the Bus Pass advantages available to their contemporaries in London. The answer is to improve the situation in Dorset, not attack the situation in London.

  • nvelope2003 14th Mar '14 - 3:10pm

    The purpose of my original post was to draw attention to those who were adversely affected by the activities of the RMT, that is those who have to pay their own fares. It goes without saying, so why did you say it, that holders of Freedom Passes are not affected whatever sums are paid by the ordinary user. That is until the costs become unaffordable which is always possible so better not be too complacent or smug.

    I did not make any personal attacks on Bob Crow, unlike your remarks about me and my name. In many ways I admired him. He was honest and straightforward which is a refreshing change from most of the politicians and union leaders. He served the members of the RMT with distinction and they will always remember him for it but I and others feel we must mention the losers. Until I saw your post today I had always respected your views even where I disagreed with them but I no longer do so because you are just trying to score points. I do not think it is wrong to point out that the Freedom Pass is not the same as the UK Bus Pass. Those who only have the latter still have to pay rail and tube fares so the distinction is very important to them, especially when having to pay the said fares. Bob Crow’s RMT also affected people outside Greater London

    It would be unlikely that I would seek to undermine public transport as I have spent most of my life promoting it and working for it. What were these pseudo economic arguments which have so upset you ? Times have changed since Fares Fair in the 1980s. Some people seemed to think there was an unlimited pot of money just waiting to be spent but that was never the case and now reality has dawned. I do have a BUS PASS myself and have no wish to lose it but as I come from the industry I do know a little about its effects on public transport as well as the pleasure it gives for people like me.

  • nvelope2003 14th Mar '14 - 9:55pm

    Mr Tilley – yes some of you can travel by bus, tube or train entirely free but not with an English Bus Pass which can only be used on buses in England. You need a London Freedom Pass for free travel on trains and the tube but only within the London area, although you can also use it for free bus travel throughout England. That is the point I was trying to make.

  • So are we agreed that the benefits that people like me have because we have won the political argument in London should be extended to all people over 60 across the rest of the country?
    That would be a real step forward for,public transport.

  • nvelope2003 16th Mar '14 - 2:55pm

    Well if the Freedom Pass is to be extended throughout the country then someone must find a way of paying for it which will not cause a further reduction in bus or other essential services. This will involve higher taxes for everybody. I am not sure that many tax payers would want to pay for free public transport including bus, rail, tube and possibly air and ship for those who are below pensionable age. I think most would consider it fair for those who live on the state pension. I know of quite wealthy people who use their Freedom Pass to travel to work. Is that really a wise use of taxpayers money, even though those people do of course pay taxes ?

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