As Londoners slowly trundle into work in the wake of tube strikes, Oliver Foster compares a Union leader to a would-be Union leaver…
Tempted as I am on this crisp, if slightly blustery, winter morning to praise Bob Crow for forcing me to open my lungs, jump on a Boris and whizz speedily through the streets of east London quicker than a trade union leader can down a caipirinha on Copacabana, I am instead left wondering if I took a wrong turn and rode into a tardis back to the 80s.
So much hyperbole has been written about a man who earns plenty whilst living in a council house, and who only managed to encourage one third of his members to vote in favour of this – and next – week’s crippling strikes, but what many commentators have failed to recognise is that love him or loathe him, Crow is the Alex Salmond of trade union politics. Like Salmond, he has previously been written off by the Islingtonian chattering classes (including those who sit very comfortably within new Labour’s ranks) as an overweight, arrogant and brusque character with little sense of economic reality.
But what both of these characters have in spades is their innate sense of a good political campaign and winning the hearts, if not necessarily the minds, of who they’re appealing to. As we’ve learnt with Salmond’s ability to force the Westminster elite to take the Union to the edge of destruction – ending almost inevitably in Devo Max, a result for Salmond in reality – Crow has run rings around our national and indeed London’s politicians for years, not because his members are so desperate for him to succeed, but because he is one of the most under-rated political campaigners in this country at the moment.
Like Salmond, he’s unlikely to win the war against TfL – whose programme is by all accounts measured, sensible and long overdue – but he’s already winning the political battle against Boris, forcing him on to the back foot and to all but commit the Conservative Party to a manifesto pledge in 2015, providing Crow with yet more reason to enjoy being the Union pin-up.