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Tuesday, March 11, 2014 

Bob Crow has the last laugh.

It can mean only one thing when someone few had a good word for while alive is praised to the skies when they pass on: those making the tributes are glad their adversary is gone. The political figures marking the untimely death of Bob Crow know that the most visible and effective trade union leader in a generation will no longer be there to call their boneheaded, knee-jerk anti-worker nonsense out for exactly what it is.

There is little in politics that inspires hatred quite like success.  Time after time, thanks to knowing when to fight his battles and also, admittedly, due to how the RMT was one of the few unions left with the power to gridlock parts of the capital if it is so wished, Bob Crow succeeded in either saving the jobs of his members or improving their pay and conditions.  As is now only being made clear in the obituaries, he combined his outward militancy and apparent obstinacy with a willingness to compromise once the RMT had succeeded in getting the employers to the negotiating table. This was precisely what happened after last month's 48 hour tube stoppage: it was only once the strike started that there was any movement from London Underground Limited.

For doing his job well he was naturally vilified, albeit only by the ever backwards looking right-wing press, with the Tories following closely behind.  Constantly wanting to relive what they consider their past glories, believing that the overall fall in union membership obviously means that everyone hates the unions as much as they do, they only made themselves look ever more foolish.  It reached the stage last month when every time Boris Johnson appeared it was pointed out that if the same rules he demanded for unions, of a 50% support threshold for a strike to go ahead, were applied to the mayoral election then he wouldn't have won outright either.  As for the media, much the same was the case when journalists desperately tried to find commuters outraged at not being able to use the tube for a whole 2 days, amazed that the majority seemed sympathetic towards the opposition to the closing of ticket offices with staff being made redundant.

Not that even the likes of the Graun were averse to making it personal.  That despite earning £145,000 a year Crow continued to live in a council house was apparent evidence of his hypocrisy, as though his moving out would make the slightest difference to available housing stock or stop his political opponents attacking him.  Nor should he have gone on holiday just days before the strike when the paparazzo were just bound to follow him, instructed to follow an overweight middle-aged man to Brazil rather than do their usual job of sticking camera lenses up celebrities' skirts.

Crow's legacy ought to be obvious.  Far from him being the last of his kind, what's needed now more than ever are union leaders who aren't afraid to stand up for their members, who will make the case for the working classes, and who will fight for solidarity in the 21st century against those who all but suggest such organisations are no longer needed.  Also apparent is the Labour party is no longer the vehicle for such a stance, an indictment of where the party has ended up.  When Boris Johnson can make an on camera tribute, it is the height of cowardice for Ed Miliband not to, out of some apparent perverse fear that it will be later used against him.  Crow would have laughed at such behaviour, just as he so often had the last one.

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