Ed West

‘Almost a conservative’ - in praise of Bob Crow, 1961-2014

'Almost a conservative' - in praise of Bob Crow, 1961-2014
Text settings

Very sad to hear of Bob Crow's death. Doubtless his erstwhile political opponents will be falling over themselves to say that he will be 'sadly missed'. But I've admired him for a while. He was in many ways the last of a breed: a union leader feared by the government.

I used to share the view held by all floppy-haired men in pink shirts, that  Crow was basically a thug holding London to ransom by demanding absurdly high salaries for Tube drivers; blokes who just sit there pushing a button while we hard-up arts graduates slave away for much less money.

Plus there’s the fact that he lived in social housing when he could clearly afford to go private, which struck most as unfair; unless you’re in the Bevanite school of romantic idiocy in which social housing should be for all, and the stockbroker should live next door to the farmhand. (Aren’t we always being told that inequality makes us suicidal and fat? Wouldn’t living next to a banker make the farmhand feel utterly depressed about himself?)

But the more I saw the man, wearing his dapper hats or on a beach holiday (on holiday! Who does he think he is – the Queen?) the more I came to rather admire him.

Tube drivers are of course paid handsomely, but in regards to the recent strikes, Crow actually had a point. (I should add here that I generally cycle to work, because it’s cheaper and quicker, and I appreciate some people don’t have that choice.)

But it’s funny that most people who consider themselves vaguely leftie or at least holding the ‘correct’ views have zero sympathy for the Tube strikers. This extends to when they complain about working on Boxing Day, which to me seems like a perfectly reasonable argument. If lots of idiots want to rush down to department stores on December 26 to buy Louis Vuitton handbags they can get cabs as far as I’m concerned.

That’s the curious thing; judging by the world of commentary, most Left-wing people are basically more interested in debating intersectionality or microaggressions or their own genitals, irrelevant and meaningless twaddle that future generations will laugh at.

Bob Crow, at least, actually stuck up for the interests of working people. It could be argued that his intransigence helped to bring about the destruction of the Tube drivers’ livelihoods by forcing Transport for London to automate. But, realistically, the authorities are going to do that anyway at some point.

Technology is stripping out jobs everywhere, and even though it could be argued that the social costs are so high that the public sector should not try to match the private sector in putting people out of work, no one makes it anymore.

That’s especially true for the Conservatives: few people high up in the Tory Party are conservative; they’re basically uncompassionate liberals. One really notices this in the way Tory politicians talk about women who choose to stay with their children rather than working as costing the economy, as if ‘taxpayer’ is more worthy a term than ‘mother’ (even from an economic point of view this makes no sense, since educated women not having children will cost us dearly in the long term).

Bob Crow, in contrast, by defending a way of life that is doomed, was almost a conservative. At any rate, he was certainly on the wrong side of history. And for that, he certainly earned my admiration.