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

11 March 2014

10:28 AM

11 March 2014

10:28 AM

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.

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Show comments
  • Rossspeak

    So – if I understand the author – the profligate public who have the affront to want to shop on Boxing day can get cabs- unfair to ask the Tube drivers ( on £52,000 or more pa) – to work.
    What about the shop workers staffing the stores that the public want to visit ( on £16,000 pa or less) – or the thousands of workers in pubs, clubs, restaurants etc. on similarly low salaries that are prepared to work to “serve their customers”. Drivers pay aside ,when you have a monopoly ( the Tube is effectively one) – the inevitability is that it is run for the benefit of the Staff, not the Customers.

  • Swanky

    wrong place how did that happen

  • Richard

    He’s from Shadwell, Bob Crow is, Shadwell. East-end boy. One of your own!

  • tjamesjones

    Thanks Ed good piece. One thought: Unlike some of his colleagues, I think actually that David Cameron probably is a conservative, rather than an “uncompassionate liberal”. Which is probably for the best – as much as her uncompromising focus spoke to my own views, the bleeding hearts never came around to understanding Mrs T. My point is I think the actual PM needs to be as “one nation” as possible because he is representing the whole country, including those who didn’t vote for him.

  • Simon_in_London

    Yep, I agree. Crow is an unreformed Communist who makes my life difficult. But he does actually stand up for the interests of his clients, very effectively. I certainly don’t like him but I do respect him a million times more than the SWPL-leftists.

  • General_Patten

    Bob Crow is at least a patriotic Englishman who wants us out of the EU. This puts as a 1% minority of the Left who are generally Europhile quislings!

  • Two Bob


  • Noa

    “…Bob Crow, in contrast, by defending a way of life that is doomed, is almost conservative…”
    I also find myself in the same anti-EU trench as Bob Crow, alongside the communist freedom of speech advcates like Brendan O’Neill in ‘Spiked’. And in ideological opposition to the pro EU fabian Conservative and Labour consensus currently in power.

  • Blazeaway

    Good article. Bob Crow’s not a bad man.

    He simply stands up for his members. They are probably doomed but there’s nothing wrong with fighting.

    He has more sense than people realise. Didn’t he stand as a candidate in the last Euro-elections on a platform of leaving the EU?

    People on the right often lament the supine nature of the unions when it comes to the EU. Mr Crow is doing something about it.

    Working people have always had to fight for good pay. It will always happen as push will always ultimately come to shove where money is concerned.

    • Agrippina

      He is to stand as candidate for the No2EU party, this May 2014. I hope he gets elected the more anti-EU folks in the council, the more chance of un-doing it from the inside.

  • The Laughing Cavalier


  • Cornelius Bonkers

    Well of course, REAL members of the old industrial working class are conservative (lower case) to the core. When they talk of “working class traditions” they mean it. Bob Crow maybe a semi-literate bully, but he looks after his own in the way they have been looked after for the last 100 years (i.e., traditionally). My guess is that unlike intellectual lefties, Bob’s analysis of his members’ plight has no truck with Althusserian interpellation or Milibandian (the father not the son) notions of the relative autonomy of base-superstructure relations. Bob Crow knows that the only way to get an advantage for his members is to hold someone else to ransom. It’s inconvenient for us but hardly anything more…

    • Richard

      ‘My guess is that unlike intellectual lefties, Bob’s analysis of his members’ plight has no truck with Althusserian interpellation or Milibandian notions of the relative autonomy of base-superstructure relations.’

      Left wing notions are always so pithy, aren’t they?

      • Cornelius Bonkers

        If only…

  • saffrin

    “Holding London to ransom by demanding absurdly high salaries for Tube drivers”

    Danger money Ed, given the state of London’s underground network, why it hasn’t caved in is a mystery only Terry Pratchet could answer.

  • Daniel Maris

    I think that Bob Crow pursues his members’ interests in the same way that bankers pursue their interests and with about as much regard for the public.

    The idea that social housing is only for those on benefits is clearly misguided. Most people in social housing could afford private rents.

    • HJ777

      If most people in social housing could afford private rents, then what is the rationale for most social housing?

      But as we have social housing and if, as you say, the tenants can afford market rents, why don’t we charge them market rents? It would save the taxpayer a fortune.

      • Daniel Maris

        It’s cost effective. It may have escaped your notice but most council housing in this country has been paid for several times over. Why should we demand market rents for something that the market didn’t build?

        • HJ777

          What’s cost effective?

          Rents on council houses approximately cover the cost of admin and maintenance. The investment by the taxpayer has created an asset on which the taxpayer receives no return.

          You are an economic illiterate.

          • Richard

            Milliband says Labour will build hundreds of thousands of new public housing units in London. All well and good, we need them, but going by the figures from many London councils they will be allocated to two groups only:Ethnic minorities and foreigners.
            The vast majority of new tenants will also pay a fraction of the already subsidized rent because they will be claiming benefits.

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            He is actually one of those people who serves a useful purpose. Be it politics, business, climate change etc etc he is always epically, utterly and totally wrong. Any uncertainty one might have about an issue is immediately extuinguished once you have read one of his posts. Believe the opposite and you will not often be found wanting.

  • Jez

    “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.”

    I consider myself vaguely holding the views of Atilla the Hun, Enoch Powell’s Mum and a very drunk Jeremy Clarkson. I do not have any sympathy for the Tube strikers either. They get paid loads.

    And i am from the tools and have worked in almost every horrible construction environment going. This from Concreting to high tech machine installation and commissioning.

    They’re on a right crack. Don’t be sucked in.

    • Makroon

      The “pink shirt” lefties don’t like Crow because he publicly repudiated “the sell-out Labour party”, is all.

    • Noa

      Well Jez, I don’t have to use the Tube any more, thank God, so I have no beef with Mr Crow and his union, which should surely have the right to withdraw its labour as long as it acts, as it does, within the law.

      Rather, blame Bojo and his party for being the spineless, reactive office hungry windbags they really are.

      • telemachus

        Reading that I realise why the wall is almost dead

        • Noa

          I have no idea what you mean.

          • telemachus

            Is that why your activity is private
            Or is that orders from the vicar

            • Noa

              Do you seek enlightenment?
              Or are you trying to stalk me, comrade?
              In either case you really are a piece of work and I suggest you seek qualified medical assstance immediately.

              • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                I am afraid he is well beyond the medical science of this particular planet.

  • ADW

    Ed I might be missing something, but you haven’t really said very much with this blog, have you?

    • Makroon

      This piece of nonsense and the ritual jab at the NATS by Massie above, are just designed to increase the post count. But are advertisers really dumb enough to be taken in by numbers mainly composed of the same small group of trolls having a go at each other ?
      Apparently, Yes.

      • ADW

        It’s a shame because West has in the past been one of the few hacks to say unpopular things, and his book on the Diversity Illusion is worth a read. Then he knocks out tripe like this, the purpose of which still escapes me.

        Massie, on the other hand, seems to write more blogs than anyone else for the Speccie, but has the least to say of anyone. No-one read his posts for the first few months, following which he resorted to being a sort of Rod Liddle with the opposite views and without the wit, in an attempt to attract at least a few trolls who would give the appearance of a readership.

  • Mr Grumpy

    It’s a bit like admiring Rommel though, isn’t it? Much as you’d like him to be on your side, he isn’t.

    • Wessex Man

      well yes but are the mob who call themselves Tory nowadays on anybodies side but themselves?

      as much as I now hate travelling to London by train with the very poor standard of First Great Western, I still do, when you get off the trains at Paddington there swarms a hive of different nationalites, most of whom don’t know how to cope with the Underground, take away the ticket offices and crate even more confusion.

      This Government are obsessed with cutting here there and everywhere and end up having to pay out more because of their cuts to put it all right.

      I don’t admire any of them but do Bob Crow, his members know that he will always work on their behalf.

      • Tom Chance

        This is absurd logic.

        They’re closing the ticket offices and putting the staff out on the concourse, where they are of much greater use to the ‘hive of different nationalities’, than they would be stuck behind a glass panel.

        Just as with concerns over safety & security, staff are far better suited out on the concourse, clearly visible to help customers, than behind a desk.

        • terence patrick hewett

          I think the point that Mr West is trying clumsily to make is that Mr Crow is a Conservative and because of technology is doomed: ergo all Conservatives are doomed: especially those left in the Conservative Party and UKIP. So let’s all prance down Brick Lane with a can of Special Brew in one hand a bacon sandwich in the other singing Hey, Hey, I’m Proud to Be Gay. Only in the wet dreams of Cameron and his luvvies.

        • Wessex Man

          are they really, as you walk past people of all Nationalities are standing around trying to find someone to direct them and never finding them, so off they go to the ticket office because that’s the only place they can see some from London Undergroud.

          • Tom Chance

            Yes, that may be the case at the moment. But that’s no reason whatsoever why it would be worse to have the staff out there on the concourse where they would be visible! At the moment, at certain stations, there’s hardly anyone in sight because they’re tucked away in the ticket offices.

            Bring them out to to help people straight away at the ticket machines and barriers, where the problems arise in the first place.

    • Chris Bond

      Rommel was damn good. Same can be said of General Robert E Lee.

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Rommel was a massive self-publicist and I think you will find that much of his supposed tactical acumen is a myth. Erich Von Manstein was a far better tactical and strategic general than Rommel but without the cult of personality.

        • Chris Bond

          Not sure about Rommel, but I do agree on Manstein. Always loved how his orderly withdrawal from Southern Russia became the blueprint for Nato strategic withdrawel in the event of a Soviet invasion of Europe.

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            Ultimately, while not entirely his fault, Rommel failed in North Africa and again in Northern France in 1944. When I look at Von Manstein, I am glad Hitler interfered so much with his field commanders. One can only imagine how much longer the war might have lasted had the likes of Bon !anstein been left to their own devices.

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            I meant, of course, 1944.

    • Guest

      You just don’t get it – he was! But then what happened is you bottled it.