Bob Crow dies: London Mayor Boris Johnson reacts to death of RMT union leader

Mr Johnson describes former political rival as 'a fighter and a man of character'

London Mayor Boris Johnson has said he is “shocked” at the death of political rival and RMT union leader Bob Crow.

Issuing a statement this morning, Mr Johnson described the union boss, whom he clashed with over the Tube strikes on numerous occasions, as "a fighter and a man of character".

"Whatever our political differences, and there were many, this is tragic news," he said.

"Bob fought tirelessly for his beliefs and for his members.

"There can be absolutely no doubt that he played a big part in the success of the Tube, and he shared my goal to make transport in London an even greater success. It's a sad day."

The Mayor and Mr Crow, who has died of a heart attack aged 52, came to loggerheads at the height of the most recent London Underground (LU) workers' strikes last month.

Then, the RMT leader blamed LU for "pumping up ridiculous publicity stunts" and hit out at Mr Johnson for "cuts to jobs, safety and services".

Mr Johnson responded by telling Mr Crow during a debate on LBC Radio: "You're holding a gun to Londoners' heads and threatening disruption in the greatest city on earth."

He also accused him of "talking complete nonsense".

Mr Johnson later said: "The blame for this strike lies squarely with union leaders, who have resorted to myths and stunts in a pathetic attempt to justify a strike that is utterly pointless."

Read more: In praise of Bob Crow, Britain's union pantomime villain
This trade union leader was different, rare and misunderstood
Bob Crow: A working class hero who never shirked from a fight
Twitter remembers a 'comrade, and a working class hero

Tributes also came in today for Mr Crow from former London mayor Ken Livingstone. He told Sky News: "Young people will learn lessons from him and realise he stood up for his members."

Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA rail union, which also took part in the strike, said: "Bob Crow was admired by his members and feared by employers, which is exactly how he liked it.

"It was a privilege to campaign and fight alongside him because he never gave an inch."

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