Bosses' thugs beat me up, says union man

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The Independent Online

Bob Crow, assistant general secretary of the RMT, yesterday accused railway bosses of "hiring muscle" to have him "finished off" and stop him from running for leadership of the union behind last week's train strikes.

Bob Crow, assistant general secretary of the RMT, yesterday accused railway bosses of "hiring muscle" to have him "finished off" and stop him from running for leadership of the union behind last week's train strikes.

Mr Crow was badly beaten in his home in the early hours of New Year's Day by two thugs who hit him with an iron bar. He lay unconscious in a pool of blood for two hours and now needs surgery to correct blurred vision in his right eye. Police initially said the assault was an attempted burglary that went wrong. But yesterday detectives ruled that out, saying it was a premeditated attack.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "It is obviously not just random. We are now treating this as an assault rather than an attempted burglary gone wrong. But we are keeping an open mind as to the motive."

Yesterday, police fitted a panic alarm button in Mr Crow's home in Woodford Green, Essex, indicating they believe he remains a target of further attacks.

The outcome of the RMT election, which follows the death of Jimmy Knapp last year, is the most anxiously awaited union contest in recent times. Track operators and commuters will feel the election of Mr Crow, an ally of Arthur Scargill and member of his Socialist Labour Party, would lead to an escalation in the kind of industrial action that created mayhem last week. Mr Crow said it was no coincidence the attack on him coincided with the union sending out ballot papers to its 60,000 members. "It was hired muscle," Mr Crow said yesterday, "They tried to finish me off. It has got me very worried."

Asked who he thought was behind the attack, Mr Crow replied: "No way would I consider the union rivals to be a part of this. I think it's something to do with certain employers. They are worried about further industrial action. They are worried they could lose money in the stock exchange. I think it was someone giving me a hiding the day the ballot papers went out."

Speculation and gossip about who carried out the attack and the motives behind it have been spreading through the RMT, Britain's largest rail union. What effect the assault may have on Mr Crow's candidacy is unclear. He is the favourite to become the next general secretary and is up against two moderate opponents, whose vote could well be split.

The Government would love Mr Crow to lose the election, fearing chaos if he wins. A leaked TUC document outlines the fears of a hard left takeover of the RMT and promotes the candidacy of Phil Bialyk, Mr Crow's main rival and the Government's favoured choice.

The TUC document accuses Mr Crow of being a former member of the Communist Party and claims the RMT "is facing its biggest challenge for a generation".

One RMT source said: "The attack does look a bit strange. The world of railway union activism is a small one and the rumour machine has been working and various theories are being passed around."

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