There’s nothing the Right enjoys more than demonising Bob Crow. But why shouldn’t the Tube union’s boss take a holiday?

In this battle, it is Mr Crow who has shown the class and Boris who has played the thug


A holiday, as Bob Crow was too courteous to remind Boris Johnson yesterday when the two most striking caricatures of the political age clashed on LBC ahead of last night’s scheduled start of the Underground strike, can be a mightily dangerous thing.

In the spring of 1969, a fortnight before she and Harold Wilson failed to persuade the Cabinet to support In Place of Strife – the grand design to curb union power that would have shunted political history on to a different track had it been adopted – Barbara Castle joined her friend Charles Forte on his yacht cruising the Med. This was a public relations masterstroke of Gerald Ratner proportions, and damaged her brand at the worst possible moment.

So it may appear with Mr Crow and his pre-strike Caribbean cruise from Barbados to Brazil. Snaps of the RMT leader grilling his torso to an appetising lobster red on Copacabana beach, and relaxing with a cocktail by a Rio hotel pool, were not exquisitely timed to endear him to travellers affected today and tomorrow by industrial action.

Then again, his brand is impervious to attacks from the militant wing of the British right which regards the act of withdrawing labour as less a fundamental human right than a crime against humanity.

If this likeably blunt and combative Millwall-supporting Marxist were to commission a heraldic crest, the motto above the manned brazier rampant might be: “No one likes me, I don’t care.” The loathing from the Daily Mail, and the scorn from a London Mayor who avoids him like syphilis, will hardly traumatise Mr Crow into therapy.

Mr Crow’s most grievous offence in such eyes is not so much overseeing another strike, irksome to commuters as that will be (though you’d have thought the Mayor might appreciate the free subliminal advertising for his Boris Bikes). What the Mail cannot tolerate is the fact of a working-class leftie from Woodford Green – one with the impertinence, despite his £145,000 per annum salary, to remain in his council house – enjoying an expensive foreign break.

The likes of Mr Crow, it feels, have no business taking an exotic, £7,700 holiday (one he saw advertised in the Mail, amusingly enough, which he apparently reads at the gym) when a few days watching the rain drizzle down a Skegness B&B window would be more seemly.

Bob Crow leaving City Hall Bob Crow leaving City Hall

I must say, I find this social mobility thing very confusing. Mrs Thatcher’s journey from her birth above a Grantham corner shop to her death in a suite at the Ritz attracts no criticism, but God have mercy on a borderline aristo like Tony Benn who disowns a title and cleaves to a simple lifestyle (albeit in Holland Park). As for a left-wing firebrand like Bob Crow, his insolence in nipping off for s ome winter sun is the cue for Richard Littlejohn to underscore the searing originality of his mind by trotting out Marx’s saw about nothing being too good for the workers.

Nothing is indeed too good for the workers, which is why Bob Crow strives tirelessly and aggressively to safeguard their jobs and improve their pay and conditions. His central line is red and very direct. He couldn’t give a stuff about personal popularity, or the anguish of Tube-users enduring the horrors of a bike ride or long walk. All that concerns him is his members’ wellbeing, and if a union leader could have any more compelling a raison d’etre than that, I would love to know what it is.

In this latest Beano-style contretemps between the vilified Bash Street Kid of the RMT and the wildly popular Lord Snooty of County Hall, there can only be one winner in the court of public opinion. Yet contrary to the respective images of these two barely reconstructed class warriors, it is Mr Crow who has shown all the class and Boris who has been the bellicose thug.

The Mayor taunts his old enemy by offering to meet him over a pina colada, purely to remind us how far Mr Crow has got above himself with his fancy foreign jaunts. Mr Crow is too civilised to remind Boris that he was the victim of an ill-timed holiday himself a few years ago, when for a while, until the pressure overwhelmed him, he absurdly refused to return from Canada to deal with the London riots.

There will be no riots in London today, and nothing worse than a little inconvenience that will soon be forgotten.

The only demi-scandal in this nostalgic echo from the early 1970s, when patrician Tories lavished patronising contempt on uppity trade unionists, is that anyone could affect to believe that a man like Bob Crow has no business spending his honestly earned money however he sees fit.

A brave decision, Prime Minister

In a devilish ploy to deflect the charge of cheap populism, David Cameron has given his imprimatur for England followers to be fortified with drink against the forthcoming fiasco in the Bob Crow holiday paradise of Brazil.

Pubs will now be allowed to stay open, it seems, late into the night of Saturday 14 June when England meet Italy in their first World Cup game.

This is one of those interventions which Sir Humphrey would dismiss as “very brave, Prime Minister”.

It could be, of course, that several hundred men, already tanked up when the game kicks off at 11pm, will react to the defeat with wry resignation. On the other hand, the street outside that pub as the lads stumble out at 1am is not a pavement you would necessarily wish to share, and any casualties will now be personally “owned” by Mr Cameron.

The smarter move would be to pass emergency legislation banning the sale of alcohol and mandating the smoking of cannabis in all towns and cities during England fixtures.

If pleasing the publican demographic with a revenue boost is part of his masterplan, he could bribe them to close at 10.30pm with whatever would otherwise be spent on police overtime. That way, nobody dies.

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