Bob Crowe: A Tube strike, an AGM and some hip tips from my daughter

MY WEEK
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The Independent Online

The general secretary of the RMT union loomed large in Londoners' lives last week as a strike by his members shut down the Underground and made him one of the most vilified people in the capital

Sunday. All hands to the wheel in sunny Southsea as we help to lay out the conference floor and platform backdrop for the start of the annual general meeting - the hardest work of the week. Sighs of relief as the AGM opens without the backdrop collapsing, and after the usual argy-bargy on the agenda, it's a relatively early night ready for the week's business ahead.

Britain's biggest specialist transport union has 71,000 members. We've emerged from a week of mixed successes: the Network Rail pensions dispute has been settled without a strike, but a deal to avert the strike on the Tube, due to start on Tuesday evening, appears still ominously beyond reach.

Monday. Up at the crack of dawn and manage a de-stressing hour in the gym before diving into business. One of the reasons I love our union family so much is because delegates bring their range of opinions and argue for their point of view passionately, but all are motivated by the same desire to better the lives of their fellow working men and women. It is a long day - although not by some workers' standards - with nine hours' debate.

A phone conversation with Ken Livingstone, but nothing new, and the strike looks certain to go ahead. After Ken's remarks the previous week about RMT being a bunch of gangsters, I dine in the appropriately named Soprano's restaurant, and check my bed for horses' heads before turning in.

Tuesday. More AGM debates and the usual behind-the-scenes stuff - delegates up for election buying each other pints, rediscovering friendships. The Tube dispute is scheduled to begin at 6.30pm. I remain in constant touch with London organiser Bobby Law, who is in informal contact with Tube bosses, but there is no movement. The demonising tabloid stuff is designed to intimidate and weaken resolve, but it has the opposite effect. There are some who simply cannot understand that trade unionists close ranks to protect those under attack.

Wednesday. Would far rather be on a picket line this morning, but have to make do with updates from picket lines around the capital. The strike is solid. At lunchtime there is a photocall with the newly acquired RMT battlebus. Its first duty is to tour Portsmouth distributing material in our campaign for the tonnage tax concession - worth £70m to shipowners. Have my first decent meal for 48 hours, a welcome curry.

Thursday. A long, gruelling day in closed session, dealing with internal issues. The president, being a strict disciplinarian, allows only 30 minutes for lunch. Some Tube members have popped down for the day and receive a warm welcome, and there is another moving moment as those Tube delegates who stayed at the AGM and missed the strike pledge their day's pay to the fund for the Farringdon Six [dismissed in a dispute over, among other things, alcohol found in a station cupboard]. Tonight it's the conference dinner, and time to let the remaining hair down. I end the night dancing to "Daydream Believer", a song I last danced to when, in reference to the former Millwall manager, we sang "Cheer up Mark McGhee..."

Friday. The last appeals have been heard, AGM is over, and I am ready to leave for home. The last task for the week is to consult my daughter on some hip tips for my appearance on BBC1's In the Know alongside Martin Offiah tomorrow.

Saturday. It's 8am and, duly briefed, I wait for the car that will take me to the BBC's White City studios.

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