I do not generally have much sympathy for Bob Crow. He runs a union as a political project, and therefore much of what he says is obviously contradictory. He wants renationalisation and an end to private sector involvement, yet his constant threatening of strikes and his very confrontational style of negotiation means that not only is no one prepared to listen to what he says, but also that the last thing any government would want to do is to give his union more power by bringing transport more into the public fold.
Take, too, bringing back Metronet in house which is what Crow wanted. Of course there are likely to be superfluous jobs and the management must be allowed to cut back on those. The whole point of bringing it back in house is to make it more efficient and cut out the kind of duplication that was inherent in the PPP . By making life so difficult for TfL, Crow’s is making it more likely that the government – or its successor – will seek some sort of PPP solution, though I doubt it can in the present economic climate.
Crow, by being so obdurate, negates his own case. His militancy is giving the government every possible reason to avoid bringing in any more services in house. Of course he knows this. He belongs to a small ultra left party and one of the tactics of the ultra left has long been to make impossibilist demands, attempting to expose the contradictions of the employers and therefore getting everyone to join the revolutionary Party. Most of us grew out of that sort of thing back in the 1970s but Crow and a few of his top people in the RMT subscribe to this theory, though of course they do not dare espouse it openly.
The strike today is just plain daft but the old leftie does have a point when he says that TfL nearly came to a deal and then seemed to have pulled away from it. When Boris Johnson was confronted with this on the Today programme he just blustered as usual and gave no convincing explanation as to why there was an eleventh hour breakdown in negotiations. That is not to excuse the tube workers going on strike at a time when many people are experiencing loss of job or cuts in their wages. But unless TfL or the mayor certainly ought to be able to answer questions about the breakdown rather better than they have so far, it seems they may have been guilty of playing games too. Meanwhile the rest of us suffer, though when I went for my morning run it was great to see the number of cyclists who had taken to the road. Let’s hope the sun shines on them over the next two days.