Do unto Bob Crow as Margaret Thatcher did unto Arthur Scargill
And while he meditates upon the ineffable ecstasies of his Elysian Union bringing the great city of London to a halt, there is chaos for commuters: workers crowd onto humming buses; roads are gridlocked as more traffic spews out more noxious fumes; shoppers sweat laden with their accumulations; and the tourists just give up and walk.
Mayor Boris, of course, has a helmet to cover his blond mop and a bike – a proper aerodynamic machine with thin racing tyres – permitting him to dodge buses and lorries and even the occasional red light.
While the Mayor still arrives on time, thousands of businesses are adversely affected. The whole inconvenience is estimated to have cost London around £100,000,000
But Bob Crow has a problem: his is not the only union for London Transport. And as drivers from ASLEF choose to cross RMT picket lines, his disciples may well be wondering why they are following him into the wilderness. After all, they already earn £40,000 a year – significantly more than teachers, nurses and policemen. And their financial sacrifice does not diminish the income of the Crow household one penny. Indeed, Mrs Crow is very conveniently employed by the RMT to run its credit union, and her business must benefit as Mr Crow’s members face increasing hardship.
Bob Crow is a bully. He is far less interested in negotiation than he is in intimidation. And when the economy of London largely depends on the efficient functioning of the Underground, he takes great pleasure in holding management and politicians to ransom, forcing them to accept his obnoxious brand of disruption.
But here is an opportunity for Mayor Boris in what must be the biggest challenge he has faced. It is not one for him to cast himself in iron and acquire a handbag: he is unique and affable – quite capable of out-smarting the RMT while simultaneously charming its innocent victims. Ken Livingstone would probably have had Bob Crow over to City Hall for beer and sandwiches. And then he would have caved in and given his comrade everything he demanded.
Margaret Thatcher ended this militant mentality.
Mayor Boris was elected govern. With ASLEF crossing picket lines and an estimated quarter of RMT staff reporting for work, the political battle has already been won. The problem is the false prophet, crowing about solidarity and victory while millions of Londoners endure purgatory.
There is little public sympathy for train drivers on £40,000 a year who, in the midst of Gordon Brown’s credit-crunch-induced recession, are demanding even higher salaries and a guarantee of jobs for life. Mayor Boris cannot sack them all, but he can break the ringleader. He may not have a handbag, but the victory over Bob Crow was won on the playing fields of Eton.
Boris Johnson has strategy, tenacity and charm. Bob Crow is a mutton-headed, plug-ugly hooligan. The Mayor will not be held to ransom by militants, but neither can he afford to wait for a Cameron-led government to introduce a law banning strikes by essential transport workers. As 2012 approaches, he cannot risk the whole Olympic project being subject to Mr Crow threatening to bring his members out on strike in order that Mrs Crow may dish out more credit.
The Mayor ought to order an immediate feasibility study into the introduction of driverless trains. It is puzzling that an aeroplane can cross the Atlantic entirely on autopilot, but a journey from Piccadilly to Heathrow is not possible without a man pushing buttons and pulling levers. This development is not only technologically possible, it would provide the Mayor with the mechanism for threatening to make striking drivers lawfully and legitimately redundant. And then he must consider privatisation of the whole outfit, for London Underground sustains the pre-Thatcherite feel of British Rail, British Airways or British Leyland: the moment a reform is proposed or a pay demand refused, the Crow-cry (after a ballot) is ‘Everybody out!’, even if the majority of members have not even bothered to vote.
Mayor Boris was elected to govern, and so he must. Cranmer feels sure that what the Mayor learnt on the playing fields of Eton fully equipped him to deal decisively with those who bully and blackmail. The common good is the greater good. He must do to Bob Crow precisely what Margaret Thatcher did to Arthur Scargill. That would be moral, noble, righteous and just.