It is very possible that, like me, you were affected today by the Tube strike. If you’re anything like me, you no doubt cursed the names of Bob Crow and RMT, maybe prayed to a God you don’t believe in in order to hasten their demise. I have heard it bandied about that this strike does not actually serve any real purpose – that it is simply Crow “flexing his muscles,” showing that he still has some sort of influence in a world with which he is increasingly out of step. I have heard it said that Crow is a “dinosaur,” a relic of a past age of trade unionism. Let us look upon the visage of Crow.
Here is Crow in his office. To the casual observer, he is every inch the Working Class Hero. See the untucked, short-sleeved shirt, the dusty canvas shoes, the casual, unpressed trousers. Note too the posture – it’s almost as if he doesn’t care that he is being filmed. “Judge me if you will, Society, for I give not a fig for your so-called norms.”
Yet there are one or two items that give us pause for thought – that bureau, for instance, would have cost a pretty penny, as would that armchair. And note once again the posture, this time in the context of its surroundings. Why is Mr Crow simply standing there? Should he not be working?
This prompted an investigation on my part. You may be shocked to learn that his “working man’s solidarity” act is just that – an act.
Young Robert displayed an aptitude for mechanical engineering from a young age, expressing a particular interest in railway matters. However, even at this stage, a darker undercurrent was noted to his behaviour.
He attended Eton, like many young men of his social class. Here, he was consistently noted to be academically excellent, invariably coming top of the class in every subject. Yet he was also noted to be willful and disobedient, often seemingly for the sake of it rather than for any particular purpose. In his final year he was expelled when one of his more elaborate pranks went tragically wrong and a first-year was killed. Crowley’s parents went to great lengths and some considerable expense to ensure the scandal was kept out of the papers, but the best guess is that Crowley and friends had performed the time-honoured prank known as “slipping shofty,” i.e. sneaking into the Council’s planning office and altering building plans so a hated cohort gets a housing estate erected on top of them. A common enough jape in those days, but the first year in question, Algernon Hislop, had a father on the Board of Governors.
Despite this, Crowley attended St Sethyn’s College in Oxford, where it was hoped he might mature into a sensible young man. Alas, as per Eton, while his academic abilities were highly praised, he fell into a bad crowd – the Mephisto Society was known to be highly active at that time, and for a rebellious lad such as Crowley, it seemed to be the very thing. Crowley quickly became a central part of the Society, participating and often instigating its licentious symposia. He would commonly be returned to the College by the local constabulary. Whispers around town said that he was active in Satanism during this period, being seen in various churchyards around Oxford performing blasphemous parodies of Christian services (Philip Pullman is believed to have also been a member around this time, incidentally).
It was after publishing the notorious pamphlet On the Necessity of Sin that Crowley found himself once again expelled. His mother, who had always had something of a delicate constitution, passed away a mere fortnight later – his father blamed him for putting such a strain on her nerves. Robert, enraged, stormed out of the family home, never to return.
At this point, the records become hazy – what little we know about Crowley is pieced together from various documents. At some point, possibly while working as a stage hypnotist in Paris during the early 1980s, he adopted the snappier name of “Bob Crow.” Under this name, he was arrested for opium smuggling in Kabul in 1985 and for running a brothel in Kowloon in 1988. We can be reasonably certain that he was in London in 1991, as at this time he was blackballed from the premises of all reputable tailors except Gieves and Hawkes (reasons unknown). He was working as a deckhand aboard the cargo vessel SS Robardia in 1994 and is believed to have been Mayor of Slough in 1996.
The next definite reference comes in 2002, when he became leader of the RMT union. How and why is not known, though former classmate Sir Giles Herrynge-Worsthroppe suggested it was because, as a disgraced son of the gentry, Crow came to loathe those who could not afford to drive to work. This would certainly fit in with today’s strike.
Now, some will tell you that this is all nonsense – it doesn’t match with what Wikipedia says and was probably made up by me. You may believe them if you wish, but I ask you this – why would I lie? What would I have to gain from it?