Coffee House

Eurosceptics have lost a valuable general – Bob Crow

13 March 2014

When Nigel Farage had the temerity to nod at Bob Crow’s euroscepticism while paying his respects to the late RMT leader, some were quick to accuse him of cheap political point-scoring. I suspect that many of them hardly knew Crow because he never missed an opportunity to slam the EU for being ‘a regional engine of corporate globalisation’. And eurosceptics of all political persuasions have reason to be disheartened by the loss of a voice like his to their cause.

Bob Crow wasn’t a eurosceptic by convenience nor did he do it simply to pander to rising populist anti-EU sentiment. For years he regularly led union members in protests against EU directives enforcing competition on Europe’s railways, most recently in October. One could be forgiven for wondering if the RMT would have preoccupied itself with this without Crow’s dogma-driven leadership, given that Britain denationalised its own rail system long ago.

His fight against the EU was not limited to battles of policy either. In 2009 he led the newly-created No2EU electoral alliance between hard left parties in the European elections, though he gained just 1% of the vote. At the time of his death he was back in full campaign mode, with the RMT drumming up tens of thousands of pounds in donations to enable No2EU to field a slew of MEP candidates for a second time this May, Crow among them.

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Crow was indispensable to traditional eurosceptics. His hard-left opposition to the EU pulled euroscepticism’s centre of gravity away from the right where it had been languishing for years. The People’s Pledge campaign for a referendum brought Crow and his nemesis Boris Johnson together in a way that no other issue could. Seeing his name attached to euroscepticism made people think twice about pigeon-holing the anti-EU crowd. Unlike Conservatives, who had embraced austerity at home, he struck a genuine and consistent chord in slamming the EU’s focus on cuts and structural reform.

When the time comes for an Out campaign in Britain, Bob Crow’s voice will be sorely missed. Many on the right were counting on him to bring home votes not just from the left but from the broader disaffected working class, who neither the Tories nor UKIP could reach. The RMT may remain a latent voice of Euroscepticism, but whether its triumphant Crow-led motions on a referendum and withdrawal at TUC conferences will still be driven with the same gusto – if at all – is far from sure.

In commemorating his achievements, many of those paying tribute to Bob Crow have been keen to stress that, despite appearances, he was a well-read man of shrewd intelligence. The same went for his long-held convictions about the EU. Crow could rattle off a plethora of examples, from opt-outs in EU employment law to the competition core of procurement legislation, in order to counter what he saw as the myth of social Europe.

Like his infuriatingly good negotiating skills, his euroscepticism came naturally. He could whittle down the EU’s problems so that the man on the street understood – and agreed. Unlike UKIP, he didn’t simply descend into anti-immigration rants to make his point either; his mantra was workers’ solidarity. He could swing a Question Time audience that hadn’t made up its mind into the Out camp, while getting a room full of Tory sceptics cheering even though his epithets about the EU should have turned them into raving europhiles.

The pro-Brussels camp may be glad to see the back of him; but debates benefit from those who have a clear vision. The Europe debate will be poorer and less interesting for no longer having his.

Allie Renison tweets @AllieRenison

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Show comments
  • swatnan

    One of the few working class ‘tories’, and a dedicated follower of fashion.

  • HookesLaw

    Since Crow was incabable of any rational thought beyond his own selfish political bigotry I would be very surprised if anyone, other than the odious and ever opportunist chancer that is Nigel Farage, would want to be associated with his opinions.

  • tomthumb015

    OK so he did not like the EU, well kept that pretty much under his hat, but lets not forget he cause misery to London travellers

  • In2minds

    “the myth of social Europe” – So Crow smarter than Miliband then?

    • Andy

      A dead slug is smarter than Milipeade.

  • Denis_Cooper

    Well done, of course Tory loyalists think they should never miss any opportunity to slag off UKIP, which is basically what this article is about.

    Only one problem: no matter how much you bash UKIP, even if you manage to bash it to death, it will do little to help you beat Labour in 2015.

  • telemachus

    Bob Crow was one of the last genuine socialists in our movement
    He is sorely missed by all those who care about their fellow man

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      And he hated the EU.

    • James Strong

      Those who care about their fellow man are not socialists because we don’t want to condemn our fellow man to lives of poverty and oppression.
      Around the world, what are the numbers of people wanting to move INTO socialist countries compared with the number wanting to move OUT?

      • Andy

        It is Socialists, like Crow, who do the oppressing. Look how they all line up to heap praise of Fidels Cuba, or on the ghastly tyrant Chavez and the disaster that is rapidly developing in Venezuela.

        • telemachus

          This is England
          The Internationale is dead but caring reasonable socialism lives on in the political philosophy of such as Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and Yvette

          • Andy

            There is no such thing as ‘caring reasonable socialism’. And if you think that those idiots Balls, Burnham and Cooper have a caring bone in their miserable bodies you are more deluded and more mentally ill than we knew you were.

            • telemachus

              These 3 are the future
              We are fortunate to live in their times

              • shebamurphy

                God help us all.

          • Colonel Mustard

            The Internationale lives on cloaked inside what you call “caring reasonable socialism” and what many here would call creeping fascist filth.

          • global city

            But human compassion and dogmatic socialism are mutually incompatible.

            The trouble is that you mistake care for and consideration of others as being socialist… it is the ultimate lefties conceit to claim everything good as ‘socilaist’ and any ideas or policies that support people as socialism…..which is far from the truth.

      • telemachus

        The key is to apply socialist principles to a country that has become split between the haves and have nots such as generated here by the application of Josephian principles

        • the viceroy’s gin

          The key is to build a gallows and condemn enough of you soul-murdering socialists to swing from it on a regular basis.

          • shebamurphy

            That’s a bit strong, don’t you think?

            • the viceroy’s gin

              …how so?

              • shebamurphy

                Strikes me as the kind of thinking that might come out of North Korea.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …aaaaaaaah, were but that were true, and the soul-murdering North Korean socialists were made to swing from a gallows.

                • shebamurphy

                  What’s with all the gallows stuff? Do you have a rope fetish?

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …hmmmmm, so it’s all about ropes and fetishes for you, is it?

                • shebamurphy

                  you’re the one who wants to hang people from gallows! Seems like you’re not a live and let live kind of guy.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …you didn’t answer the question… so it’s all about ropes and fetishes for you, is it?

        • Wessex Man

          Nurse! Nurse! Nu zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

        • global city

          List the dozen most important of those socialist principles so that we can all be absolutely clear as to what you are espousing through all of your posts?

    • Colonel Mustard

      A real indictment of your ‘charismatic’ Brownian rump-gang there.

    • telemachus

      This is truly a tragic week
      The Father of The Ongoing March of Socialism in our Movement has passed on
      We are all very much poorer today

    • global city

      Why do you claim an exclusivity for the Left regarding compassion?

      You must surely be ware that to assert that is embarrassingly idiotic?

      I care about my fellow man just as much as you, make no mistake, or dismiss it from any sense of righteous priggery. I think your political ideas and the dogmas you espouse are really stupid, but that does not strip me of an ounce of ‘care for my fellow man’.

      It is truly odd to try and arrange the nature of words and meanings to some idea you hold in your head on the threads of the Spectator. You really should stop it.

  • foxoles

    Bob Crow wasn’t an isolated case. There was a time when the whole Labour party was anti-EU. It was only really New Labour that changed that.

  • MikeF

    “Unlike UKIP, he didn’t simply descend into anti-immigration rants”‘
    What rants?

    • James Strong

      You are correct. The writer has just thrown in a slur on UKIP and I don’t think she can stand it up.
      She probably hoped it would just slip through into readers’ consciouness unnoticed.
      UKIP policy on immigration is calm and rational; I challenge this writer to produce a rational critique of it and then allow a UKIP response.

    • HookesLaw


    • Colonel Mustard

      Any articulation that does not conform to the leftist collective’s view of the world is now described as a rant just as any dissent from deference to their preferred groups or causes is ‘phobic.

      Right of centre views are increasingly characterised as or implied to be ‘extreme’, ‘hate’ or linked with various pejoratives. All part of the Marcusean common purpose towards de-legitimising political diversity and creating, in effect, a post-democratic ingle part state run by an unaccountable, unelected elite ‘leading’ beyond their authority.

      The writer of this piece works for Business for Britain which, despite being supposedly non-partisan, says this:-

      So much of modern politics in Britain now involves attacking, discrediting, undermining or demonising opposing parties rather than persuading the correctness of the counter argument.

  • Bert3000

    You can take not speaking ill of the dead too far

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