Mick's Column

Here you can find the regular column from ASLEF's General Secretary, Mick Whelan.

Lasting legacy of Bob Crow and Tony Benn

April 2014

Our industry, and our movement, lost two comrades who have spent a lifetime seeking to create a fairer and better world so, first and foremost,our thoughts are with the families and friends of Bob Crow and Tony Benn. They were unique in this age of smooth media presentation because they could command a room, platform or debate through the power of personality, and intellect, not based on blind adherence to dogma, but conviction.

Conviction based on a belief in social and political change through solidarity and unity and a collective voice that looks after everyone but, first and foremost, the weakest in society; and these wonderful aspirations were not constrained by national borders. They shared many traits,despite seeing different routes to advancing the greater good, with convictions based on compassion that drove them both to work so incredibly hard and give generously of their time.

The outpouring of so much saccharine respect and hypocrisy from those in the media and politics who had vilified Bob and Tony for decades should not be allowed to undermine the courage, dignity and honesty they displayed in standing up for their beliefs.

Bob was a privilege to know, not just as a colleague, and the work we undertook in the rail industry, but for the support and friendship he offered when I became general secretary of ASLEF. His advice, humour and concern for my family will never be forgotten. Tony was unique, in outlook and experience, and many of us were inspired by being in his presence or chatting over innumerable cups of tea. His legacy, too, lives on.

We cannot replace Bob or Tony but we can continue to fight for what they believed in – social justice, nationalised industry and numerous other causes to create a better world for future generations and the best tribute we can pay to two men who were so willing to fight so hard for others is to never give up.