A TRADE union leader considered hugely divisive in life succeeded in uniting figures across the political spectrum in tribute following his death yesterday.
Bob Crow was described by London Mayor Boris Johnson - with whom he had fought repeated battles, most recently last month over Underground ticket office closures - as “a fighter and a man of character”.
A more familiar ally, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady called him an “outstanding trade unionist”.
Mr Crow is believed to have suffered a massive heart attack at his East London home.
The death of the general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union at the age of just 52 was met with widespread shock.
In an interview aired on the BBC just hours earlier he had been in characteristically combative form defending his reported £145,000 a year salary and decision to continue living in a housing association property.
Mr Crow was one of the most high-profile, left-wing union leaders of his generation, sparking as much anger from passengers hit by rail and Tube strikes, as praise from his members for winning pay rises.
In an era often characterised by a more cooperative approach to industrial relations, Mr Crow has stood out as a union leader closer in character to those seen in past generations.
Tributes paid to him yesterday repeatedly referred to his willingness to put his members first despite the personal criticism he often faced for refusing to take a less hardline approach.
Earlier this year he came under fire for going on a cruise in the run-up to the London Underground dispute.
Mr Crow was campaigning for the NO2EU party and planned to stand in May’s Euro elections, arguing that workers in the UK were being hit by EU policies.
The RMT parted company with Labour years ago after disagreements over policies, although the union continued to send its affiliation fee to the party, only to have its cheques returned.
Labour leader and Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband said: “Bob Crow was a major figure in the labour movement and was loved and deeply respected by his members.
“I didn’t always agree with him politically but I always respected his tireless commitment to fighting for the men and women in his union.
“He did what he was elected to do, was not afraid of controversy and was always out supporting his members across the country.
“He was a passionate defender of and campaigner for safe, affordable public transport and was a lifelong anti-fascist activist.”
Under Mr Crow’s leadership, membership of the RMT increased by more than 20,000 to 80,000, embracing workers ranging from seafarers and rail staff to cleaners.
Mr Crow’s brother, Richard, said: “He was honest, he looked after the people he was supposed to look after, and he was a great man as far as honesty and beliefs went.
“People moaned that he lived in a council house, that he never drove a car - he lived a life of the average guy in the street and that’s a rare thing these days.
“When people have a high office in life they fall for the big trappings of the flash cars and the big hotels and big houses. But Bob wasn’t like that, he was a genuine person of the people.”