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Mick Cash, new RMT leader, promises “no deviation” from Bob Crow’s approach

Mick CashMick Cash, deputy to Bob Crow for 12 years until his tragic death in March, was this week elected to succeed him as general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT). He first joined its predecessor, the National Union of Railwaymen, 35 years ago as a track worker. Mick won by an overwhelming majority over four other contestants, winning 52% of the vote against 23% for his nearest rival on a 20% poll. In a statement on the RMT website, Mick Cash said:

Let me make this clear. There will be no deviation from the industrial, political and organising strategy mapped out by RMT under Bob’s leadership. Our fight on pay, jobs, working conditions, pensions and safety continues on every front and in every industry where we organise members.”

Whilst Mick is a Labour Party member, a former councillor, a member of Labour’s national executive which voted to expel the RMT in 2004 for permitting some of its branches to affiliate to the Scottish Socialist Party, and is seen as a “moderate” within the union, the fact that he wishes to ensure continuity from where Bob Crow left off is not surprising either. Politically he may be to the right of Bob Crow, and he may even be more cautious and conciliatory. But Bob Crow was far more pragmatic than his rhetoric sometimes suggested and above all he was a very successful general secretary in terms of what he achieved and in the perception of his members.

Mick Cash knows that and wants to continue that success. None of the candidates in this election presented themselves as a “change” candidate, nor could any of them be described as “right-wing” candidates. And furthermore, Mick is subject to the same pressures as was Bob Crow, from a highly politicised and militant set of executive members and senior officials.

The detailed results were as follows:

Mick Cash 8938 51%
Alan Pottage 4006 23%
Steve Hedley 1885 11%
John Leach 1428 8%
Alex Gordon 1176 7%

Nevertheless, the political affiliations of Mick’s rivals were certainly further left than his own. Assistant General Secretary Steve Hedley, for example, is a member of the Socialist Party and has stood as a candidate for TUSC – as has former RMT President Alex Gordon who is a member of the Communist Party of Britain. John Leach, the RMT’s regional organiser for London and another former President, is regarded by some as standing somewhere between the former two and Bob Crow.

Alan Pottage, who started working as a guard on the railways 32 years ago and is now head of the national organising department, ( a “staff” position rather than an elected official which may have been a handicap) is perhaps the one closest politically to Bob Crow, and it was he who ended as the runner-up.

There is bound to be some speculation about whether the election of Mick Cash may lead to the re-affiliation of the RMT to Labour, This is, however, unlikely in the short term. RMT remains well to the left of the current Labour leadership and there would be active opposition to that from many quarters within the union. However, more active political engagement with the Labour party is possible and perhaps the days of significant financial support from the RMT to TUSC and No2EU are numbered if only on “value for money” grounds.

3 Comments

  1. Robert says:

    We will see, some how I’ve a feeling this chap will not be near as cleaver as Bob was, but of course time will tell. Sadly he’s another of those right wingers which now infest politics within Unions and within the labour party another Blair rite, but again time will tell.

    So we will see.

  2. Jamie says:

    Just a small correction: Steve Hedley is not a member of the Socialist Party, though he was briefly in the organisation.

  3. swatantra says:

    Bob Crow was unique and one of his kind.
    So a different approach will inevitably have to be taken by the new bloke. New Bloke:New Times. I think it will be a more subtle approach, far different from Crow who often used a sledgehammer to crack nuts.

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