Boris Johnson v Bob Crow

Bob Crow and Boris Johnson

As Londoners battled through a second day of tube strike misery, two men had the power to bring it all to an end - London mayor Boris Johnson and the leader of the RMT union Bob Crow. They might seem chalk and cheese, but how different are they?

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What's the beef?
Tube station crowds

Boris won't talk to Bob because Bob has called a strike to protest at the London Mayor's plan to close ticket offices on the underground. But the RMT leader says he only called the strike because the London mayor wouldn't talk to him. You see their predicament.

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Are they secretly good friends?
Boris Johnson at LBC studios

Not exactly. They haven't met face-to-face in years, apparently. Bob showed up at City Hall on Monday seeking a showdown with Boris. But the mayor gave him the slip. So Bob decided to call in to Boris's weekly LBC radio show as "Bob, from Woodford Green".

It went something like this:

BJ: "You're holding a gun to Londoners' heads!".

BC: "You're putting a gun to our heads!"

BJ: "You're putting a gun to the heads of Londoners!"

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What are their backgrounds?

Bob Crow

RMT Union leader

  • Age: 52

  • Education: Left school at 16

  • Politics: Communist/socialist

  • Football: Millwall supporter

    Boris Johnson

    London Mayor

    • Age: 49

    • Education: Eton, Oxford University

    • Politics: Conservative

    • Football: Prefers rugby

A native of the East End of London, Bob Crow, 52, left school at 16 to work for a London Transport tree-felling gang. He "fell in love" with trade union activism soon afterwards. He has described his politics as "communist/socialist," although he is no longer a member of the communist party. He supports Millwall football club (motto: "No one likes us, we don't care").

Boris Johnson, 49, is of Turkish descent and was born in New York - entitling him to run for US president, if the UK political stage starts to feel a bit small-time. He went to school at Eton and then to Oxford University before entering journalism. A former Conservative MP and editor of right wing magazine The Spectator, his best known football moment was rugby tackling an opponent during an England v Germany legends match in 2006.

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Do they have anything at all in common?
Bob Crow

They both share an uncanny knack for getting themselves out of hot water with a snappy - and occasionally shameless - soundbite. Boris's verbal pearls are too numerous and well-known to list here. But Bob also has a nice line in comebacks.

"What do you want me to do? Sit under a tree and read Karl Marx every day?", said the RMT man when the Daily Mail called him out over his recent holiday in "sun-kissed Brazil", before going on to reveal that he had booked the trip from an ad in that very newspaper.

Boris Johnson had his own holiday hell in 2011, when he came under fire for not initially cutting short a family break in Canada when rioting erupted in London - but the boos of traders turned to cheers on a walkabout in Clapham when he held a broom aloft.

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Anything else?

EU flags

Their take-home pay is virtually identical. Boris Johnson is on a salary of £143,911 as London mayor (but tops that up with about £200,000 a year from his newspaper columns). Bob Crow is on a salary of £145,000 as RMT leader. And they are both Eurosceptics - albeit for very different reasons.

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What do their friends say?
Boris Johnson arrives at Tory conference

Boris Johnson is a political one-off - a Tory politician whose disarming ability to make people laugh and speak his mind has endeared him to London voters.

Bob Crow is a working class hero - a union leader who really stands up for his members and succeeds in getting them better wages and conditions.

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What about their critics?
Pickets during Winter of Discontent

Boris Johnson's carefully cultivated shambolic air masks a ruthlessly ambitious streak - he might deny it, but he really, really wants to be prime minister.

Bob Crow is a throwback to the bad old days of the 1970s, when communist trade union leaders regularly held the country to ransom.

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Get the look
Bob Hoskins

Easy, in Boris's case, simply buy a Boris wig from a fancy dress shop. They start at around a fiver. Cardboard Boris face masks are even cheaper. It's slightly trickier in Bob's case, unless you happen to be Bob Hoskins. (Yes, twitter fans, we did mean to publish a picture of the actor).

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Past battles
RMT picket 2013

Where do you start? Boris Johnson was elected mayor in 2008 on a pledge to seek a voluntary no-strike deal with the tube unions. That proved to be a fond hope, as the two sides squared up to each other from the off. In Boris's first term, there were more than 20 walkouts on the network, an average of about seven a year. The RMT and other unions staged many a walkout during the reign of Boris's Labour predecessor Ken Livingstone too.

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What the papers say
Commuters walk across bridge

To The Daily Telegraph, Bob Crow is "the last dinosaur", a "socialist who lives in a council house, yet is paid £145,000 a year". The Times calls the RMT strike an "appalling abuse of power", but says Boris Johnson is "not entirely blameless in this", adding: "Both men appear to be spoiling for a fight. They have got one, at a shameful cost." The Independent dubs Bob Crow the "pantomime villain of modern industrial relations" but says he is the most effective trade union leader in Britain today. The Guardian refrains from commenting on the Bob versus Boris aspect of the story, preferring instead to publish a homily about the joys of walking to work.

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A crowd of commuters getting on to the underground
What do the travelling public think?

The RMT have released a Survation opinion poll suggesting 65% of tube users feel that "lawful industrial action as a last resort was justified, with only 29% not sharing that view. A similar number (66%) were concerned at the Mayor's closure plans." But the union's critics have cried foul, suggesting the questions were loaded to get the answer they wanted.

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  63.  
    08:03: Abuse 'under-reported' BBC Radio 4 Today

    Prof Alexis Jay - whose report looking found at least 1,400 young people in Rotherham had been abused - says a culture change across the country is essential. "There are issues around child sexual exploitation in virtually every community. There's a great deal of underreporting, as we know," she tells the Today programme. What's needed, Prof Jay argues, is an end to the "questionable attitudes" she found in Rotherham - including social workers describing the children as having made 'lifestyle choices'.

    But last month's report from Louise Casey, which found that Rotherham Council is still not fit for purpose, suggests the problem remains. "The most disappointing aspect was that having described the culture of denial that continued over 16 years, regrettably Ms Casey reported that was continuing even after the publication of my report," Prof Jay says. She agreed that was an "appalling" state of affairs.

     
  64.  
    @oflynnmep Patrick O'Flynn, UKIP MEP and economic spokesman

    tweets: Thanks so much Theresa May for keeping the migration promise so you can break it again if re-elected. We are all most grateful.

     
  65.  
    @BBCNormanS Norman Smith, BBC News assistant political editor

    tweets: Child sex exploitation is going on in "virtually every community" - Alexis Jay @bbcr4today

     
  66.  
    07:58: 'Not good enough' BBC Radio 4

    Prof Alexis Jay, who investigated child sexual abuse in Rotherham, says of David Cameron's plans to punish those who ignore evidence of wrongdoing: "It's not good enough to say, 'I knew nothing.'"

     
  67.  
    07:52: 'Keeping the target' The Times
    Home Secretary Theresa May

    Today's Times' splash covers Home Secretary Theresa May's pledge to hang on to the beleaguered bid to cut net migration to the tens of thousands. "I think we will keep the target," she says. "It is important because it is about not just dealing with those coming into the system but also about making sure that those people who shouldn't live here actually leave." The precise words of the pledge in the manifesto haven't been decided yet, Mrs May says, but they will be there - in spite of the fact Downing Street isn't going to go ahead with its plans to block migrants from some European countries.

     
  68.  
    07:46: Covering the parties

    All the parties are preoccupied by how much media coverage they're getting, so they'll all be paying attention to this Total Politics blog looking at analysis from the Media Standards Trust of online political stories from mainstream news providers in recent weeks. Of 1,691 articles featuring the parties set to appear in the seven main parties, here's how many each party appeared in during 16-22 February:

    • Conservatives - 73%
    • Labour - 56%
    • Liberal Democrats - 17%
    • UKIP - 17%
    • SNP - 8.4%
    • Greens - 5%
    • Plaid Cymru - less than 1%

    The blog's authors, Stephen Cushion and Gordon Neil Ramsay, conclude: "Far from the 2015 general campaign turning into a seven-horse race, the longstanding two-party dominance of Conservative and Labour remains firmly intact."

     
  69.  
    07:38: The young vote
    Tuition fee protest

    Labour's plan to give the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds might help the party win power, YouGov president Peter Kellner has suggested. He's written an article for the Independent suggesting this reform and online voting would, together, force the parties to pay more attention to young voters. More students voting could only help Labour given the party's policy of cutting the tuition fees cap to £6,000, Mr Kellner thinks. "Extra votes from them in key marginal seats and Ed Miliband's chances of toppling David Cameron would improve significantly," he adds.

     
  70.  
    @Mike_Fabricant Michael Fabricant, Conservative MP for Lichfield

    tweets: I do agree with #Bercow: Unless there r major works on the Palace of Westminster, it will become unusable. The Palace + Tower Bridge #icons

     
  71.  
    07:33: Child sexual exploitation: Labour responds Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    Labour say the government's planned changes to the law around child sex exploitation - including possible five-year jail sentences for public officials who fail to act on suspicions of abuse - do not go far enough.

    Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has called on the government to introduce a specific new offence of child exploitation. Labour are also calling for a new legal duty of "mandatory reporting" which would impose a legal duty to report child abuse. And the party wants compulsory sex and relationship classes in schools.

    They have also criticised the failure to tackle the growth in online child abuse. Up to 30,000 people are suspected of accessing online abuse, according to the National Crime Agency, but only 1,000 have been reported. Ms Cooper said: "We need a radical overhaul of our child protection system, but I fear this is a missed opportunity to get all the reforms we need."

     
  72.  
    @BBCNormanS Norman Smith, BBC News assistant political editor

    tweets: Labour attack PM's child exploitation summit as "missed opportunity"

     
  73.  
    07:23: 'Culture of denial' BBC Breakfast
    Anne Longfield

    Anne Longfield, who since Sunday is the new Children's Commissioner for England, says today's child sexual exploitation plans are important because a "culture of denial" has seen troubled young girls "ignored" needs to change. She's told BBC Breakfast the government's move to make CSE a crime of 'national priority' will send a clear message - but adds national strategies must filter down to those on the ground like social workers, the police and nurses in schools. "We want to see all local authorities and their partners making this the number one priority," she urges. "The firm message here is that professionals must respond."

     
  74.  
    07:16: 'Decriminalised' theft denied BBC Radio 4

    David Lammy's claim that the police are neglecting shoplifting and burglary was challenged by Matt Jukes, the Association of Chief Police Officers' national lead on acquisitive crime, on the Today programme. "We've been working hard to make property harder to steal and make stolen property harder to sell," he replies, citing the example of smart phones. Changing the technology, building in kill switches and tackling the market for stolen phones has resulted in 5,000 fewer victims in London alone last year, he says. But Mr Lammy, whose report on the issue for Policy Exchange is published today, insists the problem is bigger than it appears. "Neighbourhood policing across Britain has virtually collapsed, that's why there's so much under-reporting," he says.

     
  75.  
    @AndrewSparrow Andrew Sparrow, Guardian Politics Live blog

    tweets: Today's Guardian seat projection - Tories 275, Lab 271, SNP 51, LDs 27, Ukip 4, Greens 1

     
  76.  
    07:06: 'Decriminalised' theft BBC Radio 4 Today
    David Lammy

    Labour's David Lammy has claimed theft, burglary and shoplifting have been "de facto decriminalised". Interviewed on the Today programme after he penned a report on the topic for the think-tank Policy Exchange, the Tottenham MP said people had "stopped bothering going to the police" because of a belief they don't have the resources to tackle it. Ministers say crime has fallen by 20% under the coalition, but Mr Lammy said shoplifting was up by 5% last year. Our story's available here.

     
  77.  
    @YouGov YouGov, pollsters

    tweets: Update: Cons lead at 3 - Latest YouGov / Sun results 2nd Mar - Con 35%, Lab 32%, LD 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 6%; APP -18

     
  78.  
    06:56: Sturgeon on inequality

    Nicola Sturgeon will use a speech later to try and shift the Scottish debate onto social mobility issues. The Scottish first minister will claim that recent research from the OECD suggests a more equal society could have boosted Britain's GDP by nearly £100bn in 2010. "We want to see economic growth that is inclusive, innovative and fairly distributed," she's expected to say. Scottish Labour agree that inequality is a big issue, but insist they have a plan to tackle it. Here's the story.

     
  79.  
    06:54: Hull bound?

    On the subject of relocating Parliament, how about Hull? That's a suggestion BBC2's Daily Politics looked at on Monday.

     
  80.  
    06:53: Crumbling parliament
    Palace of Westminster

    The Palace of Westminster, which hasn't had a major renovation since its construction in the mid-19th century, will have to be "abandoned" if nothing's done, John Bercow warned last night. At a Hansard Society event in parliament, the Speaker said taxpayers would have to brace themselves for a £3bn bill - and MPs and peers might have to temporarily find somewhere else to hold their debates. "If we were to decant, should we consider all options including, almost certainly, a regional option?" Mr Bercow pondered. "We should." Our story on his comments is here.

     
  81.  
    @BarrySheerman Barry Sheerman, Labour MP for Huddersfield

    tweets: Will be interesting how media deals with child abuse revelations in Oxfordshire compared to Rotherham @BBCr4today

     
  82.  
    06:47: 'Girls let down'

    Today's summit coincides with what is expected to be a damning report on child sex abuse in Oxfordshire. Lead investigator into that case Det Ch Insp Simon Morton said has told the BBC police "completely let the girls down". Read more.

     
  83.  
    06:42: Analysis: child sex abuse Alison Holt Social Affairs Editor, BBC News

    David Cameron will talk about classifying child sexual abuse as a national threat. The idea is to push it up the agenda because one of the issues that comes up time and again is that other policing priorities have tended to be placed before protecting vulnerable teenagers.

    It's also about educating professionals because it appears that in the past they sometimes put what was happening to these girls down to lifestyle choice. These are teenagers who are difficult to communicate with, stroppy when someone asks if they need help, but point being made is that they are still children. They need the professionals to stick with them to get their trust.

     
  84.  
    06:40: A sin-bin for MPs

    Labour's focus today is about repairing politics as a whole, not just Parliament. Shadow leader of the House Angela Eagle is outlining plans for political reform which she says are essential if politicians are to "restore faith in our political process". Today's package includes previously advertised plans to give the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds, press ahead with devolution and replace the Lords with a Senate of the Nations and Regions. But it also includes new proposals to send rowdy MPs who are misbehaving in the Commons chamber into a rugby-style sin-bin. "Sometimes MPs take it too far and it turns the public off," Ms Eagle explains.

     
  85.  
    06:29: Front pages
  86.  
    06:24: Child sexual exploitation
    Rochdale skyline

    David Cameron is in Downing Street today with a raft of senior cabinet figures holding a summit on child sexual exploitation. Representatives from local areas like Rochdale, as well as victims and child protection experts, will size up the government's new package of measures, which includes:

    • Tougher penalties for senior public sector workers who fail to protect children
    • A new national whistleblowing helpline
    • The prioritisation of child sexual abuse by police chiefs

    "We owe it to our children, and to the children who survive horrific sexual abuse, to do better," Mr Cameron says. Here's the full story.

     
  87.  
    06:23: Control order row

    The issue of Syria - and specifically whether the government's decisions on counter-terrorism might have made it easier for would-be jihadists to travel there - was the subject of an urgent Commons question on Monday. Yvette Coooper, shadow home secretary, pressed her opposite number Theresa May on the issue, but Mrs May was adamant that she had taken the right decisions, including scrapping control orders, to keep the UK safe.

     
  88.  
    06:20: Round the houses

    Yesterday, housing was the big focus, with David Cameron announcing a plan for 200,000 new starter homes. For his part, Ed Miliband was unimpressed and said Labour would go further - he accused Mr Cameron of presiding over the slowest rate of house building since the 1920s.

     
  89.  
    06:13: Good morning

    Hello and welcome to a fresh Tuesday's political coverage. Victoria King and Alex Stevenson will bring you all the action, reaction and analysis in text and you'll be able to watch and listen to all the main BBC political programmes, from Today and Breakfast through to Newsnight and Today in Parliament. Don't forget you can get in touch by emailing politics@bbc.co.uk or via social media @bbcpolitics. Here's how Monday unfolded.

     

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