In September RMT will elect a new General Secretary and candidates are already stepping forward to fill Unkle Bob’s somewhat larger than life shoes. I’ve been talking to RMT colleagues both on the Tube and on the mainline and then doing a little Googling to get an idea of who might be next to become the hate figure for millions of Daily Mail readers in the next five years. If I’ve made any errors then my apologies to the gentlemen concerned, as with all my posts I am always willing to retract and correct.
Mick Cash is one of the two Assistant General Secretaries and currently Acting Gen Sec so he’s getting a bit of attention as he’s “leading” the strikes next week. Like Bob he joined the railways straight from school, starting at BR’s Signals and Communications Department, became an active member of the Watford branch before becoming a full time RMT official in 2002. Unlike Bob he is very much from the “right wing” of the union and when Jimmy Knapp retired in 2002 Mick helped organise the election campaign of one of Bob’s rivals.
He was a local Labour councillor, used to sit on Labour’s National Executive Committee and he angered the left wingers by abstaining from the vote when RMT were expelled. Not unexpectedly opinion is divided among those RMT members I’ve spoken to, the left see him as not militant enough while the right see him as refreshingly moderate after years of militancy.
Steve Hedley is the other Asst Gen Sec and is the polar opposite of Mick Cash, at the last GLA elections he stood as a candidate for the Trades Union and Socialist Coalition, the ragbag of minor left wing parties that Bob cobbled together in 2010. Like Bob he’s an ex-Tube worker, from the Engineering branch but unlike Bob he came to the railways through Birkbeck College and a Catholic grammar school in Derry.
He’s certainly up for a fight, a keen amateur boxer who was convicted of assaulting a manager during the RMT/TSSA strikes at the end of 2010 but cleared on appeal when CCTV footage that had been “overlooked” at his trial proved his innocence. That appears to be the stumbling block with some of the RMT members I talked to, he’s just too pugnacious, too abrasive and lacking in diplomacy to succeed Unkle Bob (and yes I’m sure some of you read those words in utter disbelief).
John Leach is an ex-Station Super from the Central Line, was RMT President from 2006 to 2009, is the London Regional Organiser and is also getting his face seen doing interviews with the media in the run up to the strikes. He seems to fall somewhere between Cash and Hedley politically, certainly on the left but like Bob not enjoying the full support of the hardliners (again I can feel some of you reading that in disbelief). He’s been equally prepared to stand up to management and the union leadership, having had a few disagreements with Bob in the past. He seems to be generally regarded as a decent bloke who make a good Gen Sec although some think he's a bit too much like Bob.
The only other name I’ve seen nominated is Edinburgh’s Alan Pottage, another “lifer” who started as a 19 year old guard back in 1982 and is the National Organising Co-ordinator. As most of my contacts are London-based no one seems to know much about him, the only thing I’ve been able to find out about him online is that he plays the bass and recently recorded a tribute to Bob Crow with the Alabama 3, the South London band who did the music at the start of “The Sopranos”.
Feckin' cool or what?