Ken’s friendship with the Tube unions – last seen rejecting as “inadequate” a £500 Olympic bribe for just doing their jobs – is unlikely to be a vote-winner. Ken has received about £140,000 from the TSSA, Aslef and Unite over the years, and has refused to oppose any of their recent strikes for even more outrageous pay and benefits than they already have (currently up to £61,000, even before the Olympic bribes.)
As the Standard reported yesterday, the TSSA, which provided Ken with his offices in the early stages of his campaign, voted to give him another £10,000 this month alone (internal TSSA documents seen by the paper say it may be as much as £25,000.) The TSSA is also funding a Livingstone front group, Sack Boris, to spread lies about the mayor’s record.
One thing Ken could say, however, was that he didn’t have much of a relationship with the most militant Tube union, Bob Crow’s RMT. Despite putting Crow on the TfL board, he fell out with them while he was mayor. The RMT, which is not affiliated to the Labour Party, was notably unhelpful to Livingstone in the run-up to the 2008 election, threatening a strike only a month before polling day. Many of its London branches backed the hardline Left List mayoral candidate, Lindsey German, instead of Ken. Now, though, it looks like Bob and Ken are making up.
The Tories have been pushing a slightly old story that Ken’s running mate and newly-anointed nominee for TfL chair, Val Shawcross, joined an RMT protest at City Hall in 2010. Much more interesting, however, is that the RMT and far left’s newly-formed political party, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, decided at the weekend not to oppose Ken at May’s election – even though it will stand candidates against Labour for the London Assembly.
Those TUSC Assembly candidates include Alex Gordon, the RMT president, and Steve Hedley, the union’s London regional organiser – one of the key figures behind the recent strikes. Mr Crow himself does not appear to be standing, but is a member of the TUSC’s national steering committee.
The TUSC is standing against Labour because the party supports some cuts and did not back the mass public sector strikes on November 30. As it says, “TUSC will support trade unions in the struggle.” Presumably one of the reasons it is not standing against Ken is for his stance on the tube strikes. Mr Crow has also offered to fund Ken’s campaign, describing him as a “good bloke,” though it doesn’t appear that this offer has been accepted.