Many people – particularly those who commuted in London - disliked Bob Crow.
He was an inconvenience. The strikes which beset London Underground were usually accompanied by his gruff, snarling face making demands via a TV news camera on the picket line.
He was like a figure from another time, a cut-out of 1970's trade unionism still alive and kicking in the 21st Century. He was a part of a political consensus which was supposed to be hopelessly wrapped up in the past.
But what Crow was really doing was extraordinarily simple. He was doing his job.
He was representing his members. He was standing up for the workers who comprised his union.
He fought off attempts to apply the same low-pay, hire-and-fire culture to London Underground as was being imposed elsewhere in the economy.
"It wasn't our members who created the downturn and we will not be bullied into accepting that they should be forced to pay for an economic crisis that was cooked up by the bankers and the politicians," he said in 2009.
Under Crow's leadership a 'platinum-plated' pay and benefits package which included basic pay, overtime, pension and free travel put Tube workers on a similar financial footing to NHS managers or deputy head teachers. The basic Tube driver's salary was £42,424, with perks for customer satisfaction and free travel on the Tube for the worker and their partner.
The press encouraged commuters to envy the salaries of Tube staff - to resent them for it.
A far more sensible reaction would be to look at what the RMT achieved and think: that's what workers can get when they organise.
Admittedly the Tube's near-monopoly on commuter requirements in London gives it much greater leverage than many other services. But Crow used that leverage to its greatest possible advantage with a hard-headed, aggressive approach to industrial relations.
The same papers which constructed ever-more imaginative arguments to defend bankers' bonuses would act as if they were outraged by Tube drivers' £42,424 wage. But this is not extraordinary wealth. It's the type of salary someone in the capital needs if they are to live a good, high quality life, with a partner and children. It's the type of salary someone in the capital deserves for a hard day's work, done diligently.
When did people become so compliant that they forgot to aspire to such wages and instead could be tempted into merely envying those who had secured it?
Trade unions are a bulwark against the creation of a low-wage, low-rights economy. That is the kind of economy we are living in now, a consumer economy which fails to remunerate workers with the spending power to sustain it.
Crow was subject to brutal tabloid press coverage, of the 'most hated man in Britain' variety. Every broadcast interview saw presenters try to out-Paxman themselves in their critique of his tactics, his acceptance of his own salary and whatever aspect of his personal life was to hand.
In his best recent outing Andrew Neil on the Sunday Politics asked him about his holiday to Brazil. "If I had your wages I'd be having two trips to Rio every year," he told the presenter. You could see the glimmer of grudging respect from Neil by the time the interview was over.
Crow was tough enough to seem uninterested in the savagery of the attacks on him, probably because he knew that their existence was proof he was doing his job.
Throughout it all Crow retained an extraordinary commitment to democracy: at a local council level and at a continental level, with his rare campaign work on a left-wing opposition to the EU. He was one of those few figures brave enough to raise the idea that democracy should not end when you go to work. You can see how terrifying that idea is to business leaders even today. Euan Sutherland tendered his resignation from the Co-Op last night due to his concern about its democratic structure.
Crow died young. During his career he was subject to daily abuse from the press. But he showed what trade unionism could achieve. If more trade union leaders were like him, their members might also enjoy a decent salary for a hard day's work. And trade unionism might still be a serious political force, making big and historic arguments about what a good society should look like.
Nestled away in the court of appeal today is a case which will decide whether British citizens are allowed to live with the person they love.
Having even reached this point is, of course, a moral disaster. But this is where we are.
Last summer Theresa May lost a crucial case concerning her requirements for UK citizens marrying someone from outside the EU.
Under rules put in place by the home secretary, only Brits earning £18,600 can bring their loved ones to the UK. It rises to £22,400 if you have a child and an additional £2,400 for each further child. Under the system, 40% of the British working population are prevented from bringing a foreign spouse to live with them.
I have spoken to people whose spouse earns many multiples of that amount - but it doesn't count. The current or expected spousal income is not taken into consideration. I have met people who have family members or friends willing to demonstrate to the state that they are prepared to support the couple - a system used in other visa applications to prove the applicant will not have to rely on public funds. That doesn't count either.
Only people with £62,500 savings for six months are exempt from the rule.
It is an unreported ethical catastrophe, a savage policy which tears apart British families and forces children to grow up without their mother or father. It takes a particular kind of moral cowardice to ask someone to choose between their country and the person they love. That apparently is the kind of moral cowardice Britain has adopted.
In July, Mr Justice Blake in the high court branded the rule "disproportionate and unjustified" in the case of MM & Ors v Secretary of State for the Home Department.
He rejected the argument that the rules were discriminatory in nature or that their absence of concern for the effect on children constituted illegality. He did not strike them down as generally unlawful - the judgement was only about the case at hand. He also did not find that the very concept of setting a minimum income benchmark was unlawful.
But he took umbrage at the way the Home Office had ignored Migration Advisory Committee income benchmarks of £13,400 as the level at which people are unlikely to have to rely on state funds. This is a level closer to the earnings of someone working 40 hours a week on minimum wage.
Mr Justice Blake found that British citizens have "a fundamental right of constitutional significance recognised by the common law" to live in their home country. But around half the British population would be forced to leave their own country under the rules, if they are unfortunate enough to fall in love with someone from outside the EU.
The judge said:
"To set the figure significantly higher than even the £13,400 gross annual wage effectively denies young people and many thousands of low-wage earners in full time employment the ability to be joined by their non-EEA spouses from abroad unless they happen to have wealthy relatives or to have won the lottery. This frustrates the right of refugees and British citizens to live with their chosen partner and found a family unless such modest earnings could be supplemented by any reasonably substantial savings, third party support or the future earnings or the spouse seeking admission."
The judgement didn't make May's rules illegal, but they provided a ray of light for the thousands of couples desperately waiting for the right to live together.
It suggests that even if they can't satisfy the £18,600 benchmark, they may be able to secure an application if the sponsor earns above the minimum wage, or if there is reliable 'third party support', or evidence the spouse will work in the UK, or where children are affected.
While the case plays itself out, visa decisions on foreign spouses have been put on hold.
The Home Office, unusually, paused for a while as it responded to the criticism. For a short while, people suspected they might not pursue their usual tin-eared moral bankruptcy. Alas, it was not to be so. Soon enough, they appealed. The current case will see if they are successful.
The case is expected to last two days. Some of the many thousands of British families split by the rules will be demonstrating outside the court and filling the public gallery - organised by the rather brilliant campaign group Brit Cits.
The minimum benchmark rules were the point at which Britain's anti-immigrant hysteria started to radically restrict the rights and freedoms of its own citizens. It demonstrates that more than anything immigration is a civil liberties issue. And it showed dramatically how we belittle our own lives with this grim hostility to immigrants.
For the sake of Britain's better nature, we must hope the Home Office loses its appeal.
If Norman Baker's comment this morning is true, we're about to enter unprecedented territory in the drug law debate.
The liberal (with a big and a small 'l') minister is suspected of either going native at the Home Office or acting as a trojan horse for Nick Clegg's progressive views on drugs. His comments in the pages of today's Times only serve to make his role murkier.
Baker said he was considering plans to licence shops to sell legal highs,in a bid to bring the trade under the control of regulators.
"We should maybe look at licensing them like sex shops with blacked-out windows and not allowing under-18s in."
The comment won swift support from drug law reformers.
Danny Kushlik from Transform Drug Policy Foundation said:
"Norman Baker deserves enormous respect for broaching the issue of the legal regulation of legal highs. His clarion call for responsible government control prioritises citizens' health and safety over populist grandstanding and 'tough on drugs' rhetoric. Let us hope that his Labour and Conservative colleagues support his bold pragmatism."
Drug law reformers are excited because they know legal highs can turn into the thin end of the wedge when it comes to ending prohibition.
The laws on controlled substances can't really deal with legal highs because a small change to the structure of a chemical often means it falls outside statute. You cut off one head and two grow in its place.
Of course, if you could guarantee safe, high quality drugs people wouldn't go messing around with strange white powders they get through the post and we could save a few lives. Unfortunately, that's not where the debate is right now.
However, Baker's proposal would get us close. He is speaking openly about regulating recreational drugs on the high street. For this to have come from a Home Office minster is a slap-yourself-to-check-whether-you're-sleeping development.
But why do it this way? Why not wait until concrete proposals have been properly formulated in the department to give it a semblance of nuetral civil servant calculation, rather than the increasingly impatient crusade of a liberal minister? The plan now has the indelible mark of being his favoured choice.
And why make the comments to the Times, which is one of the papers least likely to give them time? Even the Sun would have been more sympathetic.
In fact, the Times felt the need to lead with:
"Dangerous 'legal highs' that mimic the effects of heroin and other Class A drugs will be sold in licensed high street shops under plans being considered by ministers."
Not exacly a glowing endorsement.
It then gave Baker a handful of paragraphs before throwing in some quotes from the Angelus Foundation (never heard of it), an anti-legal highs group, about how "darkened windows could make the drugs more attractive to youngsters".
(Such nonsense. They say this stuff as if young people are wandering around Britain, blissfully unaware of drugs under prohibition. But oh, don't suggest darkened windows. That'll really get them interested.)
If Baker was flying a kite - trying to get a sense of how something like this would play out in the media - he picked an odd paper to do it in. Some reformers think he's just biting at the bit and has become impatient to get real change secured.
Whatever the criticisms, Baker is pursuing a brave strategy here. These are big, important developments. Every week there is further evidence that we are reaching a tipping point on drug law. Baker is the most important person in the debate.