Britains largest union has helped protect Watson from move to abolish his position – but according to insiders made same move in 2012 for similar reasons
Tom Watson pleaded for and received a reprieve as Labour deputy leader from Tom Watson today, in large part because three unions – giants Unison and GMB, along with TSSA – sided with him against an NEC move to abolish the deputy Labour position.
In 2012, Unison had a deputy leader position – occupied since 2001 by union veteran Keith Sonnet, who succeeded Dave Prentis when Prentis became general secretary.
But according to union insiders, Sonnet was not liked as a potential successor to general secretary Dave Prentis – who still runs the union now and reached the general secretary position via that of deputy.
So Sonnet’s position was ‘deleted‘.
A member of the union’s national executive wrote at the time:
Keith’s departure (from a post which is enshrined in UNISON’s Rule Book) will enable the appointment of a successor who is likely to be seen as “official” heir apparent to our General Secretary
But Sonnet had no successor as deputy general secretary, in spite of the status of the post in the union’s rule-book. Instead, positions of ‘assistant general secretary’ were created instead.
One is now occupied by Prentis’ partner Liz Snape – and another by Emilie Oldknow, the right-wing former aide to Iain McNicol, Labour’s previous general secretary.
A senior union official told the SKWAWKBOX:
We had a deputy general secretary post. Keith Sonnet was in that role. But they did not want him to succeed Prentis and needed him out of the way. So they got rid of the position – and Keith.
It led to another structure of assistant general secretary posts, one of which is [Prentis’] partner. It also led to ex Labour Party Officer Emilie Oldknow getting a job.
All those attacking the idea of deleting a deputy post won’t know a union of 1.4 million members did the very same thing.
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