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Unison sided with Watson – but ‘deleted’ OWN deputy post, moving incumbent ‘out of the way’

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
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison

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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  1. Like many members I am disgusted at the whole fiasco Basically who owns Labour and who genuinely speaks for the democratic socialist Labour party

    1. The problem is quite simple : the last time the Party as a whole democratically spoke on the issue, they elected Watson as Deputy Leader.

      Everything follows from that – including any credible remedy.

      1. As you know very well,we can’t get a vote on Watson as deputy because the wretched PLP will not allow it.What do you suggest we do?

  2. Again any serious politician would have made them pay a price to keep TWatson, very least put himself up for a vote
    GMB say one thing do another, go back to Mr Roche at TUC conference after TWatson intervened on Brexit policy

  3. When I was a member of my local WMC we all knew the committee were on the take, but it never affected the running of the club because there was that much money coming in we the members could afford to turn a blind eye,
    These union people are there on sufference, until they interfere in the chances of Labour winning next GE,
    My advice to them is keep your heads down or they will get knocked off by your members

  4. ‘Emilie Oldknow, the right-wing former aide to Iain McNicol, Labour’s previous general secretary’ and wife of shadow health sec. Jon Ashworth. I think we should know about all these personal relationships because they colour political decisions.

    1. Sue your points are thought provoking and very sensible!Strange that yesterday I was thinking of these family connections inside Labour especially.from the view of voting and influence…Maybe a debate for the conference next year if socialism survives yesterdays fiasco…!

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