'Massive gap' at Labour HQ as top moderate walks out on Jeremy Corbyn

Written by David Singleton and Kevin Schofield on 13 March 2018 in Diary

The Labour leader will soon wave goodbye to Emilie Oldknow - aka 'the de facto chief executive of the Labour party'.

Last month, Emilie Oldknow was being tipped as a possible new Labour general secretary following the decision of Iain McNicol to resign from the top job.

But now the party’s executive director for governance, membership and party services is leaving Labour HQ instead.

“I wanted you all to be the first to know that after 15 years working for the party, I will be leaving in the Summer to pursue some new and exciting opportunities,” said Oldknow in an email to Labour staffers.

Oldknow – who is married to shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth - is seen as a moderate and one of the last senior staff links to the Blair, Brown and Miliband eras. She becomes the latest heavyweight departure from Labour HQ in recent months, following elections chief Patrick Heneghan and McNicol himself.

Labour sources suggested she had stepped down after concluding that she would have little chance of defeating Unite’s Jennie Formby in the race for general secretary.

Party insiders also said she had been fighting a losing battle to keep moderates in the party’s structures for as long as possible. And that her decision to quit was a hammer-blow for Labour.

“Really sad to hear the amazing Emilie Oldknow is leaving,” tweeted Ed Miliband’s former political secretary Anna Yearley.

“It was such a privilege to work with her. She's so smart & dedicated and totally & utterly committed to a fairer world. And very very funny with it. Such a big loss.”

Jeremy Corbyn’s former campaign director Simon Fletcher stated: “Very sorry to hear this. Emilie Oldknow is class. Serious and professional about the Labour Party and her job, and a great person too. She will leave a massive gap in the organisation.”

Speaking off the record, Labour party sources were no less dramatic.

“This is clearly a huge loss to the Labour party and much more significant for the organisation than Iain McNicol’s resignation,” said Labour insider.

“Emilie is the de facto chief executive of the Labour party. She manages a complex and large team and makes all the significant strategic decisions relating to the party’s long-term future.

Another said: “This is the brains and muscles of the organisation leaving - that's it for the Labour party.”


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