The National Union of Teachers has elected the left-wing Christine Blower as its new deputy general secretary.
She beat John Bangs, the union's head of education, who many had expected to win because he was endorsed by allies of Steve Sinnott, the general secretary.
Mrs Blower, 53, who is a peripatetic teacher of children with behavioural difficulties, will begin her pound;70,000-a-year job on February 21. As well as deputising for Mr Sinnott she is interested in taking on equal opportunities work though nothing has yet been decided.
She is branch secretary in Hammersmith and Fulham, west London, and firmly on the NUT's left, and expects her election to send a clear signal to ministers. "While we are happy to talk with the Government I don't think the union will compromise on things such as the workforce deal," she said.
The message is the same in substance as Mr Sinnott's. He has publicly ruled out signing the deal. But the tone is less conciliatory. When Mr Sinnott was elected last summer, he spoke of an opportunity for both sides to reflect and try to find a way forward.
Mrs Blower told the TES she had little regard for Labour's education record.
"When Labour came into power it scrapped nursery vouchers and that was the high point," she said.
"I hesitate to say it has been all downhill since but it is difficult to find a policy that teachers have been very keen on."
Anyone expecting Mrs Blower's victory to trigger a bloody internal battle with Mr Sinnott could be disappointed though.
He has pledged to make the most of talent from all wings of the union and his allies say there is no chance of him sidelining Mrs Blower in the same way that he was in her post. She said that any differences between them were not on policy, which is decided by conference, but on how to implement it.
The mother-of-two is a keen gardener and hopes the travel involved in her new job will benefit the flowerbeds in her west London home. She prefers to stay in colleagues' homes rather than hotels and plans to study their gardens and return with cuttings and inspiration.
"There is quite an interest in gardening in the NUT executive," she said.
"I have already got some extremely nice irises coming through from a colleague in the West Midlands."
Mrs Blower won by 27,569 votes to 22,753 with a 19.7 per cent turnout.