Mr Hardern, you may recall, is the former butler who put himself and a slate of supporters up for election to the Nationwide board last summer. His aim was to garner enough votes to show that the call for the Nationwide to demutualise - so its members could receive up to pounds 1,500 in free shares - had massive backing. Nationwide members voted almost three to one against the "flotation candidates".
Undeterred, he is standing again this year. Moreover, his backers have also arranged for a motion to be voted on which explicitly calls on members to decide whether they want their society to be floated.
This time last year I argued that Nationwide members should vote against Mr Hardern's bid to join the board. It was not just that he and his friends were unlikely candidates to run a multi-billion-pound building society, but because I oppose demutualisation.
Let me be clear: I don't believe building societies are the ultimate in democratic financial institutions, nor that they always offer the best deals to savers and borrowers. What's more, the manipulation of members by Nationwide - witness the way its ballot papers are colour- coded to facilitate the "right" vote - is annoying.
Yet most societies do offer a better deal to members than banks. This week's announcement by the big societies that they are freezing their mortgage rates at least until 1 August, while the Halifax, Woolwich and other former mutuals raced to raise theirs, is evidence.
And look at the City's reaction to the announcement earlier this week that Halifax and Alliance & Leicester would be raising their mortgage rates by 0.25 per cent. Shares rose. Borrowers will pay an extra pounds 144 on a typical pounds 60,000 loan.
Ah, you say, but mutuality isn't good for savers, whose rates - even if marginally better than a bank's - would take 50 years or more to give any tangible benefits to members. And there are 4 million borrowers to 1 million savers at Nationwide.
The reality, however, is that a person's relationship with their society changes. When you are young and buying a home, you will be a borrower. Later, when the mortgage is paid off and the kids have grown up, that situation changes. The benefits continue to flow, even if in a more gradual way.
If Mr Hardern succeeds, the Nationwide's demutualisation will hit us all as competition in the financial sec- tor is weakened. We wait for the result with bated breath.Reuse content