Building society triumphs over carpetbaggers

GET RICH QUICK "carpetbaggers" have failed in their attempt to turn the Bradford & Bingley building society into a bank. Their defeat, to be announced tomorrow, is a massive setback for the campaign, led by freelance butler Michael Harden, to force building societies to "convert" and issue windfall shares.

The defeat comes days after he abandoned his attempt to win a seat on the board of the Britannia building society.

And in a third blow, the Nationwide, Britain's largest society, has announced, on lawyers' advice, that Mr Harden's attempt to force it into another conversion vote is invalid. For two years running members have voted to remain a building society

Industry sources said last night that the Bradford & Bingley has won its battle for survival, with around 54 per cent of the votes being against the proposal that the society should take steps to become a bank and issue windfall shares.

Around 60 per cent of the society's 2.5 million members voted in a ballot triggered by carpetbaggers. "We were very pleased with that turnout," a spokeswoman said.

Stephen Major, the rebel B&B member who tabled the motion, believes his bid has failed. Mr Major, a plumber from Lisburn, Northern Ireland, said he had spoken to B&B insiders who were confident of victory. "I've given up hope of winning. There are more carpetbaggers in the Bradford & Bingley than in any other society and if you can't win in the B&B there's little chance in any other organisation."

The society spent pounds 5m on a campaign to persuade members to reject conversion. It seems to have won a much more decisive victory than the Nationwide which last year defeated by only 1 per cent the motion for conversion from Mr Hardern.

A Britannia spokesman said Mr Hardern's intervention had cost pounds 3m in extra postal and campaign costs.

Building societies believe Mr Hardern's eccentric behaviour is discrediting the carpetbaggers' case, but in future the battle may be taken out of both parties' hands. Campaigners for and against conversion are mobilising on the internet.

The Building Societies' Association is lobbying for a change to the law. At the moment any member needs only 50 other signatures to force a society to accept conversion motions, or a bid to elect a candidate to the board. The BSA's Pam O'Keeffe said: "When you have a website for carpetbaggers it is not difficult to get 50 people to support you. We aren't anti-democratic but we don't think building societies should have to face a general election year in, year out. We've been speaking to the Government about it." Possible solutions include demanding 500 signatures before a member's proposal is put to the vote.

The Members for Conversion website was set up by a commercial web firm, Web Centre, which asked Mr Hardern to run his campaign from the site. He has since been asked to leave, and the campaign is now driven by a group of activists operating under pseudonyms such as Ord, Dilbert, Rich Bagger and Lady Bagchester. There are e-mail updates for members seeking windfalls and tips on where to get the cheapest building society membership.

The campaigners believe the building societies have acted in an anti- democratic way by spending so much cash on campaigns and literature to persuade members to vote against the carpetbaggers. A spokesman for Web Centre claimed not to know who was behind the campaign. Another anonymous website, Members First, also campaigns against the societies' "anti-democratic" practices, including the Nationwide's pounds 8m annual sponsorship of the England football team and the Football League.

The rival group, Save our Building Societies, is run by Bob Goodall, a former housing worker who believes passionately that societies should stay mutual. "We have a website and our message is getting across," he said. "If the carpetbaggers don't like it they should come forward out of the shadows."

Members for Conversion: www.carpetbagger.com

Members First: www. membersfirst.freeserve.co.uk

Save our Building Societies: www.netcomuk.co.uk/ keveshere/sobs/index.html

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam