Nationwide carpetbaggers sent packing

Members reject move to de-mutualise by three-to-one majority

Nationwide Building Society yesterday dealt a crushing blow to the carpetbaggers aiming to bounce it into a stock market flotation after its members voted overwhelmingly in favour of mutuality.

More than 1.3 million Nationwide members - out of 3.5 million eligible to vote - rejected five rebel de-mutualisation candidates standing for election to its board and instead backed the society's own choice for the board by a majority of almost three to one.

The vote received the endorsement of the Prime, Tony Blair, and has provided a breathing space for a number of other building societies under pressure to give up their mutual status.

Nationwide's candidates received an average of 950,000 votes each, compared to about 350,000 for pro-conversion candidates, led by Michael Hardern, a freelance butler. Mr Hardern personally received 333,976 votes.

Charles Nunneley, chairman of Nationwide, said: "Particularly against the background of massive speculation about conversion windfalls, this election result represents a tremendous endorsement of our strategy."

Brian Davis, the society's chief executive, added: "This election has been very important in establishing public support for mutual building societies. This is a clear turning point in the debate about the value that members see in societies that wish to remain mutual."

He promised there would be no retribution against Mr Hardern and his colleagues, who had exercised their "democratic right" to stand for election. Adrian Coles, director-general of the Building Societies' Association, said: "This is a victory for the genuine member over the short-term greed of the carpetbagger. Without societies like Nationwide active as a competitive restraint on the banks, there can be no doubt that mortgages would be increased and savings rates lowered."

The BSA had feared that a victory for the self-styled "members for conversion" would lead to the final unravelling of mutual financial structures.

Both large and small building societies, traditionally Nationwide's bitter rivals in the battle to win savers and mortgage borrowers, joined in the general scramble to congratulate the board.

Christopher Rodrigues, chief executive of Bradford & Bingley, the UK's second-largest society, which many experts believed would be the next target for conversion candidates, said: "The majority of Nationwide members believe that the benefits of mutuality are worth preserving."

The decision of Nationwide members even received the seal of approval from Mr Blair. He said yesterday: "I was delighted to see the result and I think the right decision was made."

There were signs yesterday that building societies, many of which have been paralysed by speculators opening accounts to qualify for free shares, would seek to capitalise on the Prime Minister's support by seeking further protection against carpetbagging.

John Heaps, chief executive at Britannia, the third-largest society, said: "They have hijacked the inherent democracy in building societies without any thought of member or consumer interests. It would be no surprise if steps were taken to ensure that this cannot happen again - in the interest of both the consumer and healthy competition."

Mr Nunneley said yesterday that Nationwide would be campaigning through the BSA for changes in the law to prevent members being able to vote in elections and qualify for shares without an initial waiting period.

The results yesterday bring to a close an extraordinary grassroots campaign mounted by Mr Hardern and his supporters.

Members for Conversion was founded by Mr Hardern after the flotation was announced 18 months ago of Alliance & Leicester, Woolwich and Northern Rock societies, plus the takeovers of National & Provincial and Bristol & West.

Together with Halifax, almost 15 million members of those societies have or will gain average windfalls worth up to pounds 2,000 from conversion.

Mr Hardern and his supporters campaigned for election to the Nationwide board by promising to deliver a similar payout to its members.

The vote is a triumph for Brain Davis, Nationwide chief executive. Although publicly supportive, many societies had complained he was too soft on carpetbaggers, who should have been denied the right to stand.

Comment, page 21

Actor Burt Reynolds last year
peopleBurt Reynolds, once among the most bankable actors in Hollywood, is set to auction his memorabilia
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Austen Lloyd: Company Secretary

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: EAST ANGLIA - SENIOR SOLICITOR LEVEL ROLE** -...

Citifocus Ltd: German Speaking Client Specialist

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Prestigious asset management house seeks a...

Citifocus Ltd: Performance & Risk Oversight

£Negotiable: Citifocus Ltd: This is a varied role focusing on the firm's mutua...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Director - SaaS (SME/Channel) - £140,000 OTE

£90000 - £140000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achievin...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game