People and Business: Ballot mystery

MICHAEL HARDERN, the spiritual father of the carpetbaggers' movement, continues to baffle and infuriate the building society movement by turn.

On Friday he rang Britannia Building Society to tell them that he had decided to withdraw from the upcoming election to the board. Mr Hardern, a freelance butler, had been running on a demutualisation ticket, hoping to engineer windfall payouts to Britannia's 1.25 million voting members.

However, a spokeswoman for Britannia told me yesterday: "We have heard nothing further from Mr Hardern. We have received no official confirmation that he is withdrawing from the election. Therefore we are continuing with the vote." The voting forms have to be in by 26 April.

She adds that balloting the members has already cost pounds 2m, and re-mailing to inform them of Mr Hardern's (unconfirmed) withdrawal would have cost another pounds 1m. Mr Hardern was unavailable for comment yesterday.

The election literature from Britannia certainly makes blood-curdling reading. A separate insert in the pack, signed by Calum A MacLeod, chairman, says: "With the exception of Mr Michael Hardern, all candidates [for the board] have provided the information required to establish that they are `fit and proper'."

Mr MacLeod adds that Mr Hardern has so far refused three written requests to provide such information.

The voting card also helpfully points out next to Mr Hardern's name: "Your board recommends that you DO NOT vote for this candidate."

I think we get the idea.

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