Trapdoor opens for ousted king of magicians

THE MAGICIAN who beat Paul Daniels to the job of president of the Magic Circle has been deposed by his vice president, in a sleight of hand unknown in the 94-year history of the magicians' society.

Never before has a president been vanished from the head of the notoriously secretive organisation. They have, until now, only been replaced on their death by a "clear" election.

The end of a long-running battle between the present incumbent, David Berglas, and his reforming challenger, Michael Bailey, ended last night with a 2-to-1 victory for the new man.

Members were said to be "surprised" by the result, announced last night at the annual general meeting at the society's headquarters in Euston, London.

Mr Berglas, who pipped television magician Paul Daniels to the post nine years ago, had said he would not stand for election, preferring to step aside for a newcomer. But he changed his mind and decided to run against Mr Bailey, a retired advertising executive who masterminded a campaign to raise pounds 1.8 million for the Centre of Magic Arts - a Lottery-funded museum and base for the society - which opened three months ago.

Mr Berglas, 72, told The Independent that he had been encouraged to join battle by members anxious to preserve the status quo.

A Magic Circle spokesman last night hinted darkly at behind-the-scenes machinations that had swung the election. He said: "One supporter of Mr Berglas sent out a lot of letters that were condemnatory about Michael Bailey ... but Mr Berglas had no connection with this person. I think whoever it was shot himself in the foot."

The results of the postal vote last night followed speculation of real rivalry between the two contenders. Mr Bailey is said to lead a "reformist" faction which wants to spruce up the society. David Berglas on the other had is a "mentalist", known for his memory skills, who has held the title unchallenged since 1989.

In his victory speech, Mr Bailey vowed to make the Circle more popular, up to date and better known by the public. Some members were said to be unhappy that the secrecy surrounding the society and magic tricks had gone too far.