Vote puts strain on brains
Sunday 20 September 1992
Mensa's committee yesterday sought to change the rules. Instead of being a limited company, it should change its status to an association. Did the members agree? It depends on what you mean by agree.
About 95 per cent of the 39,000 members did not take part in the postal ballot. Of those who did vote, more than 1,200 supported the committee, but activists attending yesterday's special meeting in Portsmouth swung 100-46 against the resolution.
It had been commended by two of the nation's finest minds, Dr Madsen Pirie, whose Adam Smith Institute inspired the Conservative economic miracle, and Sir Clive Sinclair, designer of the miraculous C5 electric vehicle.
But a meeting scheduled to last only 15 minutes soon became confused as the membership glimpsed a hidden agenda.
Dr Pirie, secretary of British Mensa, said the change was 'purely technical'. If reformed, the society would be subject to the wishes of members, rather than rigours of company law. 'The association will be a self-governing body rather similar to the National Trust,' he said.
Perhaps members did not see their brains as analagous to stately homes or the Lake District. Speakers said they could not fathom the need for change. Was the committee trying to usurp power?
The truth that dared not emerge from yesterday's meeting of minds is the law. Mensa is embroiled in some potentially expensive lawsuits made possible by the society's subordination to company law.
Committee members did not like to name names, or explain how men in wigs were leaving them hairless with worry. But a change of status would reduce the litigious scope for pernickety minds that Mensa attracts.
Debate threatened briefly to descend into delicious abuse. One man shouted from the back of the Portsmouth Guildhall: 'How much did the Horse Guards Hotel cost?' The price was not revealed, nor what went on there.
After 30 minutes, Dr Pirie conceded: 'We have obviously not got this across.' Up in Barnard Castle, County Durham, dissident Mensa member Cliff Occomore said he and other members thought the arguments for change were 'specious'.
Sir Clive said no changes would be made without further debate. What happens in the end, Mensa doesn't seem to know.
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