Monday, May 6, 2013

How to steal an election

In the Spectator of 27 April Lady Thatcher’s biographer (and former Spectator editor) Charles Moore devotes his whole “The Spectator’s Notes” column to her and the book. Here is the second item:
There was also a startling late entry for the book. On the day after Lady Thatcher died, I received an email from Haden Blatch. Mr Blatch’s father, Bertie, was the chairman of the Finchley Conservative Association when it selected her in 1958. I had asked Haden for information before, but he had not got round to it. Now he revealed that his father had come home from the Finchley selection meeting and explained that Mrs Thatcher had not really won the vote. Her rival, Thomas Langton, had just pipped her. Blatch senior, however, was very keen on Mrs Thatcher, and thought that Langton, who ‘was born with a silver spoon in his mouth’, would easily get in somewhere else, whereas she, being a woman with young children, would not. ‘I “lost” two of Langton’s votes,’ he told his son, and he announced her victory. If this is correct, Mrs Thatcher (unknowing) was set on her political career by a fraud. To get this story into the book, I was not allowed any more lines: I had surgically to remove 150 words, and insert 150 new ones.
This story reminds me of an AGM of the NZ Society of Authors twentysomething years ago in Auckland. We elected a new president, and I seem to have been the only person to notice that the new president had been one of the two scrutineers. The other scrutineer was a friend of his. This was fine by me as it was a good result, but perhaps not best practice going forward, as we say these days.

The NZ Society of Authors will have its 2013 AGM in Dunedin next month, at which a new president will be elected. I have every confidence that the Otago-Southland branch, which will host the event, will be on the lookout for Auckland-style sharp practice. I also have every confidence that the members attending will have scrutinised the accounts and ask some questions.

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