Bahl 'independent' says Mathews

Law Society deputy vice-president Michael Mathews has moved to quash suggestions he has endorsed Equal Opportunities Commission chair Kamlesh Bahl in her bid to become deputy vice-president in 1998.

Bahl revealed to The Lawyer two weeks ago that she would be standing for the post after being approached by Robert Sayer who stood with Mathews in last year's election.

However, Mathews has now made it clear that Bahl is an “independent” candidate and not part of his electoral ticket.

Rumours had been circulating at Chancery Lane of an embryonic challenge against Mathews at next year's election and Sayer's wooing of Bahl, a popular council member, was seen as a way of warning off potential rivals.

Now Mathews has moved to avoid accusations of trying to block any further potential candidates coming forward.

Mathews says it is not up to him or Sayer to decide who should stand as deputy vice-president.

He said that while he believes in a “succession” policy, where candidates move up the ranks to the presidency, the deputy vice-president role should be open to any potential candidate.

“It is not a decision that should be made by a few people in a small room,” said Mathews. “The process for choosing the deputy vice-president needs to be wider and more open.”

But when Bahl announced she would be standing, neither she nor Sayer made it clear that she was standing as an independent candidate.

Sayer now says he personally supported Bahl's decision to stand but says he never implied she was anything other than an independent candidate.

He said any misunderstanding had been the fault of the legal press and there was no rift between him and Mathews over the issue. “We plead innocent on this one,” he said.

However Sayer and Mathews have not ruled out endorsing a particular candidate for the deputy vice-president post if rivals emerged for the position before next summer's election.