LEADER

What’s the difference between Ashursts and the Tory Party? They’ve both got a posh boy image they’re desperate to shake. But while the Tories have managed to elect a new leader (even though only one candidate put his hat in the ring), Ashursts just can’t seem to get around to it.

In what is managing partner election season – Freshfields and Lovells have also been at it, although Freshfields avoided too much democracy – Ashursts’ managing partner Justin Spendlove is still in the post, despite the fact that his term officially ended in September.

Quite what is going on is a mystery. Senior partner Geoffrey Green, who is scheduled to face the ballot himself in December, puts it down to all the other little things the firm has been busy with since those Fried Frank talks. Another partner says that, given the fact that they’re all such happy bunnies, nobody’s really bothered and things have just slipped. It’s all slightly bumbling and very British.

There’s another story doing the rounds though – and this is where the Tory party comparison gets really interesting – which is that nobody other than Spendlove can be found to stand. Green hotly denies this, saying “cometh the hour, cometh the man,” adding with nu-Ashursts PC fervour, “or in fact, the woman”. And Spendlove himself won’t comment. But think about it. The managing partner position was introduced only a few years ago and since then two managing partners have spent most of their time talking to prospective merger partners and failing to pull off a deal.

Ian Nisse talked to and rejected Clifford Chance and then in his second term rejected Latham & Watkins. Spendlove, who helped run the Fried Frank talks, can rest easy knowing that, as with Michael Howard, a poor record is not in itself an absolute barrier to a top post.

The rumours are that Green would prefer another running mate. Green, alongside private equity supremo Charlie Geffen and head of corporate Chris Ashworth, have the power to make or break any candidate. The problem is that nobody seems to want to stand up and be counted. The favourite, former Frankfurt managing partner Graeme Ward, just wants to keep his head down and do some law, say insiders. Who can blame him, given that the managing partner job has so far proved to be a poisoned chalice?

Maybe the firm needs to axe the managing partner role altogether, or at least start looking for a partner with “something of the night” about them.