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Law Society presidential candidate Robert Sayer has launched a furious attack on his opponent in the election race, branding him "a complete pillock" who "falls asleep in council meetings".
The mud slinging began shortly after David Keating declared at the eleventh hour that he was also standing for president.
Under Law Society rules, Sayer, as vice-president, would automatically have become president had no one stood against him.
Sayer says the Law Society needs a contested election "like it needs a hole in the head" and branded Keating's last-minute bid "sneaky, underhand and pointless". He believes an election will cost the profession around u100,000.
Sayer claims: "He [Keating] comes to council meetings, falls asleep and goes home again. It's incredible cheek that he thinks he can come along and step into a system that has seen other council members work so hard to see the reforms through."
He adds: "It's a bloody nuisance. I can't say there shouldn't be contested elections if there was an issue but there isn't. It's just gratuitous self-indulgence."
Keating says: "In any democratic process, people should have a choice. There's no need to get hot under the collar and call people names.
"I am standing because of the feeling within some of the council and in the profession at large that Bob's not the right person for the job. I was urged to stand.
"Anyway, I don't go to sleep in council meetings, although I may close my eyes when it gets tedious."
Sayer claims the brains behind Keating's bid is Sayer's former political ally, ex-president Martin Mears. Sayer says Mears has never forgiven him for shifting his alliances.
"It's down to Mears geeing him up and a couple of bitter, twisted little people who can't bear the reforms.
"Every year Mears comes up like a piece of dog turd on your shoe. He hasn't the guts to do it himself," alleges Sayer.
Mears, who admits he is backing Keating, says: "There's a general opinion in council - anyone who has seen Robert Sayer in action - that he's not the best man to represent the Law Society in public or go and deal with government ministers."
He describes Sayer's outburst as outrageous and adds: "It discredits him for using such language and it demeans the office and the Law Society."
Voting papers will be sent out on 16 June and must be returned by 8 July.
Irwin Mitchell's senior partner Michael Napier - who narrowly lost out to Michael Mathews in the presidential election last year - is standing as deputy vice-president, as is Kent sole practitioner Trevor Murray.