I believe in truth, in facts, in rational thinking. My beliefs have been seriously challenged by recent political behaviour in several countries. But when my own Bridge Club election was rigged…and our team of law-abiding, business-smart, experienced senior executives was defeated, I realised that Trumpism had reached me…personally. What should I do?
The Background
About 15 months ago, our Bridge Club committee sacked the person who was the soul of the club, the greeter, the teacher, the communicator, the reason why people joined our ‘friendly’ club. No reasons for the sacking were given publically. A group of members commissioned a special meeting to vote no confidence in the committee. The vote was carried 70%-30%…but the committee stayed on! The constitution specified a 75% vote was needed to force them out!
In disgust, many of us found other clubs to play at. An alternative group was formed, but we maintained our membership, hoping to oust the committee at the next AGM…which occurred last week.

The Alternative Group
Reluctantly, some months ago, I joined the alternative group as a committee candidate, determined to root out the bad guys?

And how did we know they were ‘bad guys’?:
– Committee minutes were published late, with many redactions
– Monthly financials ceased to be published
– New member lists and total member numbers ceased to be published
– Membership and playing numbers declined significantly
– Teaching class numbers (the entry point for bridge) fell dramatically
– ‘Friendly’ was removed from the mission statement of the club!

Our challenge was a serious one. We had a complete set of candidates for all positions, from all parts of the club. The committee took us seriously, hiring an ‘independent’ Returning Officer and promising a ‘fair’ election. Procedures were announced. Proxies were to be closely managed.

The AGM Catastrophe
At the AGM, we discovered all types of irregularities in the procedures:
– Ballot papers had personal names on them.
– Bridge club numbers attached to the names were completely incorrect.
– There were spelling and date errors on the ballot papers.
– Some proxies were not allocated or went missing.
– Incumbent names were printed (and stated) in bold, separately at the top of each ballot. ‘Challengers’ were listed in smaller type separately, below.

Despite all this bias and incompetence, the ‘independent’ Returning Officer, who claimed to have worked for the Labor Party on many elections, had no objections.

One member with international election experience announced that there were so many irregularities, the election should not proceed. But we agreed to proceed anyway. We reasoned we had had enough personal abuse during the process.

The Outcome: My Personal Trump Moment
Really, the election was laughably incompetent (which is why I’m writing this!). We lost by around 46%-54% across all positions. Our team, so professional skilled, so experienced, so friendly, with such a clear set of rational actions to get the club back to growth and restore the culture, one that had effectively had 70% of the vote a year ago…lost.
What happened? We lost because of undirected proxies, which went to the chair. We also lost because a fake website had been established to mimic our website, one that was immediately taken down by the committee, when we showed it was sourced to them. We lost because some older people just wanted to ‘play bridge’. They didn’t like the objections. We lost because of the unethical behaviour of the committee, during the year, in not publishing the true position of the club (it’s declining and losing money now – a position the Treasurer described as a ‘good year’ at the AGM…)

We also lost because we didn’t hassle people to vote for us. We didn’t have access to all the names. We didn’t seek all the members. We played ‘nice’, not dirty. We didn’t want to win as much as they did.

So fake news, lies, dirty tricks triumphed over principled behaviour, ethical, ‘nice’ people.

The results were thrown in my face. Why didn’t members see through all this? Why didn’t they see the truth? How were they fooled?

And that’s how elections are won now, I guess. Facts, evidence, rational thinking, nice behaviour doesn’t cut it.
Where To Now?
So we are all looking for new bridge club homes. Very few of us or our 200 supporters want to play there any more, after what they have seen. Today, 80 people turned up at an alternative temporary venue – so many the session was closed two days early! (Previously around 50-60 had been attending.) I expect this will continue till we all find alternative permanent homes that reflect our desire for nice people, ethical behaviour.

It’s hard to imagine a bridge club coming to this schism. You’d like to think contentious issues could be worked through, sorted out. But now I wonder. Those in power – whoever they are, wherever that is – seem to have lost the concern for the ‘ordinary person’, the member, the stakeholder, the citizen, the voter. Power for power’s sake seems to be the game now, at all levels, in many organisations.

But surely not in a bridge club, where the average age is well over 70….



  1. Hi Graham

    I always read your talk with keen interest. I remember a management course way back where as groups we were asked to find ways of rectifying a ‘meals on wheels’ type organisation being poorly managed. I broke with my group by
    maintaining it didn’t deserve to exist. Sounds like flight is the way to go. Get on with reforming as proposed.

    Will finish my story. After all the groups except mine had reported their findings and I explained my position and rationale a member of my group apologised to the other participants for not following directions. I felt like an ostracised outsider in a political party. Guess another lesson is not to break rank unless there’s a strong swell of support. Or just quietly leave.

    Good cheer

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Hi Bruce

    Glad you enjoy them. I still enjoy writing them!

    Looking at your example, I think in our case there was a ‘strong swell of support’, but we were too ‘nice’ and needed to harangue more people, to seek proxies actively, to make our case more stridently. We won the AGM personal vote, but lost the proxies by over 60 (most votes were around 250-200). The silent majority wins again…

    Since May, I’ve opted out of political comment for a year. I’m choosing to try to understand how the other side does it, why our side (climate action) was not successful and what we might have to do to be successful (eg Extinction Rebellion). But the woes of the Labor Party mean that, even if the Libs were thrown out, Labor itself seems just about power now – all the good policies are out and Labor has been shown to be nearly as/as corrupt as the Libs…with the Greens hardly a role model either.

    So I’m very depressed. I don’t see any solutions emerging to take us anywhere near where we need to be. (Oh, and by the way, I now run the Canterbury Neighbourhood Centre to keep me involved with people on the very local ground…)


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