The Presidents Club bash is far from the only example of "a good cause" being used to justify bad behaviour. It's time for a changeby Penny CS Andrews / January 24, 2018 / Leave a comment
The Financial Times this week exposed sexual harassment at the President’s Club Charity Dinner, an annual men’s only blacktie event that has taken place in London for 33 years. Hosted by comedian and writer David Walliams, attendees at this year’s event included Conservative minister for children and families Nadhim Zadhawi and Department of Education board member David Meller (who has since quit).
According to the FT, female hostesses specially hired for the event were made to wear revealing black dresses, matching “sexy” underwear and high heels, were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements they were not given time to read, and were subjected to inappropriate comments and multiple instances of sexual assault. Items auctioned on the night included breast enhancement to “spice up your wife” and naming rights for a children’s book by Walliams.
Women across the media, finance and politics reacted with horror, online and later at Prime Minister’s Questions. Labour’s Jess Philips told the house that “Women were bought as bait for . . . rich men less than a mile from where we stand. That is unacceptable behaviour.” Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson has apparently already written a letter to the Charities Commission.
While critics are right to condemn the event, there is a bigger question here worth addressing which Swinson’s letter hints at. The Presidents Club advertised the event as a fundraiser for Great Ormond Street Hospital, and it raised over £2m for the charity, who say they will now be investigating the allegations.
Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of advertising agency WPP, who had a table at the event (although Sorrell did not attend this year), told the BBC that “We issued a statement last night saying we won’t support the charity in future, which is regrettable because it is a charity that supports numerous children’s charities and has done a lot of good work.”
This is not the first time that charity fundraising has been used as a shield for unacceptable behaviour. At the extreme end, we might think of Rolf Harris, Stuart Hall and Max Clifford—it seems as if behind every famous man who was later revealed as a sexual abuser there is a string of awards for charitable work, including from the British honours system. Jimmy Savile famously made a career…