Friday, Nov 16, 2018 | Last Update : 06:52 PM IST

Powerplay and clubs of sleaze

In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."
Published : Jan 27, 2018, 4:37 am IST
Updated : Jan 27, 2018, 4:45 am IST

Women MPs are seeking ways to ban such institutions and events through law.

British Prime Minister Theresa May (Photo: AP)
 British Prime Minister Theresa May (Photo: AP)

“In the beginning was the word
Such a one as no one ever heard
It has never appeared in any dictionary
Atheists claim it’s fictionary
Some claim it was a single syllable
Echoing from the welkin’s dome
A sound that was the womb of the universe
Transformed by the human ear as ‘OM’....”

From Aas Pass by Bachchoo

Do ends justify means? The Ormond Street children’s hospital, a pioneering London charity, has returned a donation of several million pounds to an organisation called The President’s Club.

The money was donated by this all-male institution of the very rich — hedge-fundwallas, city slickers, tax-dodge persons and some great and good.

The President’s Club has been going for 30 years and has collected over £20 million which it donates to charity.

The club holds an annual dinner and auction through which it gathers donations which, of course, can be legally deducted from the tax the donors owe the Inland Revenue.

This year’s dinner has caused the largest national scandal, so far, of 2018.  

Not being a stockbroker, a Member of Parliament or hedge-fund walla and certainly neither great nor good, I have never been invited. A female journalist from the Financial Times enlisted undercover at an agency which recruited “hostesses” for the event.

The only woman at the Dorchester hotel event were these paid hostesses — students, secretaries and those deemed to be young and attractive looking for the night’s wage of £170 — and some seasoned and professional hostesses.

The reporter said she was asked to wear a black dress as were other young women. There were other women dressed in red which signalled a willingness to accompany clients to their rooms upstairs.

The auction this year featured such prizes as “a course of plastic surgery for your wife”. The auctioneer paraded a presumably sexy hostess saying “your wife could look like this” and invited bids.

A lunch with the foreign secretary Boris Johnson was also auctioned though after the scandal Boris said he didn’t agree to it.

The food, drink and fundraising auction were not the central inducement to the ball. There was the assumption that groping the women, seating them on your lap and putting your hand up their skirts was a part of the licensed and licentious fun of the ball.

The undercover reporter said she witnessed a man pulling his penis out and showing it to the hostesses he summoned. She heard a guest demanding that a hostess drains her champagne, “rip” her knickers off and dance on their table. Several club members had booked rooms for the night to which they could carry the red-dressed women at negotiable prices.

The hostesses had their phones taken away, their trips to the cloakrooms were monitored and they were made to sign “non-disclosure” agreements. Very many of the novice hostesses didn’t know what they were in for and have registered complaints about sexual harassment.

The minister for women and children, Nadhim Zahawi, was a guest on the occasion and now protests that he left the party (not the Tory Party or the one at the Dorchester) before any groping began.

David Meller, the businessman who organised the event, was on the board of the ministry of education and was forced to resign.

The celebrity actor David Walliams was hosting the function, acting as the “master of ceremonies” and he too claims he left early and didn’t witness any of the sleaze.

The matter was raised in  Parliament by women MPs from both sides of the House. Why, decades after the feminist movement had won several victories, were women still being used as sexual bait for casually predatory, rich men?

Presumably, some of the women, new to the job of being a hostess didn’t know what to expect and were certainly not offering their bodies in any way to all the President’s men. Others may have known precisely what hosting in a black or red dress entailed.

As I said, I wasn’t invited to this or indeed to any other occasion where hostesses, pole-dancers or the like were present. I did once, a few decades ago, share a flat in London with a young Indian friend who claimed he worked at a travel agency. He was very often out late into the night and sometimes didn’t return to the flat for days.

It was after a few months of sharing the flat with him that I unwittingly opened the wardrobe in his room and found it packed with dinner jackets and expensive suits.

This was in the days before the Internet was available to dish out information and I recall on a few occasions he would ask me to summarise the story of a play by Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams or of one or other opera in brief. I thought his urgent quest for literary knowledge a bit odd but didn’t question it.

It was only after a particular crisis that I discovered that he may have been employed at the travel agency but his real money came from being a male escort to lonely, mostly visiting American women of a certain age. He would accompany them to the theatre, to restaurants and their hotel rooms and even on brief trips to Paris or Edinburgh. The story ended well for him. Years later, I was told that an American widow, one of his clients, had left him a substantial sum of money in her will.

The President’s Club has now been liquidated. Several of the men at the Dorchester sex-fest are attempting to legally gag the women who they fear might expose their shameful activity.

Theresa May has asked lawyers to make sure the legal “gags” don’t work and there is no obstruction to the women exposing the sleaze-bags.

Women MPs are seeking ways to ban such institutions and events through law. They should succeed though I don’t suppose there will be parallel laws banning male escorts from accompanying lonely rich ladies to Hamlet or Rigoletto.

Tags: boris johnson, theresa may