Good riddance to the Presidents Club

This boorish relic was way past its sell-by date – but charities should hold on to the cash.


A bit of harmless fun? Now even the tabloids are tired of it
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Sex scandals have rattled the media industry, the tech sector and politics in the past few months. Now it's the turn of finance, after the Financial Times's investigation into the annual Presidents Club charity auction. The gathering, billed as "the most un-PC event of the year", included prizes such as "a night at Soho's Windmill strip club and a course of plastic surgery" with the invitation to "add spice to your wife".

Guests were "entertained" by "a troupe of burlesque dancers dressed like furry-hatted Coldstream Guards" and served by "130 specially hired hostesses", who had been "told to wear skimpy black outfits with matching underwear and high heels". At the after-party, many hostesses "were groped, sexually harassed and propositioned".

After the revelations broke, the club was quickly shut down and quite right too, says The Times. "Many who attended will be indignant at the rapid collapse of an institution that raised many millions for good causes over more than three decades." But "the real cause of indignation is that so many apparently sophisticated men do not seem to have understood that no good cause justifies sexually aggressive or intimidating behaviour".

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Claims that the "tawdry" event simply reflected the culture of finance are outright wrong, added Simon English in the Evening Standard. "The guest list read like a Who Isn't Who of the City and business" mostly "a bunch of north London property spivs". It has "little to reveal about behaviour at the top of the business world" today and much more "about how a certain sort of man with money behaves".

Defending the indefensible

There were a few half-hearted attempts to defend how those men conducted themselves. "One of the principles of a genuinely free and liberal society is that within the boundaries of the law people sometimes do things that you yourself would not do and of which you may even disapprove," argues Douglas Murray on the blog UnHerd. "Are hen nights always models of decorum?" But most people were not convinced.

This kind of thing might once have been shrugged off, says Roy Greenslade in The Guardian. But most of us have tired of "that former climate of male chauvinism" and "the greatest sign of the change in attitudes was clear from some tabloids, which once would have seen it all as harmless fun".

Indeed, we should feel nothing but "pity" for "saddos who get their kicks from waving their willies/wallets in hotel banqueting suites while sticking their hand up a young woman's skirt", agrees Rachel Johnson in the Daily Mail. But there's one aspect where the reaction was worrying. Charities were wrong to return not just the £2m that the event raised, but in the case of Great Ormond Street Hospital, all previous donations. "This sets an impossible precedent for all charities to henceforth kitemark donations as kosher." "Bank the dosh, GOSH, and any other hospitals and please let that be the end of it."

Tabloid money "I don't want to be known as the man in the pants'"

It always infuriates me to see families fighting over money, says Karren Brady in The Sun on Sunday. Take Timothy Heath, a 62-year-old "self-employed creative" living in his late parents' £1.5m house in London. He is contesting his mother's will, which favoured her three sons equally two of whom are successful doctors.Heath says he deserves more as he was his mother's carer and he would have nowhere to live were the house sold.

A decision will be made only after thousands have been spent on lawyers. There are two lessons here. One, work hard, make your own money and don't expect your parents to look after you in adulthood. Two, write a will and update it every couple of years. Although, as that saying goes, "Where there's a will, there's a row".

David Gandy, Britain's top male model, has been stepping out with criminal barrister Stephanie Mendoros, "who has now moved her knick-knacks into his Fulham home, leading to chatter among the couple's chums of impending matrimony", says Adam Helliker in The Sunday Express. Her profession is quite a contrast to Gandy's work as, among other things, an underwear model for Marks & Spencer. "Models are seen as brainless idiots, paid a fortune to do very little," he has said. "I don't want to be known just as the man in the pants'."

Often, if enough of us make a little tweak here and there, it can make a difference to our environment, says Saira Khan in the Sunday Mirror. Take plastic water bottles. The average Londoner buys 3.37 a week, according to the #oneness campaign. That's 175 a year per head, and a billion a year for London as a whole. Refilling our water bottles would cut down on this waste greatly. Thankfully, the Zoological Society of London is now installing free water fountains at train stations. Let's hope other cities follow suit.