The Presidents Club dinner is not the type of event to which I tend to be invited and neither do I suspect I would go were I to be asked – although in truth that is as much down to my native tightfistedness as to the reports of boorish behaviour from this year’s event. I don’t like the idea of anyone trying to get me drunk in order that I might lose my inhibitions and start writing a very large cheque for charity, however worthy the cause. I would rather make my charitable donations when sober, thank you very much.
Were I running a charity, on the other hand, I would be extremely grateful that such events exist. I wouldn’t be too bothered that some of the donations had been made while the donor was under the influence, and are therefore rather larger than they would have been otherwise. I don’t think that the charities which have benefitted from such events have ever worried too much about that, either.
Great Ormond Street Hospital, however, has decided that it will return donations from the Presidents Club and not accept any donations from it in the future. It has done so in reaction to reports that waitresses at the all-male event were told to dress in skimpy uniforms, with some suffering what one described as groping – 'It's a hands up skirts, hands on bums but also hands on hips, hands on stomachs, arms going round your waist unexpectedly'.
It isn’t necessary to defend such behaviour to be outraged by the hospital’s posturing. This is money that could be used to save or improve the lives of some very sick children and yet here it is being rejected as if it were riches stolen by the Nazis from their victims. How does the hospital know whether any of the money was even donated by attendees guilty of the groping? It doesn’t. For all it knows the money raised on its behalf might have come entirely from men who were equally offended by the behaviour of fellow guests. What the hospital is effectively doing is branding as an abuser everyone who attended the event.
If Great Ormond Street Hospital thinks it has enough money that it can afford the luxury of joining in the #MeToo protest, then fine. But just don’t bother sending anyone onto the radio, television, Commons committees or anywhere else to plead for more resources. The message you are sending out is that you have enough money and have no use for any more. Sadly for the kids I suspect that is not the case.