The Financial Times investigation into a men-only charity dinner where hostesses were allegedly groped has sent shockwaves through Westminster today. Government minister Nadhim Zahawi has found himself in the hot seat over his attendance (he says he left early), while David Meller, a co-chair of the Presidents Club behind the event, has quit his non-executive role on the Department for Education board.
Responding to an Urgent Question on the news, Anne Milton told MPs that she had never heard of the 'President Club' behind that dinner. However, Mr S is unsure that more longstanding members of the government will be able to use this line. After all, in the government press release announcing Meller's appointment as the new Chair of the National Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network in 2014, it was listed in his biography:
Presumably no-one had an idea of the event's reputation at the time...
Meanwhile, here's a 2010 Independent diary item on the annual dinner:
'All very grand, but the most eye catching part of the event – which is strictly for male diners – was the bevy of hostesses dressed in short black or red dresses, who entered the ballroom after dinner, to the fanfare of Shania Twain's "Feel Like a Woman". Each are paid £120 for "fetching drinks" and "socialising with" the glitzy guests.
It is quite a racy event for the conservative HSBC to sponsor, but the beauty parade seemed to be something of a hit.
"The boys tucked into the girls," confesses my man on the inside, before adding swiftly: "after I'd left." Naturally.'