Presidents Club to close after groping scandal at men-only event

Catherine Neilan
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The Presidents Club has announced it is shutting down following accusations of sexual harassment at a men-only charity dinner.

A statement issued by the organisation this afternoon said: "The trustees have decided that the Presidents Club will not host any further fundraising events. Remaining funds will be distributed in an efficient manner to children’s charities and it will then be closed."

The Presidents Club hands millions of pounds a year to charitable causes.

It follows a day in which business leaders and politicians variously condemned the event or sought to distance themselves from it following a Financial Times investigation into a men-only fundraiser in which paid female hosts were encouraged to drink, groped and propositioned.

The Bank of England was forced to issue a statement, saying that a tour had been listed in the auction without its consent. Foreign secretary Boris Johnson, with whom a lunch was on offer to the highest bidder, similarly was said to have known "nothing of his inclusion in any auction and in no way endorsed the event".

Johnson was not the only minister linked with the secretive event: newly-appointed families and children minister Nadhim Zahawi was named as an attendee.

However, he has clung onto his job with a Number 10 spokesman saying the minister had left early on after feeling "uncomfortable", adding that the Prime Minister still had full confidence in him.

"I think it is probably safe to say that Mr Zahawi will not be attending a similar event in the future," the spokesman added. "He himself probably regrets the decision to go."

Zahawi tweeted this afternoon: "I do unequivocally condemn this behaviour. The report is truly shocking. I will never attend a men only function ever."

But businessman David Meller was asked to step down as one of the directors of the board of the Department for Education, as a result of his involvement.

Meller, ​one of the joint chairmen of the Presidents Club Charity Dinner, quit both as a director and as chair of the apprenticeships delivery board.

Female business leaders including the CBI's Carolyn Fairbairn and Virgin Money boss Jayne-Anne Gadhia have both condemned the fundraiser.

Earlier in the day, marketing giant WPP - which had sponsored a table - said it was severing all ties, while charity Great Ormond Street Hospital said it would return any donations.

MPs lined up to have their say in the House of Commons.

Labour MP Jess Phillips said: "Women were bought as bait for men, for rich men, less than a mile from where we stand. That is unacceptable behaviour."

A tearful SNP MP Carol Monaghan added: "This is not sexism, this is slavery."

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