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Britain’s ‘Most Un-P.C.’ Charity Will Shut Down

Items auctioned included a night at a strip club.

The group that held the event, the Presidents Club Charitable Trust, announced late Wednesday that it would disband.

“The trustees have decided that the Presidents Club will not host any further fund-raising events,” it said in a statement. “Remaining funds will be distributed in an efficient manner to children’s charities and it will then be closed.”

Outrage had been widespread and reached the floor of Parliament, where Jess Phillips, a Labour lawmaker, said, “What happened was women were bought as bait for men, who were rich men.”

Anne Milton, an education minister in the Conservative government, said that David Meller, co-chairman of the group that had held the dinner, had stepped down as a member of the board of the Department for Education. Maria Miller, another Conservative lawmaker and chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Committee, said the law against sexual harassment should be toughened.

Opposition lawmakers said that a government minister who attended the event, Nadhim Zahawi, should resign, though Mrs. Milton said in Parliament that he had left the dinner early.

“I know he found the event extremely uncomfortable,” she said. “He left and he was truly shocked by the reports that have emerged.”

Mr. Zahawi, the under secretary of state for children and families, wrote on Twitter: “I do unequivocally condemn this behavior. The report is truly shocking. I will never attend a men only function ever.”

One of the prizes auctioned at the event included tea with Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England. The central bank said on Wednesday that it had not authorized the prize and would not follow through with it.

Two beneficiaries of the fund-raiser, Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, said they would return the money. The National Council for Voluntary Organizations told its members not to accept contributions from the trust.

The Presidents Club reported that it had raised more than 20 million pounds ($ 28 million) over the past 33 years. Last year, it raised £1.6 million and spent nearly £600,000, leaving a net profit of £1 million (about $ 1.4 million).

WPP, one of Britain’s largest advertising and public affairs companies, which bought a table for the event this year and in years past, said it was unaware of the conduct described in the article, but that it would not take part in the dinner again.

Mr. Meller’s company, the Meller Group, declined to comment on the report. The other chairman of the charitable trust, Bruce Ritchie, is the owner and chief executive of a large real estate firm, Residential Land, which also declined to comment.

The host of this year’s dinner, the British comedian and writer David Walliams, said on Twitter that he had been there “in a strictly professional capacity and not as a guest,” and that he had left immediately after appearing on stage.

“I did not witness any of the kind of behavior that allegedly occurred and am absolutely appalled by the reports,” he added.

The Presidents Club said in a statement that “the organizers are appalled by the allegations of bad behavior at the event asserted by the Financial Times reporters. Such behavior is totally unacceptable. The allegations will be investigated fully and promptly and appropriate action taken.”

The hostesses were hired by Artista, a company that organizes events and is headed by Caroline Dandridge.

“I was not aware of any claims of sexual harassment but the kind of behavior alleged is completely unacceptable,” Ms. Dandridge said in a statement. “I am checking with the staff and any complaints will be dealt with promptly and fairly. Anyone working at an event should be treated professionally and with respect at all times.”

The article said that Ms. Dandridge had warned the hostesses that men might get “annoying” and that “some girls hate it.” It also said the women were encouraged to drink and were required to sign a nondisclosure agreement. The more reticent ones were urged to interact more with the men, including being prodded not to spend much time in the restroom.

The Financial Times reported that one woman said a man had shown her his penis, one said a guest had asked if she was a prostitute, one said a man had suggested she remove her underwear and dance on a table, and others said that men touched them or invited them to rooms upstairs.

In a BBC interview, the reporter who wrote the article, Madison Marriage, said she had been groped.

Source: NYT > World

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