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Nadhim Zahawi, The Conservative MP for Stratford, was a paying guest at the exclusive Presidents Club Charity Dinner, an event which became a scene of horror for many of the female staff.
A Financial Times exclusive report lists numerous horrifying offences by attendees that include forcing hands up skirts, pulling women onto laps, repeated requests to join diners in bedrooms, and in one instance a man exposing his penis to a hostess. All this happened whilst various senior businessmen and at least one MP drank on. There are no allegations against Zahawi himself.
The secretive men-only event was attended by 360 super-rich men from the world of business, finance and politics, and hired 130 female hostesses who were made to ‘wear skimpy black outfits with matching underwear and high heels’, many of whom were left horrified and deeply distressed by the behaviour of guests.
In a further shocking revelation, prior to the event, female staff were made to sign a strict non-disclosure agreement without being allowed to read its contents of retain a copy of the contract.
Mr Zahawi, who has recently been promoted to Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, confirmed his attendance at the event, and said he would never attend again, denying any knowledge of what transpired and labeling the numerous accusations of sexual assault by guests as ‘truly shocking’.
Another MP mentioned over the course of the night was Boris Johnson, who featured, alongside cosmetic surgery and a night at a strip club, as one of the auctioned lots.
Lunch with the Foreign Secretary was one of the most exclusive items you could bid on at the seedy event. It is both tragic and unsurprising that Johnson would agree to such an offer given that the person buying it was willing to attend such a sexist event.
Many of the hostesses felt uncomfortable after the event. One 19-year-old was asked by a 70-year-old whether she was a prostitute. She found the experience “scary” and insisted she’d never do it again. Another woman, aged 28, with experience in hosting work, said that whilst men flirting with hostesses was common this was the first time she had felt uncomfortable.
One unnamed figure grabbed a young hostess by the waist and told her “You look far too sober.” He then filled her glass with champagne, pulled her against his stomach and declared: “I want you to down that glass, rip off your knickers and dance on that table.”
These experiences seem typical of the women present. The women were often students, keen to earn cash who were given a minimal idea of what to expect from the night. They were told that they were expected to stay until 2am, to decline tips and to drink heavily. Young women were treated as props to be used by men.
Security guards were present at the dinner. However, their role was to prod the more scared and less enthusiastic women into interacting more with the men. They were also used to drag hostesses out of the bathroom if they were judged to be in there too long.
Other attendees include comedian David Walliams and Jonathan Mendehlsohn, a Labour peer.
Zahawi’s attendance at such an event would always have been wrong. Whilst he is not accused of participating in the harassment of women, he attended an event that was obviously designed for it. However, in the current climate, Zahawi’s behaviour seems particularly tone deaf. He cannot deny that he didn’t know it was wrong or that it wasn’t happening.
Sexual harassment and abuse are two vitally important issues, and Zahawi stood by whilst it happened. He lacks the moral integrity to represent his constituents or hold a ministerial brief, and no woman could ever feel represented by such a person.
[Correction: The Jonny Gould previously referred to in our article, and initially based on previous inaccurate FT reports about The Presidents Club on January 23 and 24, is NOT
@JonnyGould, the radio and TV presenter who has worked at (among others) Smooth Radio, talkRADIO and appears on @SkyNews. We apologise for the distress caused.]
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