Garrick Club: Campaigner calls for more public figures to resign membership amid storm over men-only policy

Emily Bendell first challenged the single sex policy at the Garrick Club in 2020  (ES Composite)
Emily Bendell first challenged the single sex policy at the Garrick Club in 2020 (ES Composite)

A campaigner against the Garrick Club’s all-male membership policy has called for more high-profile members to resign from it unless it changes its “ridiculously outdated rule”.

Fashion entrepreneur Emily Bendell first challenged the single sex policy in 2020 when she organised a petition calling for change at the Covent Garden club, which opened its doors in 1831 and has around 1,500 members.

The publication this week of its membership list, which includes actors, MPs and lawyers, has reawakened the controversy and led to the head of the Civil Service quitting his membership a day after being questioned by MPs about his involvement in the institution.

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case is understood to have renounced his membership of the club, despite having claimed to MPs he was working to reform it from within.

The head of MI6 Sir Richard Moore is also said to have resigned.

Ms Bendell told the Standard the publication of the membership list made it “clearer than ever why it’s so important this discriminatory rule is overturned”.

She said: “I will be calling on all MPs, judges, KCs and other public figures now made public to add their names to the petition and also to question whether their membership of the Garrick.

“I will also be calling on King Charles to resign his membership, as I’m sure his resignation would herald a quick repeal of this ridiculously outdated rule.”

Former Conservative Party leadership contender Dame Andrea Leadsom said she thought the men-only rule was “pathetic” despite several colleagues including Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden and Cabinet minister Michael Gove reportedly being members. She told LBC Radio: “I really wouldn’t want to join a club that for 200 years, since it started, hasn’t accepted women and I think it’s a bit extraordinary that the head of the Civil Service has only just discovered that.”

A poll of Garrick members last November found 51 per cent were in favour of admitting women but club rules require a two-thirds majority to change its position.

Among the names on the members list are actors Matthew Macfadyen, Benedict Cumberbatch and Damian Lewis.

Other club members include BBC journalist John Simpson. He said he was “profoundly and passionately in favour” of opening membership to women.