A journalist has revealed the shocking details of how young women were allegedly harassed and degraded while working as hostesses at a men-only charity gala at Mayfair’s Dorchester.
Politicians have lined up to condemn the prestigious dinner after a damning report in the Financial Times claimed female agency workers were repeatedly victims of groping and propositioning.
Two undercover reporters posing as hostesses spent six hours at the “most un-PC event of the year” - for which they were instructed to wear skimpy black outfits and matching underwear.
The paper reports that at an after-party, many of the female workers - some of them students - were “groped, sexually harassed and propositioned”, while among the prizes up for grabs at the evening’s fundraising auction were an evening at a Soho strip club and a course of plastic surgery to “add spice to your wife” for the lucky winner.
FT Exclusive: Inside the secretive, men-only charity dinner held every year at London’s Dorchester Hotel that raises millions for charity – but where many of the hired hostesses are groped, harassed and propositioned https://t.co/gK0ACnQpzM— Financial Times (@FinancialTimes) January 23, 2018
The FT lists several high profile names reportedly on the event’s guestlist - including businessmen, politicians and TV stars - but it is unclear which of them, if any, attended.
Advertising company WPP, which had a table at this year’s event, announced on Tuesday that it will not be supporting the fundraiser in the future.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on Wednesday, WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell, who was not at this year’s event, said: “If it’s true, which we checked with our people who were there at our table and they said they saw nothing of that kind, but we issued a statement last night saying that we won’t support the charity in future, which is regrettable because it is a charity that supports numerous children’s charities and has done a lot of good work.”
Sorrell said that he had attended the event “many years ago” but “had never seen anything like that” which has been described in the FT’s article.
He added: “I think that, if true, it’s highly regrettable.”
The Presidents Club - which denies any knowledge of wrongdoing at its events - is chaired by Mayfair property developer Bruce Ritchie and David Meller, who sits on the board of the Department for Education and the Mayor’s Fund for London.
The event hosted by comedian David Walliams. There is no suggestion he was involved in wrongdoing.
One of the undercover reporters behind the story, Madison Marriage, appeared on BBC’s Newsnight on Tuesday to detail what she witnessed at the event, which has been running for 33 years.
Other hostesses included aspiring lawyers and marketing executives, she explained, as well as models, actresses and dancers who “do a lot of hostessing work to make ends meet because their work is not very regular”.
“I was groped several times,” she said. “I know numerous other hostesses said the same thing had happened to them.
“It is hands on skirts, hands on hips, on stomachs, arms going around your waist unexpectedly. Not high-level groping.
“One of the strangest things you could be talking to a man and he would suddenly start to hold your hand.”
She added: “I knew stuff like that might happen on the night but I was not 100% sure.
“There are plenty of other women who have no idea that was the kind of event it would be.
“One woman told me that she was shocked ... she was asked if she was a prostitute on the night.”
The reporter continued that she was told by another hostess that one man exposed himself to her during the course of the dinner, and another said she was told by a guest to “down her glass of champagne, rip off her knickers and dance on the table”.
Responding to the allegations, the Presidents Club said: “The Presidents Club recently hosted its annual dinner, raising several million pounds for disadvantaged children.
“The organisers are appalled by the allegations of bad behaviour at the event asserted by the Financial Times reporters. Such behaviour is totally unacceptable.
“The allegations will be investigated fully and promptly and appropriate action taken.”
A statement from the Dorchester Hotel read: “We are unaware of any allegations and should we be contacted we will work with the relevant authorities as necessary.”
MPs led the condemnation of the event, and the initial response from the Presidents Club.
Yeah because rich dudes who attend charity events never sexually abuse. Give me strength pic.twitter.com/JehLcA2RmD— Jess Phillips (@jessphillips) January 23, 2018
BS excuses from organisers that this is okay because you're helping good causes. https://t.co/QZYKnyc5Lc— Caroline Flint (@CarolineFlintMP) January 23, 2018
That @FT story is for anyone who thinks feminism's work is done. Seriously, you go to a men-only dinner & feel up 19-year-old student hostesses & bid for a lapdance. In 2018! But it's all done for CHARIDEE!— Janice Turner (@VictoriaPeckham) January 23, 2018