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Friday, 26 January 2018

Labour peer Lord Mendelsohn is sacked by Jeremy Corbyn after attending the sleazy all-male Presidents Club dinner where women were 'groped and sexually harassed'

  • Lord Mendelsohn sacked after attending controversial Presidents Club dinner
  • He was probed by Labour officials and asked to stand down by Jeremy Corbyn
  • Young women were allegedly groped and sexually harassed at the charity event 

  • A Labour peer has been sacked from the party's front bench after attending the controversial all-male Presidents Club dinner where young women were allegedly groped and sexually harassed.
    Lord Mendelsohn, the party's spokesman on business and international trade in the House of Lords, was probed by officials after it emerged that he had been on the guest list.

    He is married to Facebook executive Nicola Mendelsohn, who has previously spoken out about women's rights in the workplace.
    He attended the dinner as president of a charity receiving support from the charity event and 'unreservedly condemned' the sexual harassment which is said to have taken place.
    Tonight, Jeremy Corbyn ordered him to stand down from the front bench amid a growing furore over the event - where hostesses were allegedly told to wear skimpy black dresses, black underwear and 'sexy' black shoes.

    Tonight, Jeremy Corbyn ordered Lord Mendelsoh (pictured with his wife) to stand down from the front bench amid a growing furore over the Presidents Club dinner
    Tonight, Jeremy Corbyn ordered Lord Mendelsoh (pictured with his wife) to stand down from the front bench amid a growing furore over the Presidents Club dinner

    Lord Mendelsohn, the party's spokesman on business and international trade in the House of Lords, was probed by officials after it emerged that he had been on the guest list
    Lord Mendelsohn, the party's spokesman on business and international trade in the House of Lords, was probed by officials after it emerged that he had been on the guest list

    The club announced it was closing yesterday after 33 years of holding fundraisers for some of Britain's most influential businessmen. 
    A Labour Lords spokesman said: 'Jeremy Corbyn has this evening asked Lord Mendelsohn to step back from the front bench as he attended the Presidents Club dinner, and he has agreed to do so.
    'Lord Mendelsohn has previously made clear that he attended part of the dinner as president of a charity that received support from the event and he had no knowledge of an after-party.
    'Lord Mendelsohn did not witness any of the appalling incidents described in reports and has unreservedly condemned such behaviour.'
    A spokesman for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: 'It's right that Lord Mendelsohn has stepped down.
    'The reports about this appalling event were deeply shocking and there can be no excuse for anyone's attendance.'
    He is the latest political casualty following the event, with married Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi also revealed to have been on the guest list along with party donor David Meller. Neither are accused of any wrongdoing.

    What is the Presidents Club and how long has it been holding its secretive auctions?

    The Presidents Club Charitable Trust emerged in the mid-Eighties, shortly before City of London executives began filling their pockets on the fruits of 24-hour financial trading and a deal-making boom sparked by the arrival of US investment banks.
    While it was launched a year before the Big Bang of 1985, the club would find its feet in an era of fortune, as the City prospered from the sweeping financial deregulation backed by prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
    Attracting esteemed figures from the worlds of business, politics and celebrity, it held men-only dinner parties where guests were encouraged to make hefty charitable donations through prize auctions.
    The Presidents Club hired 130 women as hostesses at the annual black-tie fundraiser, which was held at The Dorchester hotel in Mayfair last Thursday (pictured in 2012)
    The Presidents Club hired 130 women as hostesses at the annual black-tie fundraiser, which was held at The Dorchester hotel in Mayfair last Thursday (pictured in 2012)
    After 33 years, it claims to have raised more than £20 million for charities such as Action for Kids, the Sick Kids Friends Foundation and Marie Curie Cancer Care.
    According to financial records held by Open Charities, it dished out £2.2 million to charities in 2016, nearly double the £1.22 million paid the year before.
    However, a Financial Times investigation exposing alleged instances of sexual harassment at the club's most recent event at The Dorchester hotel has cast a dark shadow over the organisation.
    The three men listed as the club's trustees on the Charity Commission website are David Meller, Harvey Soning and Bruce Ritchie.
    As well as chairing the Meller Group, one of the biggest luxury home and beauty suppliers in the UK, Mr Meller was until Wednesday a non-executive board member for the Department for Education and the Apprenticeship Delivery Board.
    With operations in London and Bradford, the Meller Group specialises in accessories, textiles, jewellery and beauty products.
    Mr Soning, 72, is a property developer who chairs agency James Andrew International, which he founded in 1974 following stints at Peachey Property Corporation and Guardian Properties.
    He has been involved in several 'major property developments', investment acquisitions and disposals around the world, according to James Andrew's website, and is a well-known face within the property industry.
    Last year, Mr Soning sold a majority stake in his cleaning and security business Templewood to South African investors.
    Mr Ritchie, another property tycoon, is chief executive and founder of Mayfair-based Residential Land Group.
    He started life as a sole trader and, according to the company, has over the years built up 'prime central London's largest private landlord'.
    He was also the joint owner with Marco Pierre White of the White Star Line restaurant group, which included Mirabelle, Drones, Quo Vadis and Criterion. 
    The club announced it would shut down this afternoon.
    A statement 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.'
    Reporter Madison Marriage, who went undercover at the dinner, said she was groped several times and that other hostesses had suffered similar treatment.
    Following the disclosures about the event in the Financial Times, charities and businesses have sought to dissociate themselves from the Presidents Club.
    A number of charities that have benefited from the £20 million raised by the Presidents Club over more than 30 years said they will now refund previous donations.
    Businessman David Meller quit his roles at the Department for Education and the Mayor's Fund for London over his involvement in organising the event.
    After it emerged that the auction included lunch with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and tea with Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, the Bank and the Foreign Office made clear that neither man had known about it and would not be honouring the engagements.
    The Charity Commission said it was looking into the allegations 'as a matter of urgency'.


    The Dorchester Hotel said it was not aware of any claims following the event and an investigation had been launched.

    A spokesman for the Artista agency, which recruited the hostesses, said they were not aware of any claims of sexual harassment but that any complaints would e dealt with promptly and fairly.

    The video Ms Marriage recorded shows her entering the hall where the auction is held as hostesses pour drinks and chat to suited guests.

    Above the hubbub, an auctioneer can be heard selling off a package for plastic surgery at a Harley Street clinic.

    He says: 'Ladies and gentleman, this is what your missus could look like. Who'll give me ten thousand pounds?'

    Ms Marriage later returned to another hotel and told how, although the evening started with decorum, it very quickly 'turned for the worse'.

    She said: 'Some of the behaviour was pretty shocking and depressing if I'm honest.'

    She later told BBC Newsnight: 'I was groped several times and I know that there are numerous other hostesses who said the same thing had happened to them.

    'It's hands up skirts, hands on bums but also hands on hips, hands on stomachs, arms going round your waist unexpectedly.'

    She added: 'I can't believe that it still goes on in 2018, I think it's quite shocking.' 

    One hostess, aged in her 20s, who waitressed at the event told ITV News: 'We were play things. We were objects for them to gawp at, touch.'

    Another, who asked not to be named, told Good Morning Britain today: 'I experienced a rather bizarre event, not a normal hostessing event that I'm used to. 


    Lunch with Boris, tea with Bank of England boss and a walk-on part in David Walliams' next book: The prizes on offer at the Presidents Club gala


    The all-male, big-money guests at a charity event dubbed the 'slimeballs' gala' had the chance to rub shoulders with City power players and drive off in top-of-the-range sports cars.
    A leaked brochure from the notorious Presidents Club night at London's Dorchester hotel shows off the items the super-rich guests could bid for as they were served drinks by the 'tall, thin and pretty' hostesses who were allegedly groped.
    Lot One in the booklet is the chance to have a character in David Walliams' next book named after your child and the chance to meet the author.

    The chance to have your child's name in the next David Walliams book was among the lots up for auction at the Presidents Club gala at which hostesses were alleged groped by guests
    The chance to have your child's name in the next David Walliams book was among the lots up for auction at the Presidents Club gala at which hostesses were alleged groped by guests

    Another lot was the opportunity to have lunch with Boris Johnson and Ian Botham


    Another lot was the opportunity to have lunch with Boris Johnson and Ian Botham
    One of the most controversial lots was this chance to have tea with Mark Carney at the Bank of England. The Bank says it is investigating how the prize came to be on offer
    Walliams hosted the evening but said today he left at 11.30pm and didn't see any of the misconduct exposed by the Financial Times undercover reporters.
    Another of the luxury lots up for sale was lunch with foreign secretary Boris Johnson hosted by famous England cricketer Sir Ian Botham.
    The prize which has caused the biggest scandal is the chance to tour the Bank of England and have tea with its governor, Mark Carney.
    The Bank of England distanced itself from the dinner this afternoon, claiming it was not aware of the event and 'did not approve any prize for auction at the event'.
    Governor Mark Carney is 'deeply dismayed that such an event could take place', the Bank added.
    A new BMW i8 Roadster, worth around £125,000 was another lot at the event, proceeds from which went to children's charities. Another was plastic surgery at a Harley Street practice.

    The menu for the raucous evening included steak, caviar, salmon and champagne
    The menu for the raucous evening included steak, caviar, salmon and champagne

    The list of table names includes some of the City's biggest firms
    The list of table names includes some of the City's biggest firms
    The sumptuous menu offered to guests included kosher style hors d'oeuvres, followed by smoked salmon and keta caviar. Main dishes included '34 day aged Black Angus beef fillet with chips and onion rings, followed by black forest gateau with coffee and petit fours.
    The wine list included a 2015 Chablis Cuvee, a 2012 Bordeaux and Dom Perignon. Whisky, vodka and Patron were also on offer.

     'Initially it started quite normally and then as the night went on I started to notice that this isn't normal.
    'There was a lot of groping, a lot of girls sitting on laps, men beckoning girls over to their table and talking to them. It just didn't seem right.'
    She added: 'I felt harassed. I removed myself from the situation and found a group of girls in a similar situation, feeling the same as me, weirded out. I stuck with them so I didn't have to engage so much with the men. But some girls were engaging and flirting.
    'The thing for me was towards the after-party when everyone was a lot more drunk and girls were drunk. I think men were perhaps taking advantage of that. I saw a lot of hands up skirts. I saw a lot of grabbing.'
    The Presidents Club, which said it was 'appalled' by the allegations surrounding the event last week, has announced it will distribute remaining funds to children's charities before shutting down in the wake of the scandal.


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