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What a dull night the Presidents Club must have been... every man there was home in bed by 8.30pm

By Mark Steel

The saddest part about this Presidents Club dinner that caused such trouble is it must have been the dullest evening possible. Because every guest who's been asked says they left early and therefore didn't see a thing. The event must have been an absolute disaster, completely deserted by 8.20pm.

The poor organisers must have been devastated, weeping, "We were going to auction a space station, but there's no one left", because all the bankers were determined to get home in time to put their kids to bed.

Some businesspeople and columnists have dismissed the complaints that hostesses were groped and grabbed, saying: "They must have known what sort of event they were attending."

This makes it a strange and magical evening, in which the women should have known all along what sort of things would happen, while the men doing the things that were happening had no idea any of these things were happening.

It's a good job none of the men asked any of the women beforehand, "What am I likely to do to you?", or they'd have been appalled at themselves and left in disgust before they started, wasting their dinner.

The most likely explanation for why no guests saw any of the things everyone accepts took place is that all the people grabbing women were highly trained close-up magicians. Now they're being moaned at, but this takes years of practice.

One ex-Presidents Club guest, Cabinet member Nadhim Zahawi, said this week that he will "never attend a men-only function, ever". This seems fair enough - he clearly didn't notice this was a men-only function.

There's a little clue this sort of behaviour was anticipated, perhaps even encouraged, which is the reported instruction to hostesses to wear underwear that matched their skirts.

Why would the colour of your underwear matter? It must be because when a CEO from an arms company sneaks up behind a woman and pulls up her skirt, he doesn't want to see knickers that clash with her top, as that's a fundamental breach of his human rights.

But the Presidents Club may not have been all that confident in their arguments, since they insisted all the hostesses sign a non-disclosure agreement promising to report nothing they saw or heard to anyone, not even their family.

If you were paranoid, you might wonder whether this indicates they were slightly aware they didn't want their guests' behaviour to become public.

More likely is they didn't want the hostesses to reveal how much the guests were giving to charity, as they're all a bit shy.

This is the main defence for those present: it was all for charity.

And the fact that when told about a sick child, their first thought is, "I'd like to contribute so they can get better", shows how deeply they care.

Some people might wonder why any event would insist on barring women, other than hostesses selected for their looks and matching underwear.

Because to exclude women entirely makes these bankers and CEOs, politicians and board members, who are symbols of success, the figures we're asked to admire and aspire to, more sexist than lap-dancing clubs, the MCC, the General Synod of the Church of England and the front bench of Ukip.

The explanation must be: when you're trying to raise funds for a children's hospital ward, the last thing you need is a woman distracting you by giving it all that about her nails. What can possibly be sexist about that?

But there may be a more fundamental reason why the Presidents Club will be missed. Insisting that women should be absent, except for nameless figures, chosen and decorated to the demand of men, was a bold move by our business community to show to the people of Isis that our cultures are not as far apart as we sometimes imagine.

It was an attempt by British business to seek a dialogue with the jihadists - and now their work is in ruins.

I hope the feminists are pleased with themselves.

Belfast Telegraph

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