Presidents Club Scandal Puts Spotlight On City of London’s Culture of Rape, Pillage & Plunder

Given that the City of London is the control centre of Britain’s ultra-exploitative off-shore banking business, it isn’t surprising to see it coming under fire for sexual harassment in the wake of the Presidents Club scandal. This was a ‘charity’ dinner at which an undercover reporter from the Financial Times recorded business ‘leaders’ groping and abusing the women serving them. For the City of London everything is a commodity to be bought and sold, and once this is understood the degrading way in which its ‘elite’ treat people can be better understood as a problem that includes the worst kinds of sexism and misogyny but that runs even deeper and broader than that. Here’s a piece that appeared in the national press in the wake of the President’s Club debacle:

The job looked good on paper – serving guests at an exclusive banquet in a City of London livery hall. The pay was good, too – £10.20 an hour, the London living wage and significantly more than the £7.05 for similar jobs. For Lucy, a 19-year-old corporate catering assistant, it was far too good an opportunity to turn down.

Later, she wished she had. The extra pay did not make up for the barrage of comments and bad behaviour, including persistent and unchecked harassment by a diner who made inappropriate sexual comments, asked personal questions and propositioned her for a threesome….

That evening was one of the worst that Lucy experienced at the lavish banquets and dinners thrown under the umbrella of the City of London and the Livery Companies – the city’s powerful network of male-dominated ancient trade guilds.

Last week the City found itself drawn into an incendiary row over harassment experienced by “hostesses” at last week’s Presidents Club annual dinner in Mayfair. The Bank of England launched an inquiry into how “afternoon tea” with its governor, Mark Carney, came to be auctioned, only to discover it was a hand-me-down from the Lord Mayor’s charity appeal. Of the 360 guests at the club, the vast majority were businessmen and investors operating within the Square Mile.

Questions are now being raised about the treatment of serving staff and hostesses at the opulent white and black-tie dinners, where hundreds of people gather each month in grand dining halls dotted around the City. “It is mostly men, and they’re members of the club, so there’s this sense of entitlement,” said Lucy. “I had no idea about where I could complain. It was never mentioned in training. None of it was talked about.”

A new draft code of conduct for members of the City of London Corporation – the Square Mile’s governing authority – makes no mention of harassment, sexual or otherwise. The code also appears to impose a three-month cut-off point for complaints to be made following an alleged incident…

For critics of the City, the code is a shocking example of how an influential sector of society is failing to show leadership. “It beggars belief that the City of London thinks it has no need of a sexual harassment workplace policy. But it is far from being alone in both failing to give contractual protection and dealing with the underlying problem,” said Sophie Walker, Women’s Equality Party leader…

It is not only the City which finds its culture and practices under intense scrutiny this weekend. The guest list of the now infamous Presidents Club dinner featured a roll call of well-known bankers, entrepreneurs and celebrities. Of the 21 tables at the black-tie event, 10 were sponsored by property groups. Invited industry figures included Ian Hawksworth, chief executive of Capital & Counties, a FTSE 250-listed company; Paul White, chairman of real estate fund manager Frogmore; David Pears of the property magnate family and Gary Hersham, managing director of upmarket estate agents Beauchamp Estates. It is not known whether any of them attended.

In 2016 the property magazine Estates Gazette said the industry needed to clean up its act after prostitutes were seen to be doing “brisk business” at Mipim, a four-day networking event held in Cannes. “It wasn’t subtle and it wasn’t discreet – in fact, it could hardly have been more obvious,” the article said, pointing out that sex workers had used the event’s hashtag to attract business.

Sex and the City: life as a hostess in London’s gilded halls by Dulcie Lee, Ben Quinn, Zoe Wood and Rupert Neate, The Guardian, 27 January 2018.

A demand for comprehensive codes of conduct for the City of London and property developers doesn’t go nearly far enough to redress the situation described above. Abuse of power comes as no surprise and it is the City of London’s whip hand over world politics and the world economy that requires addressing and negating. The most effective way of countering the City of London’s power is to abolish it, incorporating it as a local authority into one or more of its neighbouring boroughs. The Corporation of London with its medieval ways needs to be thrown into the dustbin of history. It is controlled by an undemocratic business vote and spends massively on propaganda pushing the interests of the wealthy few. The City of London massively hinders social progress around the globe. It has to go!

Pippa Henslowe.

Sex and the City: life as a hostess in London’s gilded halls by Dulcie Lee, Ben Quinn, Zoe Wood and Rupert Neate: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/27/other-city-events-tainted-by-presidents-club-style-harassment

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