- Conservative MP Maria Miller has called for equality laws to be given “real teeth” after details emerged of a men-only dinner where hostesses were allegedly groped and propositioned.
- Minister for children and families, Nadhim Zahawi, attended the secretive annual event.
- A total 360 men from British business and politics attended, including Labour donor Jonathan Mendelsohn.
- “The rotten, sexist culture still alive and kicking in parts of the business community,” Lib Dem deputy leader Jo Swinson said.
LONDON – Maria Miller, who heads the parliamentary committee on women and equalities, has called on equality laws to be strengthened after details emerged of an exclusive men-only charity event where specially-hired hostesses were allegedly groped, propositioned and subjected to lewd comments.
Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi, who Theresa May appointed as her minister for children and families last month, attended the charity ball in central London last week, which was attended by Financial Times reporters.
Zahawi attended the black-tie event along with Labour donor Jonathan Mendelsohn and other prominent figures from British business and politics.
There is no suggestion that they were involved in any wrongdoing
The event, which took place at The Dorchester Hotel and attended by 360 figures from British politics, finance and business, has been going for 33 years and raises money for charities like the Great Ormond Street Hospital.
However, on the night hostesses reported being “groped, sexually harassed and propositioned,” according to FT reporters who worked undercover. They claim that some men put their hands up at their skirts and one exposed himself to a hostess.
“British business need to take a long hard look at itself. How seriously is business taking equality at work if they are still using men only events for entertainment?” Miller said.
“If business leaders are simply paying lip service to equality issues then perhaps it’s time the government gives the Equality Act some real teeth?”
The hostess job description required applicants to be “tall, thin and pretty” and those chosen to work the night were told to wear black shoes and underwear to wear their hair and make-up if they would to go to a “smart sexy place.”
“I’ve never done this before, and I’m never doing it again… “It’s f***ing scary,” a 19-year hostess told one of the undercover reporters on the evening.
The BBC’s Nick Watt reported on Tuesday night that Zahawi was invited to the event by a non-executive director at the Department for Education but “left early” because “he felt it was a bizarre and uncomfortable event.”
Attendees were able to bid for auction prizes which included lunch with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and afternoon tea with Bank of England governor Mark Carney.
Business Insider has contacted the offices of the prime minister, Johnson and Zahawi for comment.
Labour MP Jess Phillips described the event as a “horrendous example of rich men acting with disgusting entitlement.”
She added: “It cannot just be me calling it out, let’s hear from the establishment, the Conservatives, business, that this is disgusting and not in their name.”
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson described the report as “simply stomach-churning.”
“More than 300 rich businessmen were perfectly happy to attend such an event, which shows the rotten, sexist culture still alive and kicking in parts of the business community. Time’s up on this crap,” she said.