It’s not all glamour, TV. My most recent outside broadcast took me to Rushden in Northamptonshire and its sprawling plastic recycling plant. The cold, unremitting wind, din of machinery and the whiff of something of indeterminate origin, had me scurrying for the sanctuary of our mobile satellite truck between on-air segments.
It meant half a dozen of us crammed inside a space designed to accommodate a trio of technicians. Conversation turned to the big news story of the day. It was the apparent scandal of the Presidents Club. An undercover reporter from the FT had described how 300 men had attended a posh dinner in London at which hostesses were allegedly harassed and groped.
I made the point that my daughter sometimes waitressed at black-tie dinners and, like all right-thinking parents, the idea of her being the subject of unwanted advances was not a pleasant one to me.
Conversation then moved from the personal to the theoretical. What did we think, as a group of men – for this was an increasingly rare day when neither the presenter, correspondent nor producer was a woman – about formal all-male gatherings?
My view has long been that government has no right to tell people with whom they can freely associate. But I add this caveat: such groups of individuals cannot expect any help from the state, in the form of charitable status tax breaks. The state must tolerate without encouraging.
Our researcher then imagined a scenario where a pub or a club put up a sign, as he claimed to have seen recently, saying “No women”. We would not, he rightly noted, allow such explicit exclusion on grounds of race or creed.
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