On Wednesday, the President’s Club sex scandal hit the headlines. Madison Marriage, an undercover reporter, attended an exclusive charity dinner disguised as a hostess. In her article for the Financial Times, she claims that a number of her colleagues were sexually assaulted by the rich, all-male attendees.
The ink had barely dried on the FT’s pink pages before the axe began to swing. The Club’s seven figure donations were returned.The Club itself was then expunged. Politicians lined up to express their fury, with one, Maria Miller, even recommending new employment protections.
And yet Marriage provided no proof that any of it actually happened. Sure, her account is emotive and topical. She paints a sordid picture of rich, powerful men preying on poor, helpless women. And after similar stories in Westminster and Hollywood, it’s all too believable.
But this is trial by the mob. Despite being armed with a hidden camera, Madison provides no incriminating footage. Her only published video is that of an auctioneer telling a tasteless joke. In addition, there is no mention of anyone lodging a formal complaint, just a few anonymous quotes to back up the word of a lone journalist.
Subsequent testimonies bear similarities to Marriage’s claims, but our lawmakers should still know better. They ought to know about the importance of due process. They should be calling for calm while investigations are completed. After all, we do not live in some sort of hellish polity where media speculation is enough to ascertain guilt. They are setting a terrible example.
The fallout has been real and tangible. Great Ormond Street – a pioneering children’s hospital – has vowed to return half a million pounds worth of donations. David Meller, a civil servant and co-chair of the trust, has lost his job. Other guests, like Tory MP Nadhim Zahawai, have been reprimanded. Without all the evidence collated and verified, this is very premature.
The response is understandable but irrational. As a society, we are correct to take these allegations seriously, as are we to show solidarity to the purported victims. But let’s do this through the proper channels. I fear the worst if we don’t.