Home World ‘It’s beyond satire’: Tumultuous week at the Garrick Club as members speak out

‘It’s beyond satire’: Tumultuous week at the Garrick Club as members speak out

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'It's beyond satire': Tumultuous week at the Garrick Club as members speak out

OhAn email was sent by the president of the Garrick club to all 1,500 members on Friday morning informing them that the club was “urgently considering” new legal advice stating that its rules already allowed the admission of women as members. members.

Christopher Kirker, chairman of the club, wrote: “We are all obviously very concerned about the current situation at the club following a week of very unpleasant publicity which we all deplore.” The club committee will review the new notice with its lawyers, he added, and contact members again on April 4.

He urged members not to make any public comments on the situation and also expressed the wish that people who were “considering their future within the club” would wait until the outcome of the meeting before resigning.

“We recognize that there are strong opinions. But let’s not be in a hurry. Everything is carefully considered,” he wrote.

Despite the president’s call for discretion, there was no shortage of club members happy to share their views on this latest twist during a hectic week within the club’s heavy gray stone building in the center of London.

“Don’t be in a hurry?” This is beyond satire. Members have been discussing whether women should join for over 50 years,” said a clergyman who joined the Garrick at the turn of the century, who (like all members interviewed) asked not to be appointed.

Things have reached a turning point in attitudes towards women within the club, he said. “A lot of people here still believe that it’s a man’s world, that men can still take the lead – there’s this psychological assumption that nothing has really changed. But the resistance collapses. It feels like 1989 when pieces of the Berlin Wall started to be torn off,” he said.

Free newspapers are available in the club, mainly the Financial Times and The Times; only a few copies of the Guardian are usually displayed in a room upstairs. However, most were aware of this newspaper’s publication of a list of more than 60 influential people in high-level positions named in the club’s membership list.

This publication caused embarrassment among some and irritation among others. “When the Garrick was founded in 1831, no women held significant roles in public life, but that has obviously changed, and some members are finally wondering: what on earth do we think we are doing by continuing to pretend that men are the controls ? » said the pastor.

He was in one of the club’s dining rooms on Wednesday afternoon when the Guardian published the news that Richard Moore, head of MI6, and then Simon Case, head of the civil service, had decided to resign from the club, although they had both indicated less than 24 hours earlier they planned to stay in order to orchestrate reforms from within.

He said the news moved around the club “like a viral whisper” but led to only muted conversations. “It would be very awkward to form groups to discuss it; we could go out and smoke a cigarette on the veranda and talk about it a bit. The staff scrupulously does not broach the subject, probably on orders,” he said. “A lot of people are so bored of hearing about women. He’s the subject who doesn’t dare say his name at the bar.

Public reactions to the debate split quite clearly along gender lines. Boris Johnson, the former prime minister, defended the Garrick, of which he was once a member and of which his father, Stanley, remains a member, and criticized the pressure which led to the resignations of Moore, Case and the former head of the Sir Robert Chote Office of Budget Accountability. He wrote in the Daily Mail: “Come on guys, what happened to you? It’s always sad when people give in to bullies, but there was something particularly tragic about the Garrick Three.

Ben Wallace, the former defense secretary, said: “I just wish people would all be left alone. If a lot of men want to get together and start a club, that’s up to them.

But Andrea Leadsom, Minister of Health, better understood why the publication of the list had aroused so much anger. She found it “extraordinary” that the cabinet secretary had “just discovered” that the club excluded women.

“It’s been open for about 200 years and I think it’s never accepted women, so I wouldn’t want to join a club that for 200 years – since it started – hasn’t accepted women.”

“A powerful establishment cabal”

Some members were flattered by the media’s keen curiosity about the club’s affairs, with one saying he was delighted to show his wife that he was “a member of a powerful establishment cabal”.

Other members were angry at media coverage of the club’s resistance to female members, showing limited awareness of the fury felt by women in public service that led to the resignations of Case and Moore.

“It’s depressing because it makes the club toxic. It’s supposed to be a club where you can meet some of the most interesting people of your time and, when the time comes, that will inevitably include women too, but right now there are a whole bunch of people who will never dream to join the Garrick because of this stupidity. toxic problem,” said one relatively young member (which Garrick says means someone under 60).

Some reform advocates were drawing up lists of women they hoped to nominate for membership as soon as the rules changed, with names such as JK Rowling and Helen Mirren mooted, but it was unclear whether any women would be interested in joining.

The clergyman said the importance of the rule banning female members was not “on his radar” when he joined the club two decades ago. “After a while it started to seem a little strange,” he admitted. “I started to wonder: why don’t we have women among our members? Clubland has changed beyond recognition, and so has the rest of the world. This seems misogynistic now. A lot of it is public school old boy stuff.

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