I have so much that I want to say about the #PresidentsClub. Obviously on the level of sexism, and effectively procurement of young women, who had NO duty of care shown to them by either the charity or #Artista, the agency, it is proof-positive of how sexism exists, and thrives in those places, those secret clubs that men with money and power keep. Let it never be said that men can’t close ranks when they need to – this club/charity/whatever you want to call it was around for 20 years, an open display of how skewed the sexual dynamics are in our society.
By and large, while I have encountered sexism while working in the Third Sector, what tends to exist more are cultures of highly intelligent, highly dissatisfied people. In the charity side of the sector, there are quite healthy gender ratios – one of the few industries to have this. Bullying sometimes thrives, from what I’ve heard from others working directly for charities themselves – where intelligence and boredom meet, this is a logical outcome. They are the type of people who have all the requisite intelligence (probably too much) to thrive in a corporate environment, but lack the confidence/drive. Whether it’s more or less than in the corporate world is debatable.
And/or maybe (in some, though not all cases) some feel that they can make a difference. Sometimes flaws in the industry are overlooked for a perceived greater good. It’s a high-pressure environment, one where people change jobs frequently. And, in my opinion: Not all charities are equal. Some there is more need of than others.
This is not intended as a slight upon charities – the people that work there at mid-level do work incredibly hard, at a fraction of the wages they could get in similar jobs in the corporate world. However, let me also say that, while of course one can take what the charity representatives have said at face value, having worked in this sector on and off for almost 8 years – I find it incredible that no one from these charities attended the #PresidentsClub dinners over a 20 year period. It may be so, but for not even a board member or a trustee to attend – that’s quite extraordinary.
But the point that I think everyone is missing about this: these CEOs, heads of business and the links between tax avoidance and charitable giving: these ‘Titans’ of industry are raising money for charities that, if they paid their tax, would probably (a) not be necessary and (b) wouldn’t be filling the gaps caused by austerity. A logical aim of anyone working in the charity sector should be to put themselves out of a job – to end poverty, to end the need for charitable giving. If we lived in a fair and functional society, where everyone paid according to their means, there would be no need for charities, for the ‘despised’ chuggers, and for tax ‘incentives’ for tax avoiders.
Another layer, of course, are politicians, and their collusion in this merry dance of tax avoidance. Scratch the surface of this story, and I’m sure that there are a number of politicians (most likely Tory) whose backs are having a consensual scratch from big business. Let’s put it this way: the amounts being avoided to pay in tax are so huge that City law firms and the amount they charge to help aid this avoidance are comparatively small change in terms of the amounts saved. Let that sink in for a minute.
The collusion in the usage of young women by lecherous older men and avaricious older women as bait is disgraceful. It’s laughable that these men, men like Philip Green, who avoided £160m in tax personally in 2016 should need ‘incentives’ to be able to give, and it is absolutely repugnant that they are allowed to feel ‘good’ about themselves when just one of them (clearly) could pay what was raised 8 times over.
More than that, it highlights that the UK does not need to be an unequal society, if the current and previous governments had the political will to end this putrid gravy train, and end the need for charity. The fact that there are completely the resources to do this, but no political will to enforce it, even in times of deep national crisis shows that this patriarchal, man-made model of doing business and politics needs to be ripped asunder and structured for the brave new world of equality for which there is clearly public appetite. The Empire is dead; long live the New Utopia.
It really irks me that these men are passing themselves off as ‘doing good’ when they head up corporations that tax avoid. If they paid their taxes into the public purse, there would be less need for charities, some of whom are literally stopping institutions from collapsing – the British Red Cross last winter is a good example of this regarding the NHS. The aim of a civilised society should always be to reduce the need for charitable giving, not increase it. The government’s actions and their close association with the world of finance – even to the extent of one of their own, David Meller, organising this bacchanalian grope-fest – shows there is a whole circle of back-slapping that in itself needs to be scrutinised into non-existence.The demise of the #PresidentsClub is not enough, because some other secret sexist conclave, where politics and big business collude in the exploitation of women is still out there. What’s needed now is to take this story to the next level and press forward with it. In the wake of #MeToo, there is nowhere to hide. Beyond that, if I had one message for these ‘sad old men’ it would be this:
Pay. Your. Goddamn. Taxes.
PS. (And stop leeching and freeloading on the poverty and inequality in British society. As my Grandpa would say, the world (literally) doesn’t owe you a living.