'Dinosaurs' keep club ban on women in place

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The elderly man in the pin-striped suit stood on the steps of the United Oxford and Cambridge Club in Pall Mall last night: "Its a bit depressing," he said. "The dinosaurs remain in charge of Jurassic Park". One of the country's most distinguished gentlemen's clubs had apparently just voted in a committee likely to exclude women from full membership.

As members emerged from the annual meeting last night, it appeared that proxy votes would swing the vote against allowing women members to pay an extra pounds 100, allowing them access to the library and freedom to walk up the main staircase.

Members were said to have voted in a new committee that was largely opposed to allowing women greater access.

According to those leaving, despite a "lively" debate, a vote of no- confidence in the old committee also looked likely to be defeated. Officially, the club is saying nothing.

Earlier, the views of some members, on having their deliberations exposed to the media spotlight, had been distinctly ungentlemanly. Two sprays of cold water shot up from the basement of the Pall Mall club and showered the pavement, narrowly missing the assembled members of the press. The police who arrived at the club's request five minutes later tried hard not to look too amused.

"We've had a word with the management," said one as he emerged minutes later. "They said they were, er, cleaning something. But they won't be doing it again."

Most of those going into last night's AGM for the debate expressed their views in a more conventional manner. "I'm going to vote for the resignation of the old farts who run this committee," one member said, adding: "We're going to drag these people kicking and screaming into the 19th, let alone the 20th century."

"We've got to move with the times," another said. "The views of the traditionalists are based on a fear of women." But one elderly gentleman disagreed. "It's far too expensive for most women," he said, curiously. "If you take your girlfriends, they don't want to have to pay pounds 500 to join a club. The rich ones can afford it, but the average lady graduate can't." But shouldn't they be allowed the option? "Well, in certain circumstances," he said. "But it needs to be discussed properly."

The clash follows five months of in-fighting at the club, which culminated in the recent resignation of 69 heads of Oxbridge colleges as a protest. "I'm afraid we're just making ourselves look a bit silly," said one member.