New Labour ladies lunch at a bastion of male chauvinism

IN AN almost orgiastic display of political incorrectness, the Cabinet's two best known women members yesterday lunched at that redoubt of male chauvinism - the Garrick Club.

New Labour politicians have long been known to be specialists in rebuttal. But Mo Mowlam, Minister at the Cabinet Office and Baroness Jay, Leader of the Lords and women's minister, have now elevated the skill to an art form.

In order to dispel the widespread belief that the government was out to ban men-only clubs, the two ministers enjoyed an acceptably hearty lunch in the club's Milne Room - the only dining room at which women are admitted - as guests of The Independent.

Since the two ministers are collectively responsible for policy on women, their mere act of lunching at the Garrick, whose members in 1992 voted by an awe-inspiring majority of four-to-one against admitting women as members, decisively lays to rest reports earlier this month that the Government was proposing to ban men-only clubs.

Baroness Jay chose carrot and basil soup followed by scallops, while Dr Mowlam, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, enjoyed avocado salad followed by liver and bacon. Both drank - modestly - from a Hawks Bay Australian White wine, accompanied by mineral water.

The Milne room, named after the club's most famous benefactor, the author of Winnie the Pooh, has the same dark wooden tables, unadorned by table cloths, as the men's dining room. More comfortingly for the distinguished women guests however, the portraits dominating it are of celebrated actresses: Mrs Siddons appearing in the dagger scene as Lady Macbeth, Ellen Terry, as one of the Merry Wives of Windsor, and - most stunning of all - a painting of the young and beautiful Gladys Cooper appearing in My Lady's Dress in 1914.

The Garrick, whose home is a handsome Georgian house at the heart of London's theatreland, enjoys a special notoriety as an especially high- profile men-only club. Unlike most of the equally famous "gentlemen's clubs" in St James's, which have never even debated the issue of admitting women members, the Garrick appalled a minority of its distinguished membership of lawyers, actors and leading journalists by rejecting moves to admit women. Even Dr Mowlam's Tory predecessor in Northern Ireland, Sir Patrick Mayhew, voted for the admission of women members.

The leading Liberal Democrat lawyer Lord Lester of Herne Hill, a member since the 1960s and a prominent champion of admitting women members, resigned in protest four years ago after complaining that "it became clear that members of the Garrick are implacably hostile to female membership." After their lunch, Baroness Jay, who has eaten in the club several times before as a guest of her first husband, Garrick member Peter Jay, the Economics Editor of the BBC and former Ambassador in Washington, said that the government was as determined as ever to enact its programme of combating discrimination. But she added: "When and how people eat lunch is not part of our agenda. I would not myself join a single- sex club and I find it difficult to understand why anyone would. But I am very glad to have accepted hospitality here."

Dr Mowlam said: "I am very pleased to have eaten lunch at the Garrick club, which has a policy of non-membership for women. We are a government that believes people ought to have choice. Men-only clubs are a matter of choice and it not part of this government's agenda to stop that choice." Dr Mowlam added that she herself would on occasions feel more comfortable exercising in a single sex gym - or at least at times when men were not admitted.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice