The Third Leader: In the club

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The Independent Online

The line in this space on private clubs, once again facing legislation to make them behave themselves, is, regrettably, a bit dodgy. We could argue, tolerantly, that what consenting adults choose to do in their own privacy, whether it be treating some of themselves differently, wearing pastel shades and jumpers with diamond patterns, or indulging in monosexual activities such as rolling up a trouser leg, is their own affair.

We could argue, intolerantly, that such clubs do keep such people out of the way of the rest of us for a lot of the time (and you can generally spot them when they're out; if in doubt, shout "Fore!", or "Dan Brown!")

But no: the real reason we would be sorry to see them go, or hindered into extinction, is that (along with our religions, of course) they are such splendid preserves of eccentricity and entertaining behaviour, however bad.

Who could not but be diverted by observing the airs of exclusivity and imagined superiority, of grave ritual and learnt ropes, whether it be at Brian Potter's Phoenix Club, featuring DJ Ray Von and MC Jerry "The Saint" St Clair, or at the Carlton, with its "half members" (known elsewhere as "women"), or at The House of Commons?

It is part of our need to prolong childhood, also the appeal of the Laureate of (Golf and Gentlemen's) Clubland, Wodehouse. And never better expressed than by the member of the long-gone (but real) Pelican Club accused of throwing the boar's head which had knocked a peer senseless into the fireplace: "Nonsense. It couldn't have been me. I've thrown nothing but jelly all evening."