Groucho had problems with any club that would accept him as a member. Cherie Blair, she of the letterbox mouth fame, is different. She is desperate to destroy any club that wouldn’t accept her.
Her immediate target is Garrick, one of the oldest gentlemen’s clubs in London, which probably means in the world.
Back in 1976 Cherie, then a trainee lawyer, applied for membership there and was predictably turned down: if gossip is to be believed, her credentials as a woman were already amply established.
The Garrick Club was founded in 1831 by a “group of literary gentlemen”, and since then has been the home away from (or instead of) home for many such men. Dickens, Trollope, Thackeray were members and, as a black mark against the club, so was H.G. Wells.
The tradition of gentlemen’s clubs is venerable, typically English and gloriously quaint. However, to disclaim any personal interest, I don’t belong to any of them, and nor have I ever sought membership.
Sometimes I’m invited for lunch at such establishments, which invitations I accept with gratitude. But it would never occur to me to try and force any club to adapt to my personal idiosyncrasies (one of which is being bored at any all-male gathering).
Letterbox Mouth is cut of different cloth. Cherie was the female half of easily the most objectionable couple ever to disgrace Downing Street. Inconceivably, she was actually to the left of her husband, which is saying a lot.
Tony cut his political teeth in the CND, a well-known Soviet front. Many members of his cabinet shared the same background, yet Cherie was straining every muscle in her robust body to push them and her hubby-wubby even further to the left.
She describes herself as a socialist, which is probably the only honest thing she has ever uttered. Cherie has never seen a traditional institution she couldn’t hate, nor any left-wing or New Age cause she couldn’t love.
For example, when Tony was PM, the merry couple visited Mexico, where they took part in a ‘rebirthing’ rite: sitting in a steam bath and smearing mud and fruit over their semi-naked bodies. Not bad for a woman who claims to be a pious Catholic.
And of course she champions the cause of Muslim terrorists. After a suicide bombing that killed 19 people in Jerusalem, Cherie displayed her sensitivity honed on the socialist barricades: “As long as young people feel they have no hope but to blow themselves up, we’re never going to make progress, are we?”
Compared to that sort of thing, her crusade against gentlemen’s clubs, especially the one that had the audacity to turn her down, is innocuous if annoying. Amazingly she tries to attack the case from a high ground, both moral and legal.
Now, a private club is an association that should be free to limit its membership in any way the members see fit. The charter of the Garrick calls for a two-thirds majority to overturn any of its articles and, though the issue of female membership comes up for vote occasionally, it always falls short.
Forcing a private club to admit members it doesn’t wish to admit is similar to forcing a private dinner party to invite anyone who wants to attend. Either action would constitute a gross infringement of privacy and fundamental rights.
Well-schooled in casuistry, Cherie argues that keeping women out puts them at a competitive disadvantage because they can’t take part in all-male networking. That argument is so false on so many levels that I’m amazed an experienced advocate would see fit to make it.
First, exactly the same thing could be said about a private dinner party, for many a business deal has been struck in people’s homes. Would Letterbox Mouth insist that crashing such parties is a fundamental right to be protected by law?
Second, one would think that an extremely successful (and wealthy) lawyer is in a weak position to claim discrimination. Her own career hasn’t been unduly damaged by those port-imbibing chaps at the Garrick, and neither have uncountable thousands of other careers.
Third, if clubland networking is so essential, what’s to prevent women from creating their own clubs to which men wouldn’t be admitted? In fact, Letterbox Mouth has done just that, as she herself says: “I have my own foundation for women entrepreneurs, and we promote this as a way for a woman to gain skills and experience to progress in her business.”
So what’s the problem then? Oh well, you see, men’s clubs are an affront to equality, than which no greater virtue exists.
This argument ignores the very definition of a club. The whole point of any club is bringing together people who are similar to one another and perceive themselves to be different from other groups.
For example, my tennis club compromises equality by not admitting players below a certain standard. I’m sure a cooking club must discriminate against bulimics, and nor can I see an angling club admitting people who feel that hook, line and sinker violate the rights of fish.
I’m sure that Letterbox Mouth is perfectly capable of putting forth a cogent and, God forbid, even intelligent argument – she wouldn’t be a successful barrister if she weren’t. But the resentment she and her ilk feel against any tradition predating the current Walpurgisnacht invalidates whatever intellectual faculties they may possess.
Hatred of our civilisation with all its traditions is the animating force of modernity in general, and especially of its left flank. And, because this hatred is irrational, no rational arguments can defeat it. Thus Letterbox Mouth doesn’t really want the Garrick to admit women – she wants to destroy the club as a way of annihilating everything it represents.
Speaking in support of her initiative, one Garrick member, the actor Nigel Havers, said: “Surely it is time for the Garrick to haul itself into the 21st century”.
Quite. And the best way of doing so would be for one half of the club’s members to identify as women and then marry the other half. What can be more 21st century than that?