Uttlesford Councillor who said Presidents Club female staff should have known what they were in for is asked to step down
PUBLISHED: 10:02 30 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:53 30 January 2018
A councillor has been asked to stand down as Chairman of the Standards Committee after speaking on BBC Radio 2 about the alleged sexual harassment which took place at the Presidents Club dinner in London.
Cllr Tina Knight, Uttlesford district councillor for Debden and Wimbish, joined Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2 on January 24 to discuss the alleged sexual harassment at a charity dinner which took place at the Dorchester Hotel in London. Cllr Knight spoke with Madison Marriage, the undercover reporter from the Financial Times who worked as a hostess on the night.
The alleged sexual harassment is said to have happened at the annual Presidents Club dinner on January 18 which was attended by businessmen, politicians and celebrities.
During the show Cllr Knight said: “She openly stated a lot of these women had been to the function before, so you know the type of thing that can be ribald and people can grope.
“You’re making women sound like we’re poor, weak and pathetic. Most women would deal with it and if you want know real harassment then you go to a women-only function and you see real behaviour that would absolutely make men look like saints.”
“You don’t have to be a brain of Britain to be told this is a men-only do and some of the men can get out of control. They do not have to take the job.”
“It’s not a crime. What annoys me, this belittles real sexual harassment. This is something completely different and that annoys me because people that go through rape and that sort of thing, it belittles it.”
Residents took to social media to criticise Cllr Knight’s comments and staged a protest on Saturday, January 27 outside the UDC offices.
Newport resident Susan Perry, 56, said: “Cllr Knight is the Chairman of UDC’s Standards Committee, which worries me even more. Our Standards Committee Chairman called the waitresses airheads and said that touching up women or exposing their penises to the hostesses is to be expected and it’s not a crime.
Kate, 37, a PR director from Saffron Walden, said: “Ms Knight is Chair of Women into Business, so it is all the more disheartening to hear such outdated views. In Ms Knight’s constituency we have many young women who waitress at charity events in places like Cambridge and London. Is she suggesting these women, some still in their teens, should just accept that inappropriate sexual advances are part of the job? What kind of message does this send to the young people, both men and women, of Uttlesford?”
Cllr Knight said: “I wasn’t speaking for Women into Business or for anyone. I said these are my opinions. I was not the spokesperson for any group. I was asked along in my personal capacity and I made it quite clear they were my opinions. This is what worries me; freedom of speech has now gone.”
She added: “If you go to an interview and you are told you have to ply the men, wear black knickers, strapless bra, high heels – don’t try to make them look like victims. They were told to read the contract and sign a non-disclosure agreement. It is their choice to take the job and the whole point of equality is choice – for men and women.”
“I agree that you don’t ignore this kind of thing, you deal with it. But you don’t come out and call them victims when they were hostesses who had been shown the job spec and chose to go.”
“I think there is a strong political undercurrent to all this. It’s very sad that they are trivialising sexual harassment.”
“You can’t even say ‘you look nice today’ – that’s sexual harassment. Men don’t know where they are and there will be a backlash from them soon. We’re basically castrating men in a way and it’s ridiculous.”
Councillor Howard Rolfe, leader of UDC said: “Following Councillor Knight’s commments on the Jeremy Vine Show about activities at the Presidents Club fun-raising dinner, it will be proposed at the next full council meeting on February 22 that she stand down as chairman of the Standards Committee. The appointment to that position has to be ratified by the full council of Uttlesford District.”