Campaign to axe Garrick Club's controversial men-only rule reaches Commons

8 April 2022, 15:36 | Updated: 8 April 2022, 15:42

Lib Dem MP Daisy Cooper tabled the motion calling for the Garrick Club to allow female members
Lib Dem MP Daisy Cooper tabled the motion calling for the Garrick Club to allow female members. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

A campaign demanding an end to a 191-year ban on women joining London's Garrick Club has reached Parliament.

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The private members' club says it is for "men of refinement and education", with its members reportedly having included Charles Dickens, Stephen Fry and Benedict Cumberbatch.

The motion to drop the ban on female members was tabled by Daisy Cooper, the Liberal Democrat MP for St Albans, after 300 senior legal figures signed a petition calling on the club to revoke its "gentlemen-only" rule, the Evening Standard reports.

It has been supported by MPs across parties, apart from, so far, the Conservatives.

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Amongst the signatories of the petition is Cherie Blair QC, the wife of former Prime Minister Sir Tony Blair, who previously described being left "standing outside the Garrick" while Mr Blair, a fellow pupil, was taken inside by their supervisor.

She said that was 45 years ago, and added: "It's outrageous that so little progress has been made since then."

Ms Cooper's motion urges members "to behave ethically by holding a vote on, and voting in favour of, admitting women as members".

"It's outrageous that clubs such as the Garrick are maintaining these archaic rules that prevent women from joining," said the MP.

"I'm delighted to be able to add my voice to the more than 300 legal professionals, who are urging the club to give equal access to the opportunities that men enjoy as members of this club."

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The motion also points to the fact the Garrick "affords men opportunities through their membership to form connections with senior legal practitioners and members of the judiciary, which may support their professional aspirations, and that these opportunities are not available to women".

Mr Cooper said: "There's no possible excuse for continuing to disadvantage women in this way in 2022."

It then encourages all private members' clubs to "abolish archaic rules" preventing female members, and said the establishments should then "reflect on their commitment to equality and diversity".

In 2015 the Garrick held a vote on whether female members should be allowed.

Members approved 50.5 per cent in favour of allowing them, but a two thirds majority is required for change.

A Garrick spokesperson declined to comment, saying: "It's a private members' club and we don't discuss anything with the media."