David Cameron Criticises Men-Only Clubs (Despite Having Joined Two Himself)

Prime Minister David Cameron answers questions for workers at Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery, Lincoln.
Prime Minister David Cameron answers questions for workers at Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery, Lincoln.

David Cameron has criticised men-only clubs - despite having been a member of two himself.

On Friday Conservative culture secretary Maria Miller announced she was boycotting the golf Open Championship over host Muirfield's refusal to admit female members.

The prime minister's spokesman said Cameron "supports the culture secretary" on her decision to boycott Muirfield due to its all-male membership policy and "entirely understands" why she has done so.

Asked about all-male clubs, he added: "The prime minister has a great deal of sympathy with the view that exclusive memberships of this sort look more to the past than they do to the future."

The spokesman said Cameron had once been a member of White's, an all-male gentleman's club, but that he had given up his membership. Ian Cameron, the prime minister's father, was once the chairman of the club in St James's, central London.

The prime minister was also infamously a member of the Oxford University Bullingdon Club drinking society - a part of his youth that he has said he regrets.

Harriet Harman said sports clubs that ban women from joining should be be made illegal. Labour's deputy leader, said: "After the recent successes of female sport it's an embarrassment that this year's British Open, a world class sporting event, is being held at a club which does not admit women members.

"It's time that Muirfield dragged itself into the 21st century and let women in. It's time to ban men-only sport clubs."

And speaking in the Commons on Thursday, Labour MP Diana Johnson attacked the "bigoted bunker mentality make the British Open less than open and less than British".

Andrew Lansley, the leader of the Commons, said he agreed and that Muirfield's ban on female members was "entirely reprehensible".

Nick Clegg has condemned Muirfield's male only membership policy as the championship got under way at the historic golf club.

The deputy prime minister described the ban on female members as "inexplicable" and "anachronistic" but said it was not for politicians to decide where the Open was staged.

On his LBC 97.3 phone-in show, Clegg said: "I was just dismayed and incredibly surprised to hear this still goes on in this day and age.

"I find it so out of step with everything else that's happening in the rest of society. It just seems so old fashioned and so anachronistic to just have a golf club saying that just because you are a woman you can't be a member of that club.

"I think many people will just shake their head and say 'how on earth is this still possible in this day and age?'."

He added: "I'm dismayed the club does not accept women as members. I find that inexplicable in this day and age, I really do."