The worldwide backlash against Brunei over a new law that penalises homosexuality has led to the cancellation of a UK Police Federation event in London that was set to include British government ministers on the guest list.
Public organisations are following the corporate world in boycotting hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei after a law that punishes homosexuality, abortion and adultery by stoning.
The federation, which represents nearly 120,000 police officers, has held its annual Bravery Awards at the Dorchester Hotel in London on and off for the past 24 years, alternating with venues such as the Savoy. At this year’s event 350 guests were expected to attend, with politicians such as Sajid Javid, home secretary, and Nick Hurd, policing minister, on the guest list.
The Conservative Party also cancelled an event at which Jeremy Hunt, foreign secretary, was scheduled to speak. “It’s not surprising given the ownership of that particular establishment,” said a Tory spokesman.
The nine hotels in the Dorchester Collection group, which includes the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, the Hotel Eden in Rome and Le Meurice in Paris, have been owned by the Sultan of Brunei through the state’s investment agency since 1987.
The country’s new penal code, which came into effect on April 3, provoked protests led by celebrities such as the actor George Clooney and singer Elton John.
In LA, the city council voted unanimously on Tuesday to refrain from holding any events at the Beverly Hills and Hotel Bel-Air. It also said it would discourage residents and council employees from staying at the hotels.
The University of Oxford has also said that it would “reconsider” the Sultan of Brunei’s honorary degree.
Pressure has also come from within the hospitality industry. The International Union of Food Workers, which represents hospitality and catering staff, called for industry organisations to exclude the Dorchester hotels “pending the abrogation of the law”.
Hire Space, a venue-booking platform that counts Coca-Cola, Spotify and Bloomberg among its clients, said that it had received a number of inquiries from businesses looking to move events.
“New clients who had their comfortable repeating events at the Dorchester want a similarly impressive space,” said Edward Poland, chief operating officer. He added that he could not name the companies involved but that Hire Space was “not currently” offering the Dorchester for events.
Depending on the contract, the deposit for events at the Dorchester is between 10 and 50 per cent of the cost, according to Mr Poland. He said that the “rough cost” of an awards show was £98 per head, making a deposit of “£25,000 with extras”.
The UK Police Federation said it would be moving the awards to another venue but would not disclose the new location for “security reasons”.
It said it had received its deposit for the event back in full.
A spokesperson for the Dorchester said: “We are grateful that the Police Federation has stated that their decision is no reflection on the staff of the hotel.” She added that cancellation fees were discussed on an individual basis.
This article has been amended to correct the cost of the deposit quoted by Edward Poland, COO of Hire Space
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