UK

National Trust chairman QUITS amid revolt over his ‘woke’ policies

The controversial chairman of the National Trust has resigned just 24 hours after a rebel group of members set out plans to depose him amid a growing revolt over his ‘woke’ policies.

Tim Parker quit shortly after a highly critical motion at this year’s AGM backed by more than 50 members said the membership had no confidence in his leadership and demanded his resignation.

Members, ministers and MPs had grown increasingly frustrated with Mr Parker’s chairmanship as he was accused of taking the 126-year-old charity in a ‘woke’ and ‘politically correct’ direction.

Last September, the Trust published an incendiary 115-page report which ‘blacklisted’ 93 of its properties over their alleged links to slavery – including Chartwell in Kent, home of Sir Winston Churchill. 

The Charity Commission subsequently opened a regulatory compliance case and the heritage minister told Parliament that the report was ‘unfortunate’ and the Trust should go back to its ‘core functions’.  

Tim Parker quit shortly after a highly critical motion at this year’s AGM backed by more than 50 members said the membership had no confidence in his leadership and demanded his resignation 

The rebellion was run by a group called Restore Trust, founded earlier this year to stop history being 'demonised'. One of its members, Tony Adler, said: 'The plan is to change the whole ethos formally. And to get rid of the chairman

The rebellion was run by a group called Restore Trust, founded earlier this year to stop history being ‘demonised’. One of its members, Tony Adler, said: ‘The plan is to change the whole ethos formally. And to get rid of the chairman 

The Trust’s controversial policies and statements

Report on property links to slavery 

Members, ministers and MPs had grown increasingly frustrated with Mr Parker’s chairmanship after the charity published a report last September which ‘blacklisted’ 93 of its properties with links to slavery.

Mr Parker, who took on the role in 2014, said the Trust was ‘committed to anti-racism and to creating a diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment.’ 

The Trust’s 115-page report was called ‘Connections between colonialism and properties now in the care of the National Trust, including links with historic slavery.’

The document sparked huge controversy as it listed 93 National Trust properties said to have links to colonialism and slavery – including Churchill’s home. 

Parker: BLM has ‘no party-political affiliations’ 

At last November’s virtual annual meeting, Mr Parker was slammed for describing Black Lives Matter as a ‘human rights movement with no party-political affiliations’ in a letter to a member. 

In the UK, BLM has called for the defunding of the police following the murder of George Floyd last summer.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Parker said ‘we are not members of BLM’ and added that he hoped Trust members would see ‘that in no way the Trust has become a political organisation that has been taken over by a bunch of woke folk or anything of that nature’.

Mr Parker, who took on the role in 2014, said the Trust was ‘committed to anti-racism and to creating a diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment.’

In his letter to members, he wrote: ‘We understand Black Lives Matter currently is a worldwide human rights movement with no party-political affiliations in the UK.

‘Our recent report aimed to give greater clarity and transparency about sources of wealth, to help deepen and enrich understanding of our remarkable places, art and objects.’

2017 gay pride scandal 

There was further controversy after it emerged that the Trust had tried to force volunteers at a Norfolk mansion to wear the gay pride rainbow symbol on lanyards and badges to mark 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality – a demand later dropped. 

Critics claim the Trust is ‘virtue signalling’ and deserting the values of its traditional members.

At last November’s virtual annual meeting, Mr Parker was slammed for describing Black Lives Matter as a ‘human rights movement with no party-political affiliations’ in a letter to a member. In the UK, BLM has called for the defunding of the police following the murder of George Floyd last summer. 

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Parker said ‘we are not members of BLM’ and added that he hoped Trust members would see ‘that in no way the Trust has become a political organisation that has been taken over by a bunch of woke folk or anything of that nature’. 

Mr Parker, who took on the role in 2014, said the Trust was ‘committed to anti-racism and to creating a diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment.’ 

But the letter has angered Tory MPs with Sir John Hayes accusing the organisation of being run by ‘out of touch, bourgeois elite.’ He told the Telegraph: ‘BLM is a militant campaigning organisation and I can only think the reason that the National Trust used that language was they somehow feel it creates a veil of respectability around what they have done.

‘The people who visit the properties the National Trust has responsibility for do not sign up to any of the agenda that is being perpetuated by the people who run it.’ He added that the Trust was paying ‘lip service to a lot of politically correct woke nonsense.’

In 2017, there was further controversy after it emerged that the Trust had tried to force volunteers at a Norfolk mansion to wear the gay pride rainbow symbol on lanyards and badges to mark 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality – a demand later dropped by the charity. 

Mr Parker, who is also chairman of the Post Office, earlier this year apologised for the historic wrongful convictions of 39 former subpostmasters who were persecuted due to mistakes made by the flawed Horizon computer system.  

According to the Telegraph, the rebel motion at the AGM said: ‘It is the task of a chairman to see an organisation through a crisis. The pandemic has presented the National Trust with severe challenges, and meeting these while securing the future wellbeing of the charity should have been the absolute priority.

‘Instead, the National Trust has been the subject of debates in Parliament and an investigation by the Charity Commission, which found that the charity published a report which generated strongly held and divided views without fully managing the risks to the reputation of the charity.

‘The director-general has admitted that the timing of the publication of the ‘Interim Report on the Connections between Colonialism and Properties now in the Care of the National Trust, Including Links with Historic Slavery’ was ‘a mistake’.’

The motion continued: ‘The National Trust leadership has frequently been out of step with its members and supporters over recent years. Unnecessary controversies have threatened to undermine the charity’s simple duty to promote public enjoyment of buildings, places and chattels under its protection.

‘As a result, morale among volunteers and members is at an all-time low and the National Trust has suffered, both financially and reputationally. The National Trust needs to regain the nation’s confidence, and will need fresh leadership to achieve this.’ 

In a statement posted on the Trust’s website, the charity said Mr Parker had ‘informed trustees of his decision the day after the Trust’s houses reopened to the public on 17 May, and will step down in October this year’. 

Mr Parker had served two three-year terms and agreed to a ‘third exceptional term’ to provide stability during the coronavirus pandemic which hit visitor numbers.

The charity said: ‘The search for Tim’s successor had begun before the pandemic arrived, but was halted to provide stability to the organisation. It will now resume.’ 

Mr Parker told the Telegraph: ‘It has been an immense privilege to serve the Trust for seven years as Chair and, as we emerge from the pandemic, the time is now right for the search to begin for my successor.’

Restore Trust, which was founded by members earlier this year in a bid to stop history being ‘demonised’ by organisations including the National Trust, welcomed the news. 

A National Trust sign for the Needles Headland on the Isle of Wight

A National Trust sign for the Needles Headland on the Isle of Wight

How YOUR money funded National Trust’s Woke review: BLM-inspired project to identify colonial links to stately homes received £160,000 in taxpayers’ and lottery money 

A project to identify the colonial links to National Trust stately homes inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement received £160,000 in taxpayers’ and lottery money.

The University of Leicester’s project received a grant of £99,600 from the National Lottery Heritage Lottery Fund and a further £60,000 from the Arts Council.

The project linked almost 100 National Trust properties to British colonialism and the slave trade, including Winston Churchill’s former home Chartwell House, Powis Castle, once owned by Clive of India, and the Bath Assembly Rooms.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has been written to by the Common Sense group of Conservative MPs demanding that he investigates why the grant was given. The funding from the Arts Council also comes under Mr Dowden’s remit.

In the letter, the group claimed the funding of the project – spearheaded by a literature professor from the University of Leicester – demonstrated that ‘powerful left wing interests’ were suppressing ‘conservative cultural initiatives.’ 

In a statement published on its website, it said: ‘We are pleased that Mr Parker has decided to resign as National Trust, following the publication of our motion of no confidence in him that would have been put to this year’s Annual Meeting. 

‘His position was clearly untenable given everything that has happened and the current crisis of confidence in the National Trust amongst its staff, volunteers and members. What the National Trust needs now is a chair with a deep understanding and appreciation of our nation’s heritage.

‘We also call on the Board of Trustees to make this an open and accountable process so that their shortlist of potential candidates is published and they present themselves and their proposals for the Trust to members in open events in the coming months.’

One of its members, Tony Adler, said: ‘The plan is to change the whole ethos formally. And to get rid of the chairman. There has been a sea change in the Trust’s philosophy and they have lost sight of their charter.’ 

The charity was established to ‘promote the permanent preservation… of lands and buildings of beauty or historic interest’.

Mr Adler, a retired history lecturer and former volunteer at Ham House in south-west London, claims he was forced out of the charity after he pointed out inaccuracies over the stately home’s supposed links to slavery.

Other accusations of ‘wokery’ levelled at the Trust include making staff and volunteers wear rainbow LGBT badges and airbrushing the word Easter from its egg hunts.

A draft of the four motions due to be submitted to the Trust claimed Mr Parker was not a ‘suitable steward’ in the post he had held since 2014 due to his ‘track record in private equity’.

They said research carried out by the Trust should be ‘done to a high standard by experts’ and ‘reflect a balanced range of approaches where the subject is controversial’.

Referring to last year’s report on the connections between colonialism and properties, it added: ‘The reputation of the National Trust must never be tarnished this way again.’ 

The campaign group, which has more than 300 members, called for a vote on the ‘deplorable increase in average pay amongst the executive team by 35 per cent to £123,000 in 2020’ – although the Trust says the figure is inaccurate. The group added: ‘It need hardly be said that all this has ground down morale throughout the Trust – among those remaining as well as those discharged.’ 

Tory MP Sir John Hayes, of the Parliamentary Common Sense Group and a National Trust member, had said he would vote for the motions. He added: ‘The National Trust has sadly lost sight of its purpose. It is preoccupied with the prejudices of a woke minority.’

The Trust’s colonialism report ‘blacklisted’ 93 of its properties – nearly a third including Chartwell in Kent, home of Sir Winston Churchill, because of his opposition to Indian independence.

The charity has been accused of outing writer Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer – who bequeathed Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk to the Trust in 1969 – as gay. It also put 51 ropes on display at Kingston Lacy in Dorset to commemorate men hanged for being homosexual.

Some of the National Trust properties being reviewed by ‘biased’ academics, including Buckland Abbey, the Devon home of Sir Francis Drake

Buckland Abbey 

One of the properties being looked at is Buckland Abbey, the Devon home of Sir Francis Drake

One of the properties being looked at is Buckland Abbey, the Devon home of Sir Francis Drake

Buckland was originally a Cistercian abbey founded in 1278 by Amicia, Countess of Devon and was a daughter house of Quarr Abbey, on the Isle of Wight. 

It remained an abbey until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII.

In 1541 Henry sold Buckland to Sir Richard Grenville who, working with his son Roger, began to convert the abbey into a residence.

Roger died in 1545, leaving a son, also named Richard Grenville, who completed the conversion. He eventually sold Buckland to Drake in 1581.

Drake lived in the house for 15 years, as did many of his descendants until 1946, when it was sold to a local landowner, Arthur Rodd, who presented the property to the National Trust in 1948.

The abbey has been open to the public since 1951. It was given to the National Trust in 2010

Dyrham Park

William Blaythwayt built this large mansion house for himself at Dyrham Park near Bristol

William Blaythwayt built this large mansion house for himself at Dyrham Park near Bristol

The mansion was created in the 17th century by William Blathwayt.

William Blathwayt was an English diplomat, public official and Whig politician who sat in the English and British House of Commons between 1685 and 1710. 

He established the War Office as a department of the British Government and played an important part in administering the colonies of North America.

Blaythwayt built a large mansion house for himself at Dyrham Park near Bristol, which he decorated with numerous Dutch Old Masters and sumptuous fabrics and furnishings.

His descendants sold a large part of his art collection in 1765, but some have been purchased back or remain at Dyrham Park.

 Penrhyn Castle

Owned by the Pennant family, the trust claims that Penrhyn is an example of how wealth derived from slavery shaped the built environment of Wales

Owned by the Pennant family, the trust claims that Penrhyn is an example of how wealth derived from slavery shaped the built environment of Wales

Built in the early 19th century, its architecture, opulent interiors and fine art collection lean on a long history of sugar and slate fortunes, social unrest and the longest-running industrial dispute in British history, according to the National Trust.

Owned by the Pennant family, the trust claims that Penrhyn is an example of how wealth derived from slavery shaped the built environment of Wales. 

A staunch anti-abolitionist, Richard Pennant’s fortune – acquired from sugar plantations in Jamaica that used enslaved labour – funded roads, railways, schools, hotels, workers’ houses, churches and farms in North Wales. 

The Penrhyn Slate Quarry and Port Penrhyn, established by the Pennants, dominated the Welsh slate industry for almost 150 years. 

Kedleston Hall

Kedleston Hall in Kedleston, Derbyshire is the inherited home of the Curzon family

Kedleston Hall in Kedleston, Derbyshire is the inherited home of the Curzon family

Kedleston Hall is a ‘temple to the arts’ designed by the architect Robert Adam. 

It was commissioned in the 1750s by Nathaniel Curzon whose ancestors had resided at Kedleston since the 12th century. 

It was inherited George Nathaniel Curzon, Viceroy of India between 1899 and 1905. 

It houses objects he amassed during his travels in South Asia and the Middle East, and in his role imposing British rule in India. 

His ‘Eastern Museum’ displays religious, military and domestic objects, arranged from the perspective of the coloniser, along with ceremonial gifts.


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