For seven years I have been recounting various episodes which will have caused my grandfather, Sir John Winnifrith, a former Director General of the National Trust, to spin in his grave. Slowly, the organisation he loved is destroying itself but like the frog in slowly heating water it seems oblivious to its fate. For those who run the Trust live in a small liberal and elitist bubble.
My grandfather was a die-hard socialist but a man of faith and straightforward views. The National Trust was there to save old buildings so that the people could enjoy them. Not the nobility but the ordinary man in the street. The Trust was not there to change society or to change attitudes – that was a different struggle for Grandpa and his comrades like Tony Benn. The Trust’s remit was just to save buildings and historic lands.
The first time I highlighted its failing on this count was more than seven years ago as I spent some time on the Kent and Sussex borders starting with Hall House Farm in Appledore, the Trust property that my Grandfather was allowed to live in during his retirement. Tended with great care by my grandfather and grandmother, the Trust had more or less abandoned it. The weeds grew high, the house was untended and empty. So what was the Trust spending its cash on? Down the road at Bodiam Castle, it was on flagging up the dangers of man made global warming. I noted then that this is not how most Trust members wanted their cash spent.
Since then I have flagged up time and time again how the Trust has spent money on a range of woke campaigns from global warming, LGBT issues and most recently on combatting the legacy of slavery and racism. There is seemingly endless funding for such schemes but not enough to pay for building maintenance or for the Trust’s staff. The husband of my cousin L is among the 14% of Trust staff getting his P45 for Christmas.
The recent paper of slavery and racism was appalling and would have enraged Grandpa primarily because it was at an intellectual level so weak as I demonstrated HERE. If the Trust is going to misspend its funds in this way, it might at least do in an academically rigorous manner. Now it emerges that Trust chairman Tim Parker has defended the exercise and the negative feedback by expressing his support for the Black Lives Matter movement describing it as a ”human rights movement with no party political affiliations.”.
That may be the case but it is also a movement that wants to end capitalism, defund the Police, boycott Israel and close our jails and so it is one that most folks in Britain, including most black folks, have grave concerns about.
Having met Parker several times many years ago when he was a businessman with a reputation for slashing jobs in a rather brutal fashion, I know he is fundamentally not a bad man. I rather liked him. But he is the sort of public school and Oxbridge educated left wing elitist (chairman of the Oxford University Labour Club don’t you know?) whose values are just out of sync with most of the rest of us.
The vast majority of the National Trust’s 5.6 million members would have been horrified by the political views of my grandfather for they are a small c conservative lot, they want to preserve the past, old things of interests and beauty. And that is also what, with regard to buildings if not society, Grandpa wanted. So most folks thought he did a good job despite being a bit of a commie. But that same conservative membership sees what Parker and his ilk are campaigning for, to change society and to rewrite history, and they are horrified.
I am sure that Parker, like the BBC, thinks that by being ultra woke he can reach out to a new type of member just as the BBC hopes to find younger viewers. The reality, of course, is that young folks won’t be watching the BBC whatever it airs as they don’t watch TV. And the very small majority of folks who want to brand Churchill racist won’t be joining the NT as they have statues to tear down elsewhere. But, like the BBC’s existing audience, the Trust’s existing supporters will walk with their feet. They will not renew as they might have in the past. Fewer will sign up to life memberships. And, as is already evident, there will be fewer legacies from those heading to a better place.
By the time the National Trust wakes up to the real cause of its self inflicted financial troubles, not Covid but the way that it is alienating those who love it with its neglect of its core remit and its woke campaigns, Parker will have been elevated to the House of Lords and someone else will be in charge. No doubt Parker and those around him view we who object as the sort of low life racist plebs who voted for Brexit and whose views can be ignored. And thus they will carry on regardless leaving the Trust to a rather sad and inevitable fate.