Rebel members accused National Trust bosses, of “trampling on our History” by publishing a report on the colonialist history its houses that was “littered with inaccuracies”, according to rebels.
The charity is currently in a dispute with Restore Trust (RT), a splinter group whose members are furious at the way certain properties of its have been ‘blacklisted. This is due to alleged links to slavery and colonialism.
Neil Bennett, who oversees RT’s ever-growing donor list, said today on BBC Radio 4’s Today that the charity was ‘failing its central mission’ and instead actually standing against our nation’s heritage.
The ‘war on Wake’ intensified this morning ahead a crucial vote on future direction of the charity.
RT has backed six candidates to fill the Trust’s 36-seat governing board. Members will be able today to vote for them as well as other issues, such as the treatment for volunteers.
The National Trust has been embroiled in a battle with a splinter group called Restore Trust (RT) whose members have become enraged by the way some of its properties have been ‘blacklisted’ over alleged links to colonialism and slavery. Pictured at Chartwell House, Kent
Celia Richardson, director of communications at the Trust, has caused a stir by writing to staff to urge them not to vote for ‘organised campaigners’, who she claimed have ‘their sights on our AGM’.
During the radio interview this morning Mr Bennett accused Trust leadership of ‘failing’ and called for former chair Simon Jenkins’ to take control.
Appearing on the programme alongside him Mr Jenkins, who chaired the National Trust between 2008 and 2014, said: ‘I don’t think anyone who has ever read history could recount [the report on colonialism]As an outstanding report.
“In this instance, I think they got frankly an awful group of people to do the job.” Obviously it wasn’t satisfactory.’
Bennett stated that the report was ‘insulting’ for the members and those who donated their homes.
He added: ‘We wouldn’t have a problem with the Trust looking at links to colonialism and slavery. It was clear that the report from last year was poor. It was full of inaccuracies. It was produced primarily for political reasons and let the Trust down.
Neil Bennett (pictured), who oversees RT’s growing list of donors, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program today that the charity was unable to fulfill its central mission and was instead ‘instead standing against the nation’s history’
“It was authorized and commissioned by a very senior member of the organization. You see examples everywhere of dumbing down, but it’s more than that. It’s insulting the membership, who are the driving force within the trust, insulting the people who donated the properties to the Trust and really just trampling on our history.’
He accused the Trust, claiming it was using a Maoist approach to ‘eradicating history’. He added: ‘Last Year the Trust produced a report which was then leaked and talked about abolishing what its called the outdated mansion experience.
‘It shows just how far the senior members of the trust have moved away from its membership and I think we’re at breaking point.’
More than 6,000 current and former members including Tory MPs have thrown their weight behind the RT splinter group, with more than £40,000 raised in a ‘fighting fund’ to help battle ‘anti-woke’ policies and as a forum ‘discuss concerns about the future of the charity’.
According to reports, Hilary McGrady, the Trust’s director general, and Orna NiChionna (interim chairman), wrote to staff to urge them to vote.
Former staff members told The Telegraph that the vote request was a break with convention and that in previous meetings staff were told to give up their membership and abstain.
The Trust claimed earlier this month that it was being used to be a ‘punchbag by RT’ and their supporters. They accused them, among other things, of waging a ‘ideological war’ against it. Above: A staff member of the Trust’s Petworth House, July last year
Restore Trust spoke out in response to the internal letter. It was said that it was inappropriate for the charity to put its staff under pressure.
Today, Mr Bennett said: “Today is an opening shot. The group was only formed four months ago.
‘The Trust has I’m afraid stuffed the ballot by coercing their staff to vote in the Annual General Meeting (AGM) so we’re not expecting too much.
“This is only the beginning, it takes a lot of work for an organisation to change. We’ve been slow to be stirred up but we’re now committed to this.’
Ms Richardson also advised staff to encourage every member of their circle to vote. She sent an email reminder on the day online voting closed last Wednesday to remind employees.
A senior staff member tweeted recently: “This so-called war on wokeness is a serious matter. The Trust unites millions and has served the nation for 126 year.
“Organised ideologic campaigns can do real harm.”
The Trust stated to The Telegraph that reminders for voting were a matter ‘good practice’ and there was no pressure’. MailOnline reached out to the charity for comment.
Celia Richardson, director of communications for the Trust, caused a stir by writing to her staff to ask them to vote
The Trust suggested earlier this month that it was being used to ‘punchbag’ RT and their supporters. They were accused of waging a ‘ideological war’ against it.
In a statement, they stated that national institutions require healthy and respectful debate to survive and continue to serve future generations as they have done for so many people in the past and present. They should not be used to divide people or lead by extreme views.
“Our founders set out in order to protect and promote historic places and natural beauty for national benefit.
“That means that we are for everyone.” No matter if you’re black, white, straight, gay, right-wing, or left-wing.
RT was founded earlier this year in protest at a sensational 115 page report that ‘blacklisted’ 93 estates of the National Trust over their alleged connections to slavery. Chartwell in Kent, where Sir Winston Churchill is buried, was also included in the report.
Among the six council candidates backed by RT for election is Stephen Green, the head of a Christian fundamentalist lobbying group, who accuses the National Trust of being overly concerned with ‘LGBQT+ issues’, reports The Guardian.
Green, who claims he has no connection to RT, stated that if elected he would ensure future donors feel safe from the Trust poring into their pasts and inventing salacious details about an imagined private life.
Sir John Hayes, head Conservative Party’s Common Sense Group, supports the splinter group.
RT has been buoyed in part by an increasing number MPs, campaigners, National Trust members, who back their goals of reverting the 126-year-old charity into an ‘apolitical state’.
In 2017, the charity came under fire after it emerged that the Trust 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.
RT lists its goals to restore the Trust’s apolitical ethos’, help it return to doing what is best’, by keeping historic buildings and gardens to the ’highest standard’.
It also plans to restore the Trust’s historic gardens and houses’so that visitors may enjoy them visually, spatially and sometimes peacefully without interfering with interpretation.
After it was revealed that the Trust had attempted to force volunteers at a Norfolk home to wear the rainbow symbol of gay pride on lanyards and badges, the Trust came under fire. This was to mark 50 years since decriminalisation. [File picture]
Criticisms of the decision by the National Trust bosses in moving the historic charity in a “bourgeois” and “politically incorrect” direction were raised following the publication.
Ex-chairman Tim Parker sensationally quit just 24 hours after furious members launched an ‘anti-woke’ vote of no confidence in a bid to depose him in the wake of the findings.
Last November’s virtual annual gathering saw Mr Parker criticized for describing Black Lives Matter, a human rights movement without any party-political affiliations’ in an email to a member.
BLM in the UK has called for defunding police forces following the death of George Floyd last summer.
Parker spoke at the meeting and stated that he was not a member of BLM. He added that Trust members should understand that the Trust had never become a political organisation controlled by a bunch “woke” people or anything like that.
Parker, who assumed the role in 2014, stated that the Trust was ‘committed anti-racism to create a diverse inclusive and welcoming environment’.