Why is the National Trust so embarrassed by Britain?
The group's chairman is leaving — but don't expect anything else to change
When I was a boy, we had family memberships of both English Heritage and the National Trust, and I had a rule of thumb for predicting how much I would enjoy any given day out. If it was an English Heritage site, it was quite likely to be a castle, or at least a ruined castle, whereas if it was National Trust, a stately home or a formal garden might be on the cards. Nowadays, as I ease gently into Volvo-driving middle age, I enjoy stately homes and formal gardens, but my 10-year-old self was firmly pro-castle.
I don’t think it would have occurred to anyone even 10 years ago, let along back in the 1990s when I was growing up, that the National Trust would find itself at the forefront of national political argument. If anyone thought of the NT, they probably thought of grand mansions set in rolling parkland, and tweedy volunteers sitting quietly in wood-panelled rooms answering occasional questions about whether the furniture was really designed by William Morris.
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Yet here we are, with personnel changes at the top of the organisation making headline news. The latest development is the resignation of its Chairman. Tim Parker feels somehow emblematic of the modern British establishment; he was deeply involved in Labour politics at university, but later made a fortune in the world of business, partly through his enthusiasm for giving people the sack.
Initially his departure was greeted as a win for the conservatives within the Trust, dismayed by what they saw as Parker’s indulgence of progressive campaigners and vigorous cost-cutting, a large part of which involved his old hobby of issuing P45s. Now, however, it is being reported that the Trust may become even more “woke” in his absence, as he was allegedly a bulwark against politicisation.
It’s hard to know what is really happening in the Trust’s boardroom. Perhaps Parker is not quite the ogre of slick liberal managerialism as painted by groups such as Restore Trust, the coalition of disgruntled members, staff and volunteers. But there are clearly ructions at the top of the organisation, and equally clearly these are the reflection of wider convulsions in modern Britain, the result of deep changes that have taken place over the last half century or so.
It has become a cliché of conservative polemic to refer to a liberal elite. However, such a thing does actually exist, and its members have risen to the top of many once-conservative institutions since the social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s. Their reflexes are seemingly anti-patriotic and anti-conservative; even for those working in heritage there seems to be an aversion to tradition or custom, and a real hostility to anything approaching a conventional view of British history. Sometimes, of course, this can be helpful; Our Island Story-type narratives can be incomplete and misleading.
But when the iconoclastic, “debunking” impulse becomes too dominant among historians and historical bodies, we risk the complete loss of any national cohesion and unity. This is especially true when we consider another hugely important change: the demographic transformation of the English population. If we are to forge a successful multiracial nation, we must help newcomers to understand that Britain, for all its faults, has been a great force for good in the world, and that it is a privilege and a joy to be part of the ongoing British project.
That project includes the National Trust.
All we would like the NT to do is look after our National Heritage. House repairs, brick pointing, painting, cleaning and generally titivating all the properties and gardens held in “Trust” for the nation so we can have a nice day out and learn something about our history.
(BTW, my favourite castle is Beaumaris, proper castle with a moat, drawbridge and little slits for shooting arrows through)
I like Bodiam for the same reasons.
Is it really a Castle or just a fortified Manor, set in a spectacular ‘mirror’ lake?
Bodiam is lovely but unfortunately was rebuilt by Mad Jack Fuller, eccentric landowner, MP, philanthropist and slave owner. It’s probably on a list for destruction sometime soon. His tomb in Brightling is also worth a visit being in the form of an Egyptian pyramid.
Ever been to Caerphilly?
Far more sophisticated and impressive, and actually completed, unlike Beaumaris.
Incidentally those “little slits for shooting arrows through” are technically known a ‘loopholes’.
I believe it was originally to protect the land and landscape. Which it has been very good at. Perhaps it should go back to that.
The “liberal elite” that the writer mentions have inserted themselves and their ghastly chums into the top echelons of every one of Britain’s institutions, whether public sector or third sector.
They are all riddled with woke, leftist thinking, and it needs to be stopped. The long, weary, march back through our institutions has begun. And it mustn’t stop until they are all liberated.
These are people who couldn’t win power politically, so they have set out to win power by stealth. It’s not right, and it won’t work for them – and it mustn’t work for them. It’s not what Britain “is”.
It Very Much is what Britain ‘IS’ now. I have been coming and going from London for 4.5 decades, which I left after leaving school for other countries, and the NT is exactly what Britain has become. Just take Harrow, say. It was never great, but was OK, and British when I left – now it is second world. The people who manage the NT are the same people who did this to London, and all the cities. They Hate Britain with a blind hatred, it is the new normal. I doubt very much if Britain will be saved, I think the tipping point has been reached. London is less than 49% native British – Who supports their OWN Nation being Colonized? And by those not better by any means? Left is a pathology, it is pure self harm and self loathing out to destroy everything.
“and a real hostility to anything approaching a conventional view of British history. Sometimes, of course, this can be helpful; Our Island Story-type narratives can be incomplete and misleading.”
Evin the writer has to add this groveling to nu-left thought, it is now required, and so ingrained he likely did it without even realizing.
Well as Churchill said :”the only good thing about Harrow is that on a clear day you can see Eton”.
We need to look to our education system that was ceded to the British loathing, far left without challenge.
It’s hard to figure out how we got here. I don’t think this catastrophe was even graced with any master-plan. Instead we have a whole University-educated generation or 2 conditioned to believe the outside world was driven by oppression, and disappointed to find none of that’s particularly true as they assumed their desk-jobs in the civil service, in education, at the National Trust etc.
Rather than taking solace that the world is much nicer than their indoctrination told them, it was more comforting to contrive new outrages that nobody actually cares about. Did they bother to ask themselves “are our NT subscribers upset with our links to colonialism?” Of course not, they are out self-appointed “educators”. As you say, cultural takeover by stealth.
if they were genuinely interested in informing the public more about NT properties , they would give details on how British workers created these buildings-obviously without modern machinery. They are fixated with one subject -Bristol council is apparently providing over 1/4 million for some sort of reparations. A vicar has been given permission to put new sculptures ( of feminist & trans subjects) on a 12th century church ( considered one of the most beautiful in Britain)-so it probably won’t be long before the structures of these buildings are being destroyed , artifacts removed , such as stained glass windows & gardens dug up ( as happened at Wenthouse Woodhouse by the first Labour government)
‘A vicar has been given permission to put new sculptures (of feminist & trans subjects) on a 12th century church’. Please let that not be true, is it a joke? If not, can you supply details?
12th century church in Beverley Yorkshire-was re-printed in DM from another paper.-said sculptures already there had degraded-so why not commission copies?
Or as we used to call it, restoration. A noble art.
Checked it out. It’s bad, but not quite as bad as you feared. No trans as far as I can see, just people with vaginas: Mary Wollstonecraft, Amy Johnson, Mary Seacole, Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, Helen Sharman, Ada Lovelace and Hilda Lyon. Doubtless all worthy in their fields, but why they should adorn a medieval church beats me. There are plenty of female saints and martyrs they could have had. But then the C of E isn’t interested in Christian witness, only in desperately trying to please people who view it with contempt.
The law on what is allowed with religious buildings is rather vague. There are some humerous pics on line where people have ( in good faith) ‘tidied’ up some frescos in Spain-our lord now seems to have toothache in one.As fabric building is so old why are additions allowed? Especially as council can get very difficult with replacing things in domestic buildings.
There’s something called the ecclesiastical exemption, whereby churches are not subject to secular listed building controls. These sculptures would have been approved by the diocesan chancellor, a lawyer, having had the advice of the Diocesan Advisory Committee.
There is a view that churches are not simply monuments to be preserved, but places of Christian witness, which have always been adapted from time to time to meet changing needs. We also have the problem that many medieval churches have empty niches and smashed-off corbels, thanks to the zealotry of 17th-century wokists such as William Dowsing. Sometimes (not always), it’s best to remove heavily corroded sculptures which have been damaged by pollution etc, and to put them in museum conditions. In such cases, it’s fine to put up replacement sculptures, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be figures that resonate with a present-day audience. But this is a church, so the figures should be outstanding examples of Christian piety and zeal, not a bunch of wimmin from Guardian central casting.
Thank you. We still live with the consequences of Reformation iconoclasm. The West Front of Westminster Abbey is a great example of installing modern figures of the proper kind.
Re-checked article. I misread BAME for trans-but why not James Barry while they are at it? Archbishop Welby is going after some’problematic’ statues and other church things & as they allowed a funfair or something in one , could ask Boris’ fiance’s favourite designer to revamp them
It is very much working for them, they’re doing very well for themselves thank you very much.
For Britain? Not so much, but that’s the point.
The National Trust is just the most egregious example of a charity that’s no longer fit for purpose.
In a field or so many competitors picking the winner of worst charity is normally 100/1, yet these ones manage to stand out from the pack.
Putting the NT in the hands of these tratiors is like outsourcing the Wild Life Trust to the managers of the Wuhan Wet Market.
It’s such a shame that these folk don’t understand they are “temporary custodians” rather than “owners” of the countrys assets.
It’s fine to have personal opinions, but that shouldn’t get in the way of doing your job.
If that’s a problem for someone, they should find another place to work.
In this case maybe the Guardian or BBC
Fine for them to go to the Guardian – but I have no wish to pay their wages so they should keep away from the BBC.
Good correction – thanks
Edmond Burke said that society was a contract between the living the dead and those as yet unborn.
Only an Irishman could come up with such a a bizarre thought.
Bashing the U.S. and Britain is so Western-centric, don’t you think? De-center the naaarative to be more inclusive.
Well if Tim was a “wealthy Labourite” we are talking “champagne socialists” of the Corbyn / Starmer calibre today or of the Marx calibre of the XIX London, totally anti-British and spoilt.
Labour’s first landslide destroyed the Empire sending successful colonies to the wall, their economies destroyed by corruption, now “today” the Marxist “procreators” of the decolonization catastrophe demand that we send shed loads of aid to the Refugee Manufacturing Plants which the Marxists created after 1945 when they destroyed the successful colonies. The only way to stop the refugees would be to recreate the Empires. Zimbabwe and many others are cases for Empire and not against Empire.
Labour’s second landslide partitioned the UK against England, Labour declawed England, split it up (as they love to do) left it without representation and pitted it up against all the other little nationalisms united and intact. A recipe for breaking up the UK, so less than 20% of our population has been left over represented with “two” votes in everything and with an identity problem to fight the English disorganized, not represented and split.
This is what people like Gordon, Tony or Tim organized and like, to put England in its place. To undermine its global and unquestionable greatness and achievements, and to totally ignore what other Empires do today even like USA, China and Russia, they only want to join in with the British Betraying Corporation and unpatriotically deprecate England, to turn our fantastic heritage in to a negative value.
These people, the “new revolutionaries” are very dangerous because they come from upper middle class or above. They have no merit, they are frustrated people trying to force outcomes also without merit. They give jobs to their own kind. These frustrated people have soaked in “champagne Marxism” ideology and live just like Marx did in North London off the exploitation of the poor in the Capital of Capitalism and the British Empire abusing its freedom because that is the only place where they can live such a lifestyle. The idea of real social justice like for example to go to poor countries and to help the poor and the maligned is definitively not proper “champagne Marxism”, their real ideology.
“Well if Tim was a “wealthy Labourite” we are talking “champagne socialists” of”
This saying, ‘Champagne Socialist’ is a bad word as it makes these traitors to the West just naughty by having a bit of luxury wile being Left.
NO, they are the Pigs in Animal Farm, falling down drunk, wearing human suits, eating from the truffle filled trough, and stealing the other farm animal’s production with their killer dogs to enforce them.
Tim Parker is also chair of the Post Office. I wonder which job has taken up less of his time.
Is that the Post Office which has falsely prosecuted hundreds of sub post-masters?
Yup. And he’s been busily apologising for that, too – in sync with the ever-wretched “Reverend” Paula Vennells CBE (natch). Why the hell do these utter inadequates get these jobs? Is it really all this country can achieve – to continually promote sub-mediocrity?
I thought we had a meritocratic establishment but there’s still a class of people who float around the top sinecures, like Lord Hall drifting from the BBC to the National Gallery, each failure being rewarded by a chance to do it again.
The very same!
He should be taken to Tyburn and dealt with in the traditional manner.
“….another hugely important change: the demographic transformation of the English population”. Quite so, and it is gathering pace – in 2019 just 58.4% of the children born in England and Wales were White British, and the proportion has been declining at the rate of 1% per annum.
We can blame the opening of the flood gates by Blair after 1997, but Boris’ new open doors (or “points based” as it is euphemistically called) immigration policy promises to be terminal.
So, it would probably be more accurate to speak of the “population of England” rather than the “English population” as England is rapidly becoming just the name of a place, an anywhere place, rather than the name of an ancient and accomplished nation.
Another way of looking at it, and defining the problem, is that we haven’t yet had time to build a shared past.
It will happen, eventually. Britain will not longer be recognisable as such, of course, but there is no going back now.
My shared past has nothing in common with the shared past of an immigrant.
Really? Do you know the shared pasts of every immigrant?
I’m wondering why George Orwell came to the conclusion that the most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history. Whatever the reason there is certainly a force to be reckoned with that is working hard to prove him right.
The venerable US magazine National Geographic has undergone this too – a hostile takeover by a woman, Susan Goldberg, who has politicised it.
Another interesting case is the Sierra Club – apparently it used to wish to protect the US environment from more population pressure.
Along came a billionaire, David Gelbaum, who said if they ever came out anti-immigration, they would never get a dollar from me.
And that, it would seem, was that.
…the Sierra Club [ once an ultra respected Californian environmental group – now in laughing stock territory ] took a massive bribe “donation” conditional on their never, never, referring to the degradation of California’s environment, fauna etcetera as deriving in any way whatsoever from the State’s huge and rapid increase in population. This has doubled in a few decades. And continues to increase. The eco pressures will never be mentioned by the Sierra Club. The problem must not be identified. The Club is a living lie and it’s reputation bought and squandered. Eco issues were thus never, apparently, the primary issue for the members’ puppeteers.
Yes, I haven’t bothered to renew my subscription to National Geographic. It’s truly dreadful now.
When I come to power, the first thing I will ban is the phrase ‘liberal elite’. The so-called liberal elite are neither liberal nor particularly elite.
As for this stuff with hating Britain, the truth is fairly simple. We have among us a variety of immigrant communities who feel more allegiance to their antecedents’ countries of origin than they do with their adopted homeland. No blame attached though.
It is Tebbit’s cricket test, if you want it in its simplest form.
This upsets the effete, empty-headed theorists on the left, for whom hand-wringing is practically an Olympic sport, so they join forces with the ever so shouty-shouty poor ickle me brigade and strive with might and main to alter the present so that the past has no representation in our institutions.
Sometimes I wonder why we don’t just tell them all to go f()k themselves, but then I remember that that is exactly what we do. It’s just that we do it out of earshot of those who would be on the blower to the fuzz to try to get us arrested.
Personally, I now loathe the word ‘elite’. It has lost its meaning as it has become totally overused. It seems that the higher levels of any group, who are not particularly clever, gifted , nor astute, are now termed elite just for managing to rise above a fewer less intelligent or less ambitious members. Ed West’s article a few day’s ago was dotted throughout with this or that elite. It was driving me nuts.
Good article. That aside, I have learned never to trust any organization with the word ‘Trust’ in its title.
Just like any course that has studies in the name would contain no content requiring study.
Any government department with the title “Justice”….
‘Social Justice Studies – delivering Trust and Raising Awareness’. Three year undergraduate course at the University of West Byfleet, with guaranteed employment in any number of quangos and NGOs.
Perhaps you can’t have a national anything without some degree of nationalism. Internationalism, liberalism, leftism, globalism, economism, egalitarianism, anti-racism and all the forms that universalism takes just don’t gell with nationhood.
“If we are to forge a successful multiracial nation” – hahahahahahahahaha
Very true, but what’s wrong with Our Island Story? It tells a good story, embellished and biased of course, which is entertaining and gives us something to be proud of. National Trust properties are the same. What’s the alternative? Every one was built by people with more power than others. The problem seems to be that this mindset has infected the high command of the National Trust who really dislike their own brand.
It is legitimate to interrogate the past and find material to evince a different thesis . It is pretty much the way to get on in our cultural institutions, the neophyte is made room for, by shuffling up the bench, and a grey beard falls off the end.
Currently it is difficult to make consolidation and keeper of the flame “sexy”.Possibly because there hasn’t been an external threat to Western culture for some years and we have grown complacent.
The debunker has all the confidence and assurance that comes with a singular purpose, unencumbered by the acceptance of nuance.
Small c conservatives are thin on the ground, but if you have a little guile and charm, you can open minds to the idea that there is more to culture than politics,and that you don’t have to compound the injustices of the past, by adding to them in the present.
I don’t see a real threat to the NT, it relies on so much good will from owners, volunteers and the public, that I believe it will temper some of the excesses of board members, who will want to retain their prestigious jobs, it is after all, a very good gig.
I wish I could agree. The problem is that the current management have so alienated their supporters that they are in deep financial trouble. Even before lockdown, attendance ie entry money and all the subsequent purchases detailed by the author had fallen, membership was down and as for legacies….
I used to work in marketing. When we had clients who wanted to radically change the core values and appeal of their product in order to attract ‘ a new audience’ , we used to strive to make them quantify how many ‘new ‘ customers would be needed to replace the old ones who would desert the revamp, let alone actually increase the customer base.
The NT has not realised, or doesn’t care, that people visited for a pleasant experience, maybe slightly tinged with envy, or in the case of the service areas, relief. People don’t need to pay to be harangued, accused and denigrated, they can get that for nothing on the television every night. So the ‘solution’ is to shut properties to ‘save money’. Some of them are being made into holiday lets. Now I wonder who will be having a nice holiday there?
How long before some of the nicer houses become residences again, for the hard working officials of the Trust?
The National Trust is, in fact a member-led organisation where the Board is voted on by the members. All soundings seem to indicate that the members are reasonably happy with the direction the organization has gone, including the more recent focus on being a little more honest in pointing out where the money came from to build these properties which, in a lot of cases, is colonialism and the slave trade.
I call that being honest. George Orwell once described Britain as being like a family with the wrong people in charge and a deep veil of silence on where it gets its money. He would no doubt be regarded as dangerously woke these days and would be proud of it. If you just want escapism avoid visiting old houses and watch Downton Abbey
It’s a very legitimate question to ask where the money came from for the great efflorescence of the Country House in and around the 18th Century. And the serial plunder of the American and Indian “Colonies” is a pointer to that.
The money came from the Enclosure Awards, and the losers, as always, were working class English.
I’ve just tried to expand your point, but I’ve been censored. And there were no rude words.
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