National trust

Cambridge’s China complicity

UK-China Transparency (UKCT) was formally launched this week (see Notes, 16 September). Its aim is in its name. There is sadly little transparency about UK-China dealings, especially in our universities. I first reported this problem early in 2020 when I investigated the behaviour of Jesus College, Cambridge, and its China Centre, run by the CCP apologist Professor Peter Nolan. It is probably not a coincidence that the three founders of UKCT – Sir Bernard Silverman, Martin Village and the young freelance reporter Sam Dunning – are all Jesus alumni. The more they looked, the more uncomfortable they became about their college’s advancement of CCP networking and propaganda and its role

Letters: Hollywood owners have ruined Wrexham FC

Wild abandon Sir: As upsetting and pointless as is the National Trust’s cancelling of the fishing lease on the River Test at Mottisfont Abbey (Letters, 19 August), it is all of a piece with the way the National Trust is going. On the 13,000-acre Wallington Estate in Northumberland, the Trust has recently spent a small fortune elaborately fencing off 50 acres to release beavers on one of the two farms they have recently taken out of agricultural production. They trumpet their intention to create ‘Wild Wallington’ by abandoning it to nature and planting trees on as much of the estate’s farmland as they can. The farms at Wallington were wrested

In defence of e-bikes

Identity politics Sir: Your lead article (‘On board’, 12 August) highlights numerous issues related to refugees, but does not offer much in regard to why this country is a magnet for economic migrants. You state that this is a rich country. How can this be the case when government debt is 100 per cent of GDP? Further, when we cannot provide adequate services in healthcare, education and housing, why should we take in migrants who cannot make an immediate contribution to the country’s tax base? The reasons that this country is so attractive are, firstly, the English language, which we can’t do much about. Secondly, we have an easily accessible

How the National Trust’s new leader can restore trust

The National Trust has, thank God, appointed a new chairman. What can he do to restore trust in an organisation that has so catastrophically dumbed down and become so woefully political in recent years? Rene Olivieri is an American-born former publishing executive. He has been interim chairman of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the RSPCA and the Wildlife Trusts and is a board member of the government’s Culture Recovery Fund. His statement on being appointed had a few subtle, encouraging signs that he might stop the dumbing-down, politicising rot. Olivieri said:  ‘As a charity and national institution with a 126-year history, it’s uniquely placed to recognise the debt to the

Best of the Blob: who would be picked for its 1st XV?

Selectors for the Blob have chosen their 1st XV. Fans of The Game sometimes ask, as they do about Barbarians RFC: ‘Who are these people, do they have any supporters and who exactly pays them?’ Well, now we have the answer to at least that first question. Full back: Sir Philip Barton, head of the diplomatic service. Recovering from injuries after a sticky select committee hearing on Afghanistan. Sometimes drops the ball but popular with professionals for telling civil servants not to work weekends or more than eight hours a day owing to dangers of ‘burn-out’. Was holidaying at a family château in the Dordogne while Afghanistan was crumbling. Good

National Trust members fight back

At the National Trust’s annual general meeting last week, the voting was much more unusual than the public will have learnt from media reports. In most resolutions, the numbers voting exceeded 100,000. In past years, the figures have been lower than 40,000. The reason for this high turnout was the controversies of the past 18 months. Motions about the erosion of curatorial expertise and the ill treatment of Trust volunteers would have won easily had not the chairman exercised the right to use the discretionary proxy votes which the Trust’s curious governance permits. Without these, the rebel resolutions would have been more than 15,000 votes ahead. In achieving these results,

In defence of Angela Rayner

On the one occasion when I spent any time with Angela Rayner, she was funny, direct and friendly. We were both on the BBC’s Any Questions? in Alan Partridge territory and dined together beforehand with Sir Vince Cable. She got through a whole evening without identifying me, either privately or on air, as one of ‘a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, absolute pile of banana republic, Etonian piece of scum’ (her chosen words at this week’s party conference fringe meeting). True, I am neither a government minister nor a Conservative (in the Lords I sit as ‘non-affiliated’), but she probably felt I was that sort of person. So, now

I loved prison

Memories for me are like beautifully edited copy: all cleaned up and retaining only the good parts. The wife tells me that I’m quite lucky in choosing to remember just pleasant things, and of course I agree. Actually it’s not really a choice; it is almost automatic. Bad things are tucked away immediately, never to return. I suppose many idiots enjoy such forgetfulness, but then I’d rather be called an idiot than a surly grouch, complaining and finding fault with everything and everyone. Needless to say, I cannot forget Pentonville. Looking back, I recall only fun times among my fellow convicts. There was Warren, the large black man whose appeal

The National Trust has lost the language of architecture

Press officers, breathe easy. This is not another column attacking the National Trust. Actually, I tell a lie. It is. But my complaint isn’t bullying or slavery or LGBTQ+ery or even chocolate Easter eggery. It is more single and specific: the National Trust does not speak architecture. Or if it does, it’s keeping shtum. Since the great May reopening, I’ve dragged my husband around half a dozen National Trust properties, landscapes and gardens (he hardly ever protests, always pays for tea). We’ve done Stourhead, Oxburgh, Ickworth, Lacock, Cobham Woods and Disraeli’s Hughenden Manor. In the gap between lockdowns last year, we did Sissinghurst and Knole. I cannot fault the car

Should trains have mask and non-mask carriages?

In deciding whether or not to wear a mask after 19 July, I am sure Boris Johnson is right that one must consider the feelings of others. But I notice this consideration is argued only one way: those not wearing masks are asked to consult the sensitivities of those wearing them. Should not people who insist on continuing to wear masks also be invited to reflect on whether their behaviour might upset the unmasked? After all, in a culture long committed to showing your face as a mark of trust, covering it is depressing and even intimidating for others. It makes people almost inaudible. Or perhaps the simpler answer on

The National Trust delinquents strike again

The woman sat alone and stony-faced in the passenger seat of the car as it blocked the road. She was wearing a mask, but I could see that she wore the blankly determined expression of someone who thought they had every right to stop where they liked. Sure enough, the National Trust sticker was on the windscreen. The driver’s door had been left open by her husband, and I had watched him get out and walk on to the village green to stand up against a tree and relieve himself. The couple, both in their sixties, had pulled up and parked, for this purpose, in the middle of the road

Charles Moore

‘Fear and bullying’ at the National Trust

Is Winston Marshall — guitarist, banjo player, composer of Mumford & Sons, and father of the west London ‘Nu-Folk’ music that eventually conquered the world — a martyr to the Twitter mob? I find his story more interesting than that. He was trolled earlier this year for tweeting in favour of a book by Andy Ngo about the power of the far-left in the United States. (I haven’t read the book; I gather it is polemical, but in no way fascist.) Because of the difficulties this created for the band, he apologised, but later felt uneasy since he believed he had said nothing wrong. After consulting his fellow band members,

Letters: The case for an NHS card

A new prescription Sir: It is maddening to see the British people being refused face-to-face GP appointments and subjected to a form of health rationing that should have ended decades ago (‘Dr No’, 12 June). In Australia a Labour government solved the problem in 1975 by separating payment for healthcare from provision of healthcare. The government gave everyone a Medicare card that could be presented to any accredited healthcare provider. The provider would be paid at a set rate per procedure and send the bill to the government. The result is a truly responsive healthcare system where the patient comes first, is treated with respect and courted by a competitive

Charles Moore

Why the BBC believed Martin Bashir

If it is true, as Lords Hall and Birt told a Commons committee this week, that Martin Bashir succeeded in duping all the five top BBC executives involved about the forged invoices by which he convinced Diana, Princess of Wales of the establishment’s conspiracy against her, then those executives must be very, very unworldly people. I am reluctant to believe that of them. There must be a different explanation, one with which, as an ex-editor, I have some sneaking sympathy. The interview got the BBC a wonderful story, so when trouble started shortly afterwards, that trouble had to be smoothed away. The problem was not only the BBC’s reputation, but

Letters: In defence of the National Trust

Trust us Sir: I refute Charles Moore’s assertions (‘Broken Trust’, 5 June) that the National Trust frowns on local expertise, ignores its members and is prone to ideological zealotry. National Trust houses are historic treasures of national importance and we are very proud to care for them. Before the pandemic, the Trust was spending three times more on its houses than on coast and countryside. Covid has caused regrettable staff reductions, but we still have more curatorial posts than we did several years ago. This is hardly an organisation ‘attacking the very idea of country houses’. The report looking at links with slavery and colonialism was not driven by ideology,

The crisis at the heart of the National Trust

When Tim Parker announced his resignation as chairman of the National Trust last week, it was a first. Since it was founded in 1895, the Trust has endured many controversies, but until now the shared acceptance of its founding purposes has seen it through. The very first meeting proposed a body ‘for the holding of lands of natural beauty and sites and houses of historic interest to be preserved intact for the nation’s use and enjoyment’. The National Trust continued thus ever since, enforced by Acts of Parliament. This unity of purpose as a conservation organisation enabled it to become the owner of more than 600,000 acres of land and

The first step towards restoring the National Trust

It is poetically fitting that the resignation of the chairman of the National Trust, Tim Parker, was announced on the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. The collective mistakes that have so damaged the Trust’s reputation were bound up in the rush of many institutions to ‘take the knee’, metaphorically and literally. Immensely delicate questions about how best to study the connections of Trust properties with slavery and (ill-chosen word) ‘colonialism’ were rushed and politicised. The view inevitably spread that the Trust now bears an animus towards the past whose glorious buildings and landscapes it is supposed to protect so that millions may enjoy them. That animus is

‘Religious literacy’ rules risk gagging the press

There should be more ‘religious literacy’. So says the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Religion in the Media, chaired by Yasmin Qureshi MP. Amen to that. Religious ignorance is now virtually universal, so errors appear in news stories every day. But the APPG report seems less concerned with facts, more with attitudes. It wants news to concentrate more on ‘lived experience’, less on doctrine and ritual; it asserts that ‘religious literacy also incorporates respect for religion and belief as a valid source of guidance and knowledge to the majority of the world’s inhabitants’. The report’s remedies include ‘a formalised, coordinated approach to the education of journalists’, making ‘religious literacy training’ compulsory.

The difference between private and public conversation

Like almost everyone else writing on the subject, I have no idea whether Boris Johnson told colleagues in October that he would rather ‘let the bodies pile high in their thousands’ than have another lockdown. When such words are reported, they are given to journalists ‘on lobby terms’ and are therefore unattributable. But surely the report should indicate from which point of view they come. In this case, the BBC cites ‘sources familiar with the conversation’, a phrase which gives it permission, it thinks, to run headlines like ‘Boris Johnson’s “bodies pile high” comments prompt criticism’, as if it knows that the Prime Minister definitely spoke those words. Surely licence-fee

The tragic demise of the National Trust

And so the National Trust’s crazed attack on its own properties goes blazing on. Their latest self-hating wheeze is to get children to write poems attacking Britain’s history. One hundred primary school pupils have been taken around the Trust’s country houses before they compose poems about the former owners’ connections with the British Empire. It’s all part of the Trust’s ‘Colonial Countryside’ project, which since 2018 has been highlighting ties between the Trust’s houses and imperialism. And so, at lovely Charlecote Park, Warwickshire, one child wrote this about the jewelled dress sword and scabbard looted from Lucknow during the Indian mutiny of 1857: ‘Stolen by the English; a freedom sword, a