National trust

When will the National Trust realise its big mistake?

The National Trust still doesn’t get it. It still doesn’t understand why so many of its members hate the politicisation and catastrophic dumbing-down of an institution they once revered. Hilary McGrady, the Trust’s Director-General, has just defended the Trust’s report on colonialism and slavery. The report, released last September, looked into the colonial or slavery links of its properties, including Winston Churchill’s Chartwell home and William Wordsworth’s house. McGrady said the Trust should ‘make sure we tell all of the stories about all of our properties’. That’s the problem. The Trust isn’t telling all of the stories these days. For the past ten years, it has been on a relentless, one-sided

The distortion of British history

The British Museum has announced the appointment of a curator to study the history of its own collections. On the face of it, nothing could be more anodyne. The history of collecting has been a fashionable topic in academic circles for decades. What sort of people collected, why, and how, tells us much about their cultural assumptions and their ways of seeing the world. It would be mildly surprising that the BM has been so slow to catch on – except that there seems more to it than scholarly pursuit of knowledge. While the research will indeed cover ‘wider patterns’ of collecting, the Museum announced that it is ‘likely that

Where would politics be without fighting talk?

‘Tencent Wykeham’ has a ring to it. It captures how easily British universities can be bought. It is the new name for what was until now the Wykeham Professorship of Physics at New College, Oxford, now acquired by the huge Chinese techno-conglomerate Tencent for £700,000. William of Wykeham founded New College and Winchester in the 14th century. ‘Tencent Winchester’ next? The problem, which Oxford seems to ignore, is that Tencent acts for the national security interests of the Chinese Communist party. It propagandises too: for Xi Jinping’s address to the 19th Party Congress in 2017, it brought out a mobile game called ‘Clap for Xi Jinping: An Awesome Speech’. Our

Lockdowns can destroy the lives they’re intended to protect

Some Leavers are perturbed that Lord Frost was suddenly stood down as the next National Security Adviser. This anxiety may be misplaced. If he gets the necessary authority in No. 10, his new job of making our European policy fit with our entire foreign policy and making both serve a sovereign nation will be just what is needed. More discouraging, though, is his replacement choice at the NSC. Sir Stephen Lovegrove comes from the Ministry of Defence but is more renowned for tweeting the hashtag of Black Lives Matter and getting generals into rainbow lanyards than for helping the armed services adjust to war in the information age. His appointment

Letters: Don’t overlook the Trumpisms

Canterbury tales Sir: Having opened my copy of The Spectator upon arrival in the post, I read your article ‘Welby’s gatekeeper’ with interest (23 January). I was surprised and humbled to discover how much power and influence I have over the political engagement of the Archbishop. Let there be no doubt that the Archbishop sets his own agenda. More fundamentally and crucially, I was disappointed to see victims of abuse and wider issues relating to safeguarding being brought in to play in a politically focused piece about the workings of Lambeth Palace. It is a matter of public record that the Archbishop and his team are ready to meet with

Who volunteers to be lectured by children?

The screenwriter Russell T. Davies has said that only gay actors should be cast in gay parts, believing this leads to greater authenticity. The obvious question here is how would Russell know who is gay and who is not gay when he comes to casting? It is not always obvious, surely. Do all gay actors who attend casting sessions enter the room humming hits from Mamma Mia! before enthusing over the decor? Perhaps Russell just guesses, like I do when I’m watching the BBC weathermen flouncing around. The other obvious question is that if it’s authenticity you’re after, surely gay men must never be cast in straight roles? For reasons

Why is the National Trust so determined to lecture its members?

Can the National Trust dumb down any further? Its latest crazed venture, the Colonial Countryside project, is ‘a child-led history and writing project’, working with 100 primary school pupils, 16 historians and ten commissioned writers. The aim is to ensure that ‘robustly researched stories of empire are communicated’. So here comes another highly politicised scheme – in the light of its disastrous LGBTQ campaign, forcing volunteers to wear rainbow badges, and outing the owner of one of its great houses, Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, who bequeathed Felbrigg Hall to the Trust. As Charles Moore writes in his Telegraph column this week, the experts on the colonial project are of a predictable,

Letters: How Nicola Sturgeon outdoes Boris

Ask the English Sir: Toby Young rightly criticises the juvenile posturing of the devolved governments of the Union over Covid-19 (No sacred cows, 24 October). Each of these governments has implemented extreme lockdown measures without consideration of their cost to the taxpayer. As 90 per cent of British taxpayers are English, this represents an egregious example of ‘taxation without representation’. In contrast, I watched the Commons announcement of a Tier 3 lockdown in the north of England, which was followed by an opposition reply, and then a reply from the SNP. Surely I wasn’t the only Englishman to ask: ‘What’s it got to do with them?’ Toby Young is right

Trump tried to bribe my daughter-in-law

You have to give it to Donald Trump: he never stops trying. In a letter dated 25 September, he wrote to our daughter-in-law, who is an American citizen living in Britain (‘United Kingdom Englan’, it said on the envelope) to tell her he was giving her $1,700 under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act ‘which I proudly signed into law’. It is a pretty impressive bribe, and it pays out, I believe, to every American who earns less than $50,000 a year. In Hannah’s case, however, it might not work for the President at the coming poll. In the National Trust’s recent interim report, ‘Addressing our histories of

The BBC can’t resist speculating on the science

In this column (26 September), I pointed out that the National Trust’s new ‘Gazetteer’ of its 93 properties linked with slavery and ‘colonialism’ was not so much a scholarly documentation as ‘a charge sheet and a hit list’. Once the organisation entrusted with the care of a building denigrates that building’s most famous occupants, logic suggests it will care for the building less well than for that of an occupant it admires. This logic is already starting to work through. The National Trust owns Thomas Carlyle’s house in Chelsea, but now it has closed it ‘until further notice’, whereas all the other small houses of the Trust in London will

Letters: The sorry state of BBC sport

Misplaced Trust Sir: Charles Moore is as ever bang on target (The Spectator’s Notes, 26 September). National Trust members have had a raw deal this year, but so have many loyal staff and volunteers. It should not surprise any visitor to a National Trust property that a very rich person built it and lived there. No doubt they achieved great financial wealth by being quick-witted, entrepreneurial and above all ruthless in their dealing. They likely exploited everyone irrespective of race or creed. How many mill owners sent ‘boys’ up chimneys, down mines and into the machinery to clear blockages? The National Trust is a curator of buildings, artefacts and estates.

In praise of fly-tipping

The pile of fly-tipping was dumped in the night as usual, right against the five bar gate. I arrived to feed the horses and found seven fridges and a pile of mattresses blocking the entrance to the field. I raised my eyes to heaven and said: ‘Thank you, God!’ The rotting mattresses and busted, filthy fridges, lying with their doors open, blocked almost the entire pull-in, the field gate and the stile. I believe Nicholas van Hoogstraten once piled up a load of old fridges to block walkers from looking into his garden from a footpath. Well, maybe I know how he felt. No rambler, no matter how many National

The National Trust’s shameful manifesto

The National Trust has brought out its ‘Interim Report’, with the clumsy title ‘Addressing our histories of colonialism and historic slavery’. Such use of the word ‘histories’, as opposed to ‘history’, is an alert that a woke view is coming your way. Like ‘diversity’ and ‘multiple narratives’ (also deployed in the report), it suggests plurality but imposes uniformity. The aim is to be ‘historically accurate and academically robust’. According to John Orna-Ornstein, the Trust’s director of culture and engagement, ‘We’re not here to pass judgment on the past’. It is not true, as the BBC reported, that the Trust has ‘revealed’ that 93 of its properties are linked to slavery

Beware cars with National Trust stickers

Always the National Trust sticker. It feels like every time a car parks across the gateway to my horses’ field there is a National Trust sticker in the windscreen. Sometimes there are several stickers in varied colours, the permits of different years, one above the other, like a star rating system for lefties. A few weeks ago, a shiny black car with five National Trust stickers parked sideways on, blocking not only the gateway but the stile beside it so people couldn’t access the footpath. When I caught up with the two men who got out of the car, asking them to please go back and move, they were, in

The Spectator’s Notes | 26 April 2018

Hilary McGrady, the new director-general of the National Trust, sent me (and no doubt other journalists) a nice email hoping we can meet. I wish her well, and whenever I find myself criticising the Trust, I am conscious of the fact that, compared with its equivalents abroad, it is a miracle. But I was a bit irritated by her first interview, with the BBC: ‘I want to reach out to more people… The days of walking into one of our beautiful houses and saying a family lived here, that’s not going to do it.’ Obviously, any organisation offering public benefit wishes it to reach as many people as is sensibly

The White Cliffs of Dover, the National Trust, and a very public appeal

The White Cliffs of Dover are, arguably, one of Britain’s most famous sights – immortalised of course by Dame Vera Lynn. So no wonder, then, that when the National Trust decided to launch a fundraising campaign to help them raise £1 million to secure a 700,000 square metre area of land on top of the cliffs, Dame Vera was chosen as the person to front the campaign. The National Trust already owns just under a mile of the White Cliffs of Dover, between the South Foreland lighthouse and Langdon Cliffs, which they bought in 2012. But at the beginning of September, after learning that the landowner of the area directly

The Spectator’s Notes | 28 September 2017

You can see why Theresa May said in Florence that the British wished the European Union well in its plans for greater integration, while choosing a different path ourselves. There is no point in causing antagonism over what we cannot prevent. But in fact greater European integration will do great harm to all Europeans, including us. The rise of AfD in the German elections was caused almost entirely by Mrs Merkel’s extraordinary decision to admit a million Middle Eastern migrants in a year. The spread of the Schengen area — proposed by Jean-Claude Juncker — combined with recrudescent migrant pressure can only confirm freedom of movement as the impossible issue

The Spectator Podcast: Can you forgive her?

On this week’s Spectator Podcast, we ask whether Theresa May can be absolved by her party and the public. We’ll also be looking at the controversial practice of trail hunting, and considering how we might enjoy better lunches at our desks. First up, since blowing her party’s majority with an unnecessary snap election, Theresa May has appeared to be on borrowed time. But with tricky Brexit negotiations ongoing, could she offer the stability the Tories so desperately crave? And can her colleagues forgive her for a calamitous campaign? Isabel Hardman asks these questions in the magazine this week, and she joins the podcast along with Fraser Nelson. As Isabel writes: “Refreshed from walking in the Alps,

The gay movement’s righteous fury belongs in the past

The Pride Wars are now a fixed feature of LGBT politics. Lefties attack the event for being too corporate and apolitical. Tories, not always made welcome by other marchers, complain it’s too political and not inclusive of ideological diversity. You could perform a few stonings beside the Queers for Palestine stall and still be more welcome than Jews waving Stars of David. Intolerance never went away, it just rebranded as intersectionality. Emma Little-Pengelly, the MP for Belfast South, sent a tweet to coincide with Belfast Pride on Saturday: ‘Best wishes to all my friends & constituents celebrating today – all should be able to live a proud life free from

The National Trust could teach Theresa May and the Tories a thing or two

What drove Theresa May to break off from a trade trip to the Middle East to chuck a half-brick at the National Trust over some Easter bunnies? Maybe Dame Helen Ghosh, the Trust’s Director General, knows. When the two worked together at the Home Office, they got along like a house on fire: there were flames, some screaming and eventually someone (Dame Helen, as it happens) left the building through a window. Given that history, it’s probably unwise to suggest that Mrs May might learn something from Dame Helen and the Trust instead of battering them, but I’ll give it a go anyway. The lesson is about members. The Trust