United Kingdom

National Trust hires Vote Leave boss to 'de-woke-ify' itself

A strategic advisory firm headed by a former-Vote Leave boss has been hired by the National Trust in a bid to 'de-woke-ify' itself.

The Trust was accused of 'woke virtue signalling' after it published a 115-page report on several of its properties links to colonialism and slavery earlier this year.

Members threatened to cancel their subscriptions in protest as several accused the charity of  jumping on the Black Lives Matter bandwagon.

In an apparent bid to save face, the Trust has hired strategic advisory firm Hanbury Strategy for fee understood to be worth tens of thousands of pounds.

The firm's 'about us page' on its website states: 'The world is changing. We can help you understand it, navigate it, shape it'.

A strategic advisory firm headed by former-Vote Leave communications boss Paul Stephenson (left) and David Cameron's director of strategy Ameet Gill (right) has been hired by the 'out of touch' National Trust in a bid to 'de-woke-ify' itself

The Trust (file image) was accused of 'woke virtue signalling' after it published a 115-page report on several of its properties links to colonialism and slavery earlier this year

University students want the word 'black' banned if it symbolises 'negative situations'

Students at the University of Manchester want the word black banned if it connotes 'negative situations'. 

Students want their lecturers to stop using phrases such as 'black sheep', 'blackmail' and 'black market'.

 A report called for by the University's East African, Sudanese, Nigerian and Natural Hair said using black as an adjective is steeped in colonial history, The Sunday Telegraph reports.

They say the word 'black' is 'linguistically and metaphorically associated with negative situations', and 'used for bad and unsavoury situations'.

The use of 'black sheep' in the traditional nursery rhyme likely came from black wool being less sought-after.

And blackmail came from Scottish border raiders between the 13th and 17th centuries who would demand payments from their victims.

The group's co-founders are the Vote Leave campaign's former communications director Paul Stephenson and David Cameron's director of strategy Ameet Gill.

Its website states it works 'at the intersection of business and politics' and reads: 'Whether you're an investor who wants to measure political risk, a CEO facing a difficult communications challenge, or a political leader who wants to better understand public opinion, we bring unparalleled experience to your most complex and challenging problems'.

Reacting to the appointment of advisers at the Trust, a Conservative MP - who asked not to be named - told The Sunday Telegraph: 'It's clear that the clueless National Trust leadership has totally lost touch with its own membership.

'That they've got to hire premier-league outside help just to de-woke-ify themselves shows just what a hole they're in.'

A National Trust spokesperson said: 'The National Trust cares for many hundreds of places and collections, welcomes millions of visitors every year, and communicates with a huge range of stakeholders and audiences.

'To be as effective as possible we sometimes need extra support from external organisations and agencies.

'All spending decisions go through a rigorous procurement process to ensure best value for money and long term benefit to the organisation.'

The head of the Charity Commission this week said the National Trust should avoid being dragged into culture wars about 'wokedom' because they risk damaging the entire sector, the head of the Charity Commission has said.

The intervention by Baroness Stowell of Beeston follows the report in last week's Mail on Sunday about a group of more than 25 MPs who called for the commission to withdraw the trust's charitable status because it had committed to 'attacking Britain's heritage'.

People took to Facebook and Twitter to slam National Trust for their colonial and slavery report in September

The Common Sense Group called for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to intervene after the trust published a review of the colonial links of some of its properties, including Chartwell, Winston Churchill's former home in Kent. 

The 115-page report gives extensive history and details shedding light on the links they have identified between 93 properties under their guardianship and colonialism and the slave trade.

Reasons behind properties' inclusion on the list range from being owned by families who also owned plantations to more distant links such as Rudyard Kipling's home being included because 'the British Empire was a central theme and context of his literary output'.

The Trust said the year-long audit was ordered before the Black Lives Matters protests, which saw a statue of Edward Colston toppled from a plinth and thrown into a harbour in Bristol because of his role in the city's slave trade.

Charities such as the National Trust should avoid being dragged into culture wars about 'wokedom' because they risk damaging the entire sector, said Baroness Stowell (pictured)

Baroness Stowell, the commission's chairwoman, today urges charities not to be drawn into rows about 'woke' revisionism – particularly given the devastation wrought on the sector by the Covid-19 pandemic.

'If you want to improve lives and strengthen communities through charity, you need to leave party politics and the culture wars out of it,' she writes.

'Whoever is tempted to use charities as another front on which to wage broader political struggles should be careful. 

The Common Sense Group called for Prime Minister to intervene after trust published review of the colonial links of some of its properties (pictured: Winston Churchill) 

Many people seek out charities as an antidote to politics, not a continuation of it, and these people have the right to be heard too.'

Baroness Stowell adds that charities 'need all the support they can get to recover from the pandemic and to play their full part in helping the country to do the same. 

Now would be the worst possible moment to jeopardise that goodwill by getting drawn into the culture wars'.

The commission is investigating the trust after it published a 115-page report on 'Connections Between Colonialism And Properties Now In The Care Of The National Trust, Including Links With Historic Slavery'.

The review of the colonial links of some of its properties included Chartwell, Winston Churchill's former home in Kent (pictured) 

Sir John Hayes, who leads the Common Sense Group, said the MPs had written to Mr Johnson because 'the purpose of those who are custodians of our heritage is to protect and promote it, not to reinterpret or rewrite history'.

He added: 'It may be that some of these people are artless and some are sinister, but assuming that most of it is a kind of senselessness, they have to understand that all we are now is a product of all that has gone before: good, bad and ugly.

'To attempt to sanitise history is to not only disown all the heroes and heritage it is their mission to guard implicitly, but it is also to deny the reality of what Britain is, and who Britons are.'

The MPs also criticised 'wokery' at museums – such as the National Maritime Museum, which has been re-evaluating Admiral Nelson's status as a national hero.

The National Trust insists that exploring the history of the places it looks after sits within its charitable objectives.

News of the National Trust's strategy change comes as Transport for London faces calls to rename Maryland railway station over fears of 'offensive' links to a local slave owner who had plantations in North America.

Newham councillors have called for TfL to review the name  of the east London station over alleged links to slavery during a discussion over electoral ward names in the borough.

But academics have questioned whether the origins of Maryland station's name is even linked to slavery. 

Instead, they argue that the most likely origin of 'Maryland' is in fact the Old English word 'mære', meaning boundary. 

News of the National Trust's strategy change comes as Transport for London faces calls to rename Maryland railway station over fears of 'offensive' links to a local slave owner who had plantations in North America

Transport for London has been urged to rename Maryland railway station (pictured) in the capital over fears of 'offensive' links to a local slave owner with plantations in the US

If the move is approved by TfL, it could lead to other rail and underground stations in the capital to have their names changed.

Stations such as Elephant and Castle, East India and Canning Town have been highlighted for their past associations with the slave trade.  

Maryland, which is on the Great Eastern Main Line, was allegedly given as the station's name through US slave trader Robert Lee, whose family owned tobacco plantations in the Mid-Atlantic state.

Lee, who had emigrated to Virginia around 1640 and invested in large-scale slavery, made several voyages to England and he purchased property in Stratford. 

He is said to have brought the name Maryland from his estates in Virginia. 

The name Maryland has now been proposed as a new ward in Newham borough, but Labour councillors have said it could cause 'deep disappointment' to Afro-Caribbean residents, reported The Telegraph. The alternative name New Town has been put forward instead. 

If the move is approved by TfL, it could lead to other rail and underground stations in the capital to have their names changed.

But retired professor Ged Martin argues that the name is not derived from the merchant. 

In an essay, he says that Lee, who only owned property in Stratford High Street, did not have a 'profound connection sufficient to impose any place-name on the district'. 

Mr Martin also argues that the merchant's economic interests were almost entirely in Virginia rather than Maryland. As a colonial politician, Lee did not always agree with Marylanders.   

The retired professor instead argues that the name Maryland comes from the Old English word for boundaries. It refers to the area's position close to West Ham, Wanstead and East Ham.  

A Newham council report stated that councillors will discuss renaming the station with TfL. 

The name Maryland has now been proposed as a new ward in Newham borough council (pictured)

Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz said the Maryland name was a 'disservice to the diversity of the borough'. 

'Anything that has some connection to slavery does offend some of us,' said Labour's Newham councillor Anthony McAlmont. 

A boundary commission report reads: 'We received suggestions from the Council and a resident that Maryland ward should be renamed New Town because of the name's possible links to a prominent figure in the colonial governments of North America.'

It does however add: 'Other evidence casts doubt on the origins of the name and points to earlier place name derivations.

'The Council acknowledges that there is uncertainty about the matter.'

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