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The members of the Common Sense group of Tory MPs chaired by former minister Sir John Hayes have written to culture secretary Oliver Dowden in the wake of a report carried out by the organisation linking more than 100 properties with slavery and colonial history.
Among the historic houses identified was Churchill’s home Chartwell in Kent because of his opposition to independence for India.
The document was produced on the back of attempts to destroy British heritage and pull down statues as part of the controversial Black Lives Matter movement which also wants to defund the police.
Tarnya Cooper, the Trust’s curatorial and collections director, warned that the report was just the beginning of work to understand the links with colonialism.
She said it wanted to begin to “integrate that into our narrative. It is also to raise awareness about the complexity of history in relation to place.”
She added: “In the past we’ve told probably really straightforward stories, possibly from one particular direction. We want to be able to tell more nuanced stories so that we can provide open, honest, accurate and fair assessments of places without feeling anxiety that ‘Gosh … is that the right thing to be saying?’ In some ways the report is to provide greater confidence about talking about history.”
But the move has infuriated Tory MPs who argue that the National Trust has abandoned its role of protecting British heritage and adopted a “politically correct” agenda.
In a statement, 12 MPs said: “From its inception, the National Trust has played an important part in protecting our nation’s heritage, enjoying widespread support in this endeavour. Over 125 years since its foundation, the Trust’s work has been of immense value.
“So, it is with sadness that patriots now witness its decline into politically correct prejudice, exemplified by the decision taken by the Trust’s elite ruling clique to explicitly link a number of their properties to slavery and colonialism, including Chartwell, the family home of one of Britain’s greatest sons, Winston Churchill. Leaving aside the crass assumption that the entirety of Britain’s colonial past is intrinsically linked to slavery, the offence caused by tarnishing the reputation of our wartime hero must and will not go unchallenged.
“We have therefore written to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, requesting that he review all outstanding funding applications to public bodies submitted by the National Trust until such time as they have publicly apologised for smearing the good name of our nation’s past heroes and for the offence they’ve caused to patriotic Britons, including numerous National Trust members.”
Writing for the Express, Sir John added: “A tiny, unrepresentative clique have infiltrated and stolen institutions – scuppering in just a few years the age old communal work and sacrifice of those who stood on the shoulders of giants. For 125 years, the National Trust has played an important part in protecting our nation’s heritage. Now, the decision by its elitist directors to tarnish the reputation of Winston Churchill, one of Britain’s greatest sons, by explicitly linking Chartwell, his family home, to slavery, must and will not go unchallenged.”
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