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Keir Starmer defends National Trust against government 'woke' attacks as he vows to create 'society of service'
22 January 2024, 09:00 | Updated: 22 January 2024, 12:57
Sir Keir Starmer accused the government of attacking the "woke" National Trust, as he pledged to build a British "society of service" if elected to Downing Street.
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Giving a speech in London Sir Keir will said that he would support Britain's charities and civic institutions as Prime Minister, providing "a new focus on those who build the bonds that connect us, the communities that nurture us, the institutions that support families and provide a bridge between the state and the market".
He added: "In a society of service, doing the right thing will be rewarded. Working hard will pay off for people. And building caring, compassionate communities will make our country stronger, more prosperous, fairer for everyone."
Speaking at the Civil Society Summit, he told an audience of religious, charity and community leaders that they are "the glue that bridge the gaps" in a "frayed" social fabric.
Callers debate whether National Trust should display plaques highlighting slavery links
The National Trust has hit the headlines recently for speaking out on political issues such as slavery and the environment, as well as accusations of "dumbing down" some displays.
The chairman, René Olivieri, said last year that it was time for the charity to "embrace a wider range of viewpoints" amid 'uncomfortable' conversations about Britain's heritage.
Then-Conservative party deputy chairman Lee Anderson, hit out at the organisation last year, saying: "Brits expect the National Trust to protect our heritage, not lecture them on net zero." Several other Tory MPs also attacked the National Trust.
Sir Keir said that the government had "managed to demean" the National Trust, instead of working with them to help more people "learn about — and celebrate — our culture and our history".
He said: "In its desperation to cling onto power, at all costs, the Tory party is trying to find woke agendas in the very civic institutions they once regarded with respect.
"Let me tell you, waging a war on the proud spirit of service in this country isn’t leadership. It’s desperate. It’s divisive. It’s damaging.
"It comes to something when the Tories are at war with the National Trust. That’s what happens when politics of self-preservation prevail over commitment to service."
Sir Keir said that the government's rhetoric has "helped demonise" the National Trust and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. He added: "That's what happens when politics of self-preservation prevail over commitment to service".
Sir Keir added that the government "is trying to find woke agendas in the very civic institutions they once regarded with respect.
"Let me tell you, waging a war on the proud spirit of service in this country isn't leadership. It's desperate. It's divisive. It's damaging."
Sir Keir also argued that individualism has "run rampant" under successive Conservative governments.
The Labour leader added that despite former prime minister David Cameron talking about "the 'big society'" as he rose to power in 2010, "when austerity kicked in we ended up with the 'poor society'".
Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden said in response: "Once again Labour are sniping from the sidelines without putting forward any serious plan. Keir Starmer cannot say what he would do differently because he has no plan."