National Trust chairman steps down amid backlash over 'woke' agenda

26 May 2021, 09:24

Tim Parker is due to step down as chairman of the National Trust
Tim Parker is due to step down as chairman of the National Trust. Picture: National Trust/Jake Eastham

By Will Taylor

The National Trust's chairman Tim Parker has stepped down amid a reported bid to oust him amid accusations the charity was pursuing a "woke" agenda.

Mr Parker, who has been in his post for nearly seven years, came under fire after a trust report outlined links between 93 of the group's properties and slavery and colonialism.

It led to accusations of "wokeism", sparking an angry backlash from politicians and pundits, and a reported motion of no confidence bid at the trust's AGM.

Mr Parker has previously stressed the importance of being anti-racist and said the organisation should be clearer about historic sources of wealth.

"The past 15 months, since the first Covid 19 lockdown, have been exceptionally challenging for everyone, including the National Trust," he said in a statement on Tuesday, which confirmed he announced his resignation to trustees on May 18.

"I thank everyone, not least the many thousands of volunteers, for their fantastic work during these difficult times and I am proud that, because of that work, we are now well on track for a full recovery and we can get on with our fundamental task, which is conservation work across our houses, landscapes and collections.

Read more: Callers debate whether National Trust should display plaques highlighting slavery links

"It has been an immense privilege to serve the trust for seven years as chair and, as we emerge from the pandemic, the time is now right for the search to begin for my successor."

Alongside accusations that the National Trust was becoming "woke" under Mr Parker, the group was criticised last year when it said it would have to cut 1,200 roles during the pandemic to save money.

The report, which the trust said was designed to ensure links to colonialism and slavery were "properly represented, shared and interpreted", came as Mr Parker told members he wanted the organisation to be clearer and more transparent about historic sources of wealth.

The trust will now begin searching for a new chairman, its most senior of 50,000 volunteers, and a role which is not paid.

Hilary McGrady, Director General of the National Trust, said: "We are deeply grateful for the time, energy and passion Tim has brought to the role of chair.

"Under his guidance our charity has grown in strength and capability. Its membership has grown from 4.2 million in 2014 to nearly 6 million at the start of the pandemic, and we have managed more than £900m worth of conservation projects during Tim's tenure.

"He leaves us in a strong position, despite the challenges the pandemic has brought. It is a matter of huge gratitude and pride that the places in our care are reopening to visitors."