Will Radical Green Agenda Lead To Split Of The National Trust?

  • Date: 12/08/16
  • Richard Morrison, The Times

If Dame Helen Ghosh’s management of her organisation were exemplary, her thoughts on how humanity should manage the planet might be more welcome. The veteran historian and curator Sir Roy Strong, an indefatigable critic of what he sees as the trust’s “relentless push downward”, suggests splitting the organisation in two.

Is she accident prone or publicity hungry? Rescuing a great institution from irrelevance or making it a soapbox for trendy causes? Right or wrong?

I’m talking about Dame Helen Ghosh, the director-general of the National Trust, whose urge to give the world the benefit of her views on everything from climate change to housebuilding to farming techniques to renewable energy appears indefatigable. Or as Lord Vinson put it in a letter to The Times this week, “Are there no restraints on Dame Helen Ghosh from trumpeting personal opinions with which many members may not agree?”

I imagine that Ghosh won’t be too upset to have rattled the cage of an 85-year-old industrialist who puts money into a think tank intent on belittling the whole notion of climate change. Quite the opposite. A former permanent secretary at the Home Office (where she served under Theresa May), she seems to be revelling in her new-found licence to speak out on any issue that takes her fancy.

Even so, Vinson’s letter must have struck a chord with many of the National Trust’s 4½ million members. Most pay their £63 annual fee because the organisation looks after hundreds of stately homes and glorious landscapes that they enjoy visiting, not because they want to bankroll an environmental lobby-group.

Yet Ghosh’s opinions keep on coming. Last week she gave us her six-point battle plan for dealing with Britain’s farmers after Brexit — which boils down to withdrawing all subsidies unless they sign up to a radical environmentalist agenda in which the first priority seems to be protecting “wildflowers, bees and butterflies”.

A few months ago the bee in her bonnet was climate change, which she said was a legitimate concern of the trust because bits of its land are “falling into the sea”. She announced a ten-year plan to “nurse the natural environment back to health and reverse the alarming decline in wildlife”. Quite an agenda for an organisation whose remit doesn’t even extend to Scotland, let alone China.

She also had to clarify her views on fracking and wind farms, claiming that journalists were printing “selective quotes”. Well, obviously they are. So thick and fast is the splatter of Ghosh-babble that you have to be selective.

If Ghosh’s management of her organisation were exemplary, her views on how humanity should manage the planet might be more welcome. However, a series of embarrassing blips have marred her four years in charge. Two years ago it was revealed that, despite having an income of about £500 million and giving its top officials salaries well over £150,000, the trust was paying 2,000 of its 12,000 staff less than the living wage — which was then £7.85 an hour. […]

The veteran historian and curator Sir Roy Strong, an indefatigable critic of what he sees as the trust’s “relentless push downward”, suggests splitting the organisation in two. The great collection of stately homes and their gardens could be entrusted to someone with a grasp of art and architectural history and a flair for promoting their glories without trivialising them. Meanwhile, Ghosh would be left with the landscapes, woodlands and coastlines, giving her a stronger mandate for speaking out on environmental matters.

Full story

see also:

* National Trust Blames Climate Change For Its Crumbling Homes

* Climate Change “Biggest Threat” To National Trust



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