The National Trust chairman Tim Parker is stepping down after expressing concerns that the charity is becoming too “woke”.
Parker has handed in his resignation after almost seven years as the National Trust chairman, and will end his term in October.
It comes as a rebel group of members set out plans to force him out of this year’s annual general meeting (AGM) after sharing their concerns about the Trust’s leadership.
In 2020, Parker said he hoped the Trust was not being taken over by “woke folk” and commented that the Trust had not become political or part of the Black Lives Matter movement.
A damning motion - which reportedly would be discussed at the AGM and backed by 50 members - was going to ask for Parker’s resignation.
It followed a controversial report last year into the Trust’s houses and the links between slavery.
Restore Trust, which has 300 members, was set up following the backlash as members claimed it was a one-sided view of history.
So who is the National Trust’s chairman Tim Parker and why is he resigning over the ‘woke’ agenda?
Who is Tim Parker?
Parker, who is also chairman of The Post Office, had served two full three-year terms as chair of the National Trust.
His final term had been due to end in 2020, but a third term was agreed to provide stability during the pandemic.
He informed trustees of his intention to step down from the position of chairman the day after the Trust’s houses reopened to the public on May 17, when Covid restrictions eased.
Parker said: “The past 15 months, since the first Covid lockdown, have been exceptionally challenging for everyone, including the National Trust.
“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.
“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.”
Why is Tim Parker resigning?
The Telegraph has reported that Parker’s resignation comes as members’ morale hit rock bottom during the pandemic, after the National Trust report into the UK’s colonial and slavery past.
This report - which detailed the connections between 93 of the historic places in their care and colonialism and historic slavery - prompted a Charity Commission investigation, and divided opinions among volunteers.
The National Trust suffered nearly 1,300 job losses in 2020 as it sought to save £100 million of annual costs because of Covid.
It closed its historic houses, cafes, shops and even gardens and car parks at the height of lockdown.
In a virtual meeting last November, Parker came under fire after he described the Black Lives Matter campaign as a "human rights movement with no party-political affiliations" in a letter to a member.
Speaking at the meeting he said "we are not members of BLM".
He added that he hoped members would see "that in no way the Trust has become a political organisation that has been taken over by a bunch of woke folk or anything of that nature".
The motion reportedly to be brought against Parker at this year’s AGM, which has not yet been published, said: “The National Trust leadership has frequently been out of step with its members and supporters over recent years.
“Unnecessary controversies have threatened to undermine the charity’s simple duty to promote public enjoyment of buildings, places and chattels under its protection.
“As a result, morale among volunteers and members is at an all-time low and the National Trust has suffered, both financially and reputationally.
“The National Trust needs to regain the nation’s confidence, and will need fresh leadership to achieve this.”
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 six million at the start of the pandemic, and we have managed more than £900 million-worth of conservation projects during Tim’s tenure.
“He leaves us in a strong position, despite the challenges the pandemic has brought.”
The new appointment to the position of National Trust chair, which is unremunerated, will be made by the National Trust Council.