How people power toppled the National Trust's Prince of Darkness

How people power toppled the National Trust’s Prince of Darkness: GUY ADAMS details how ordinary members rose up against the woke culture that has obsessed the charity

  • Tim Parker is known as ‘Prince of Darkness’ as he sacks thousands of workforce
  • The 65-year-old previously became CEO at Clarks and promptly fired 5k people
  • At Samsonite he dispensed of a third of its staff in his first three years at the helm
  • Mr Parker most recently pulled off his old trick while running the National Trust

Tim Parker is known in the City, where he’s built a £250 million private equity fortune, as ‘the Prince of Darkness’ because he likes to take the reins at major companies — and then sack thousands of the workforce.

Indeed, he owes the nickname to trade unions, who were outraged when he turned up at the headquarters of AA in the early 2000s for a meeting to announce redundancies, driving a spanking black Porsche 911.

It was a similar story at Clarks, the venerable British shoe manufacturer, where the 65-year-old became CEO a few years earlier and promptly fired 5,000 people.

At car firm Kwik Fit, he got rid of 3,000 workers, and the luggage maker Samsonite dispensed of a third of its staff in his first three years at the helm.

Parker most recently pulled off his old trick while running the National Trust, which last year announced that it was kissing goodbye to 1,300 employees, including a quarter of its expert curators. 

Controversy: Tim Parker, pictured above, who announced on Tuesday that he will be stepping down as Chairman of the National Trust, following a troubled six-year reign

How ironic, then, that after such a career this prolific axeman’s latest victim should turn out to be . . . himself.

On Tuesday, Parker announced that he will be stepping down as Chairman of the National Trust, following a troubled six-year reign that has left the famous heritage charity fighting a bitter civil war.

His departure came just five days after the Daily Mail revealed that members furious at the organisation’s ‘woke’ agenda under his leadership had decided to mount a hostile bid to replace him.

A motion of no confidence in Parker was due to be tabled at the Trust’s upcoming AGM, along with three further resolutions designed to wrest the Charity’s levers of power from a metropolitan cabal that has controlled its agenda for years, and was famously described by the art historian Sir Roy Strong as ‘the Blair Government in exile’: a ‘Left-leaning’ group obsessed with ‘ticking the boxes of the disabled, the aged, LGBT and ethnic communities and the rest of it’.

The no-confidence motion was written by Restore Trust, a pressure group formed in the wake of a furious — and at times utterly surreal — dispute over the Charity’s highly controversial decision to blacklist 93 of its 300-odd properties over their alleged links to colonialism and slavery.

Having now tasted blood, the collection of disaffected members, which claims to boast more than 10,000 supporters, is convinced that people power can overcome the wokery and ideological groupthink that has seen the organisation spend recent years drifting from PR crisis to PR crisis.

‘We are delighted that Parker has gone, but it’s only a start,’ said Restore Trust’s founder, Jack Hayward, yesterday. ‘It’s obvious that across the Trust’s senior management there’s a group of very woke, connected people who like to denigrate British history, so we are now going to concentrate on getting rid of them.

‘There is a metropolitan elite dominating the Trust. We know who the culprits are, and they will be our next targets.’

Those now in the firing line include Chief Executive Hilary McGrady and several of her senior employees, along with a majority of the charity’s Board of Trustees, which Restore Trust believe is littered with Left-leaning quango-crats.

To this end, the pressure group has filed a second motion that will force the Trust to properly disclose the remuneration of senior executives.

Rudyard Kipling’s home, Bateman’s in East Sussex, pictured above. Mr Parker’s departure came just five days after the Daily Mail revealed that members furious at the organisation’s ‘woke’ agenda under his leadership had decided to mount a hostile bid to replace him

It notes that 17 employees now trouser six-figure salaries, up from 15 last year — despite that recent round of redundancies — and notes that one senior staffer was recently let go with a £180,000 payoff, which Restore Trust argues is an astronomical sum by the standards of the Charity sector.

A third motion seeks to prevent the alleged dumbing-down that has seen expert curators sacked.

At the same time, leaked internal policy documents have suggested that senior Trust executives are now hostile to its tradition of looking after beautiful and historically significant country houses, which they dubbed an ‘outdated mansion experience’.

The fourth seeks to ban the Trust from requiring volunteers to ‘wear badges, symbols or other items that reflect a political or social viewpoint’.

This motion was inspired by a bizarre controversy that unfolded on Parker’s watch in 2017, when unpaid guides at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk staged a revolt after being ordered to wear rainbow-coloured lanyards and badges to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the legalisation of homosexuality.

‘There’ll be outrage if they ignore grassroots’

Thousands of National Trust volunteers will quit if the charity ignores a grassroots revolt against political correctness, a campaign group warned yesterday.

Restore Trust – which wants to reverse the ‘woke’ agenda – said there would be ‘mass outrage’ if bosses continued to ignore the opinions of ordinary people.

The rebel group, which has more than 10,000 supporters after launching six weeks ago, has tabled a series of motions for this year’s annual general meeting.

National Trust chairman Tim Parker said he was quitting on Tuesday, after the Mail revealed he was facing a no-confidence motion.

The National Trust yesterday said it was not obliged to act upon motions passed as they are ‘not binding’.

But Restore Trust spokesman Jack Hayward warned: ‘There’s a good likelihood thousands of volunteers would resign.’ The National Trust relies on more than 50,000 unpaid workers to look after its properties.

Their anger had been compounded by the Charity’s decision to ‘out’ Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, an intensely private poet and historian who donated the 17th-century property to the Trust after his death in 1969. His alleged homosexuality, kept secret during his lifetime, was detailed in a five-minute film played to visitors and narrated by Stephen Fry.

Around the same time, it emerged that the Trust had decided to ‘rebrand’ Easter egg hunts at several properties as ‘Cadbury’s Egg hunts’ as part of a lucrative sponsorship deal with the food company. The Church of England accused the charity of seeking to ‘airbrush faith’.

It may seem odd that Parker presided over such developments, given that he is (on paper, at least) the sort of ruthless capitalist who would traditionally inhabit the rightward end of the political spectrum.

Indeed, in his ongoing position as Chairman of the Post Office, he recently played a role in one of the most appalling abuses of corporate power of modern times: the jailing of hundreds of innocent postmasters and postmistresses over false allegations of theft.

While his tenure at the business, which began in 2016, post-dates the dodgy convictions (which revolved around a glitch in its Horizon accounting software) he compounded the grief of victims in 2017 by choosing to supported his now-disgraced Chief Executive Paula Vennells when she elected to fight 557 former staff through the Civil courts, using an ultra-aggressive legal strategy.

In a grovelling apology last month, following a Court of Appeal decision to overturn 45 convictions — and after a lengthy campaign by this newspaper — he claimed to be ‘extremely sorry for the impact on the lives of these postmasters and their families that was caused by historical failures’.

But we digress. For despite the sharp-elbowed business career that has brought father-of- four Parker a vast pile in Chelsea, plus a Queen Anne mansion in Hampshire and a holiday home in Majorca, he turns out to have grown up a principled Trotskyist.

At Oxford, he became Chair of the University Labour Club, and after graduating with a degree in PPE he went to work at the Treasury under Denis Healey.

While Parker went on to acquire huge wealth during the Thatcher boom, he retained a keen sense of political correctness that characterises so many of the Left.

Shortly after taking the reins at the Trust, he said in an interview that many of its properties were allegedly built via the exploitation of workers.

Those now in the firing line include Chief Executive Hilary McGrady (pictured above) and several of her senior employees, along with a majority of the charity’s Board of Trustees

‘Everything that required immense amounts of work was built on someone being paid very little by someone who usually had a lot,’ said Parker. ‘They’re all dead. We can’t change that.’

The remarks foreshadowed a more toxic row over slavery and colonialism that went nuclear last year, at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, when the Trust invited teams of schoolchildren to its premises to lecture staff and volunteers about the horrors of the British Empire.

A left-wing academic was then hired to compile a ‘gazetteer’ exposing what she regarded as the links between National Trust properties and either colonialism or slavery.

Littered with errors, it caused outrage when it was published last September, with critics complaining that named and shamed Allan Bank in the Lake District, the former home of William Wordsworth — a lifelong campaigner against slavery — on the spurious grounds that his brother had captained a ship of the East India Company to China.

The document also included Rudyard Kipling (who lived at Bateman’s in East Sussex), because he wrote about the British Empire, and Winston Churchill (his country home is Chartwell in Kent) whose entry chose to completely ignore his achievement in helping defeat Nazi Germany.

A spokesman for the Charity insisted yesterday that nothing obliges it to act on Restore Trust’s motions even if they are passed by a majority of voters at the AGM (file photo)

For perhaps obvious reasons, this angered not only a swathe of the Trust’s 5.6 million members and natural supporters, but also the descendants of many of Britain’s landed families, who argued that it falsely claimed their ancestral fortunes had been built on the proceeds of slavery.

When one wrote to complain, Parker responded via a letter saying that Black Lives Matter is ‘a human rights movement, with no party political affiliations’ – neatly ignoring its various stated political aims, which include the overthrow of capitalism and the abolition of both the police and the nuclear family.

Announcing his resignation this week the Trust claimed that Tim Parker had been due to leave in 2020 after serving two full terms but that his tenure had been extended ‘to provide stability to the organisation during the Covid-19 crisis’.

Whether there will be much stability in the coming weeks and months is less clear: a spokesman for the Charity insisted yesterday that nothing obliges it to act on Restore Trust’s motions even if they are passed by a majority of voters at the AGM.

The reason? Rules dictate that they are ‘not binding’.

Last night, Restore Trust responded that it boasts ‘thousands’ of Trust volunteers among its supporters. They intend to resign, should the grassroots campaign be ignored, a spokesman said, adding: ‘If volunteers go the National Trust will cease to exist in its current form: it can’t afford to employ large numbers of staff.’

In other words, the bitter civil war that has seen off the Prince of Darkness from Britain’s most popular heritage charity still has an awfully long way to run.

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