Sir Keir Starmer defends 'woke' National Trust as Labour leader slams Tory 'culture wars'

Sir Keir Starmer defends 'woke' National Trust as Labour leader slams Tory 'culture wars'
Millie Cooke

By Millie Cooke

Published: 22/01/2024

- 08:00

Updated: 22/01/2024

- 11:46

Starmer will accuse the Conservatives of becoming 'rangled up in culture wars of their own making'

Sir Keir Starmer defended the National Trust against accusations of "wokeism" in a speech setting out the Labour Party's vision for the voluntary sector today.

In an attack on "culture wars", the Labour leader accused the Conservative Party of undermining the "proud spirit of service in this country" by "trying to find woke agendas" in Britain's most valued institutions.

He claimed the Government is "so tangled up in culture wars of their own making" that they have turned on the same organisations they "once regarded with respect".

Starmer blamed the rise in "culture wars" on the Conservative Party's "desperate" attempt to cling to power.


Sir Keir Starmer is set to defend the National Trust against accusations of "wokism" in a speech about the voluntary sector today


He also defended the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), accusing the Conservative Party of "demonising" the institution through its rhetoric on the small boats crisis.

Addressing the Civil Society Summit in central London, to an audience of faith, charity and community leaders, Starmer said: “The Tories seem set on sabotaging civil society to save their own skins.

“They got themselves so tangled up in culture wars of their own making, that instead of working with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution – an organisation the late Queen was patron of for 70 years – to find real solutions to stop the small boats, their rhetoric has helped demonise them.

“Instead of working with the National Trust so more people can learn about – and celebrate – our culture and our history, they’ve managed to demean their work. In its desperation to cling on to 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.”

Starmer also used his speech to say a Labour government would create a "society of service", with "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.”

The Tories reacted by accusing Labour of “sniping from the sidelines".

Conservative Party Chairman, Richard Holden said: “This was just another in a long line of vacuous speeches from Sir Keir Starmer, showing he hasn’t got a plan and continues to snipe from the sidelines.

“Despite being leader of the opposition for four years, Sir Keir Starmer cannot say what he would do differently, because Labour do not have a plan for the country.

"They can’t even say how they would fund their risky £28 billion unfunded spending spree because they don’t have a plan, meaning higher taxes for working people.

“The choice could not be clearer: stick with the plan under Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives to deliver a brighter future for everyone or go back to square one with Keir Starmer and the Labour Party.”

The National Trust has faced growing backlash in recent years as a result of what some people have claimed is a "woke agenda".

Last year, Tory MP Lee Anderson accused the organisation of "lecturing" the public on net zero, after it published a "manifesto" ahead of the next General Election.


The trust presented an "Election Policy Platform" outlining "the three minimum requirements any future Government should commit to".

It said it "wants action in three areas", calling for the renewal of nature, more action on net zero targets and legally targets on the number of heritage sites.

But hitting out at the National Trust, Lee Anderson told GB News: "Brits expect the National Trust to protect our heritage, not lecture them on net zero.

"But Hilary McGrady is right to say we need long-term strategies, not short-term politics like Sir Keir Starmer's Labour Party.

"I look forward to seeing her endorse this Conservative government as we take the long-term decisions for a brighter future."

The National Trust’s Director-General Hilary McGrady demanded the Government introduce policies to reach net zero by 2050 and reverse the decline of nature by 2030.

This came just months after Sunak revealed that the Conservative Government will be watering down the UK's policies to reach net zero.

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