National Trust hire Vote Leave adviser to dampen discontent from Brexiteers

Mayor of London Boris Johnson delivers a speech during a Vote Leave campaign event

Mayor of London Boris Johnson delivers a speech during a Vote Leave campaign event - Credit: PA

The National Trust has hired a firm headed up by former Vote Leave official to dampen discontent caused by a decision to review its 300 stately homes for links to slavery or colonialism following the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Prominent Brexiteers, including Ann Widdecombe, claimed the body had a "woke agenda" after a report identified more than 90 National Trust properties were identified as having links to slavery and discrimination.

The news that Winston Churchill's home at Chartwell was one of the properties prompted Widdecombe to cut up her membership card with other Brexiteers following suit.

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Now the Trust has hired PR firm Hanbury Strategy, co-founded by former Vote Leave communications boss Paul Stephenson, to see off the criticism.

It is also co-founded by Ameet Gill, a director of strategy at Number 10 during David Cameron's reign and gave informal advice to Matt Hancock's leadership bid in 2019.

The organisation has declined to state how much the hiring will cost, but experts predict it could cost tens of thousands of pounds at the same time the charity is expected to make 1,300 staff members and volunteers redundant.

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A National Trust spokesman said it needed “extra support” to be “effective as possible”.

He added: “The National Trust cares for many hundreds of places and collections, welcomes millions of visitors every year, and communicates with a huge range of stakeholders and audiences.

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“To be as effective as possible we sometimes need extra support from external organisations and agencies.

“All spending decisions go through a rigorous procurement process to ensure best value for money and long term benefit to the organisation.”

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