Keir Starmer defends National Trust and RNLI from ‘desperate’ Tory culture war

“They’ve got themselves so tangled up in culture wars of their own making"

Keir Starmer

Labour leader Keir Starmer has defended organisations such as the National Trust and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) after attacks from the Tory party on both organisations as part of their culture war rhetoric.

In a speech delivered earlier today at a civil society summit, the Labour leader described Tory attacks on the National Trust as desperate and damaging, as he accused the Conservative Party of ‘sabotaging civil society to save their own skins’.

He told the event: “They’ve 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 onto power at all costs, the Tory Party is undertaking a kind of weird McCarthyism, trying to find woke agendas in the very civic institutions they once regarded with respect.”

Starmer also said that a Labour government would ‘reset’ the relationship between government and civil society.

A number of Tory MPs have recently attacked the National Trust, the UK’s largest charity which owns more than 1,300 farms, 775 miles of coastline and 250,000 hectares of land, making it Britain’s largest private landowner.

In 2020, a group of backbenchers objected to the National Trust linking the family home of Winston Churchill to slavery and colonialism and more recently Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg supported the right-wing Restore Trust in its attempt to take over the National Trust.

Starmer also urged charities, community leaders and faith groups to play an active role in Britain’s public life.

He said: “One Conservative Prime Minister said there was “no such thing as society”. And then we watched individualism run rampant. Cameron talked about the Big Society. A great idea, in principle. But when austerity kicked in, we ended up with the Poor Society.

Now we need a new vision for a new era. A renewed social contract. A new focus on those who build the bonds that connect us, the communities that nurture us and the local institutions that support us.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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