Civil rights campaigner delivers powerful response to Ann Widdecombe in National Trust slavery row

Joanna Taylor
Friday 25 September 2020 07:45
news

Civil rights campaigner Salma El-Wardany powerfully rebuked Ann Widdecombe's claim that the National Trust have a "woke" agenda.

Appearing on The Jeremy Vine Show the day after Widdecombe, El Wardany said:

It irritates me that everyone keeps using this word 'woke' to dismiss and diminish the fact that people are speaking out against inherently racist systems that have oppressed huge amounts of people across the globe and in our own population for so long. 

Power is changing hands and people don't like it, so then they get absolutely irate about completely ridiculous, unnecessary things like the National Trust being open and honest about its history. 

When she appeared on the show, Widdecombe dramatically announced that she had cancelled her National Trust membership following an internal report revealing links to slavery and colonialism.

The former Brexit Party MEP particularly criticised the report for linking Winston Churchill, whose former home Chartwell is a National Trust property, to British colonialism.

She told Jeremy Vine:

I have literally, in the last week, cancelled my membership of the National Trust because I am tired of these sorts of woke games being played. 

Churchill did more than any other politician I can think of in the twentieth century to fight evil and to retain liberty. He did that, and he was not personally connected with slavery. 

El-Wardany addressed this point, by saying:

No one's saying that Churchill wasn't helpful, that Churchill didn't help us win the war, that Churchill didn't do great things. But he also had a problematic past and problematic view points. 

I love the National Trust, they preserve and they tell our history. So if you're going to tell the history, if you're going to tell the story, then tell the full story. Don't leave part of it out. 

The point of the National Trust's report is to raise awareness and discussion of our country's history and to recognise that it is one more steeped in racism and violence than we usually acknowledge. Indeed, 93 National Trust properties were found to be linked to people or wealth connected with slavery or colonialism in some way.

To acknowledge this is to recognise our "development" as human beings, which is exactly what Widdecombe called for after dismissing the report as a "woke game".

The word "woke", which was initially used to describe someone who is attuned to social issues, is now increasingly used as a derogatory word by people on the right as a substitute for "snowflake", "social justice warrior" or "politically correct".

As El-Wardany said, honesty about our past is important.

Ignoring the horrors of slavery and colonialism is erasure of history, not reassessing our understanding of them.

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