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Churchill’s grandson slams ‘barking mad’ National Trust over LGBT survey questions

Nick Duffy September 13, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Sir Nicholas Soames attends the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation Dinner In Honour Of Winston Churchill at Sotheby's on October 29, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

The Daily Mail and Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames have lashed out at the National Trust – for daring to ask volunteers if they are LGBT.

The National Trust came under fire over an annual survey sent to its 65,000 volunteers across the country.

The optional volunteers’ survey seeks feedback and also includes diversity monitoring questions – asking volunteers to provide anonymous data about their race, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.

It is fairly standard for organisations to ask their employees and volunteers such questions for diversity monitoring purposes.

But that didn’t prevent the Daily Mail from running a 700-word attack piece based on the two short questions on LGBT issues.

A National Trust property
Dyffryn House, a National Trust property (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

The newspaper has previously waged a campaign against the Trust for running a project celebrating the LGBT stories from history associated with many of its properties.

But in its new attack, the Mail accused the Trust of operating a “politically correct agenda”.

Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Soames declared that it was “completely barking mad”.

Taking to Twitter, Soames – the grandson of Winston Churchill – said: “It’s sad to see National Trust now asking its volunteers what is their ‘gender identity’ and ‘sexual orientation’ #completelybarkingmad”

Two senior Conservatives who have long opposed LGBT rights also weighed in.

Former MP Ann Widdecombe told the Mail: “The National Trust has lost its way completely. These questions are intrusive and above all unnecessary. It shouldn’t be asking them and it’s no wonder some people are feeling offended.”

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen added: “I’m beginning to lose trust in the National Trust, and I think so will many of their members.

“It’s clear with recent revelations the direction the management wish to take the organisation. They are in danger of leaving their volunteers behind.”

The Trust insisted: “Questions about gender identity and sexual orientation are an optional part of our annual volunteers survey, which is in itself optional.”

A National Trust spokesperson said: “These questions help us to understand who volunteers with us so that we can make the Trust a more relevant and accessible place to volunteer.

“We know that some groups are underrepresented in Trust volunteering and this data will help us to attract and retain a wider range of volunteers.

“Questions about gender identity and sexual orientation are an optional part of our annual volunteers’ survey, which is in itself optional.

“The data collected is anonymous and stored confidentially.”

It is only the latest attack on the Trust, which came under repeated fire from the media over the summer over an LGBT history project.

Ironically, the organisation that owns the Daily Mail newspaper, Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT), specifies that it is an “equal opportunities employer”.

It says: “Our businesses are required to follow DMGT policies that safeguard the welfare of our employees. These include policies on equal opportunities (…) DMGT is an equal opportunity employer”.

It is unclear whether this includes a similar commitment to diversity monitoring as the National Trust’s.

Related: National Trust shouldn’t let modern-day prejudice derail attempts to tell LGBT history

More: Churchill, diversity, Gay, History, LGBT, monitoring, National Trust, nicholas soames

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