The Guardian reports that the National Trust – a conservation charity that owns 1.5% of England, Wales and Northern Ireland – is to jump on the bandwagon reinvent itself by turning its membership into “the largest green movement in the world”.

Founded in 1895 by Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley to protect the nation’s character against the transforming effects of industrialisation, the trust’s new aim seems to be to lock the entire UK – not just the odd stately home – into the preindustrial age it celebrates.

In the past we have been cautious about expressing our voice loudly. Now we recognise that we have to engage in public debate on a very wide scale. If our knowledge tells us, say, that expanding airports leads to problems, then it is right we should say so,” said Peter Nixon, the trust’s director of conservation. “If you have 3.5m members you can go to government with a different kind of authority.” 

Does the membership of 3.5 million picnickers and elderly stately home enthusiasts make the NT a political force, let alone legitimise the grandstanding atop bandwagons of its senior members? Its membership have not subscribed to a political ideology, yet the NT seems to imagine that it has a mandate ‘to drive conservation and quality of life agendas, and in particular to combat climate change’.

From now on, said director-general Fiona Reynolds, the trust will advise people how to adapt their lifestyles to climate change and challenge government to be more ecologically aware. “If we think that public policy is not right, then we will say so.” 

What the Trust perhaps hasn’t considered is that its membership is not quite as convinced that climate change is the problem that Reynolds et al believe it to be. Whatever. The National Trust is no more a legitimate political force than The Dennis the Menace fan club.

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