Ditch ‘offensive’ Red Cross sign, says Labour minister

The well-known symbol of the Red Cross is an insulting reminder of the Crusades and should be replaced with a crystal, claims a Foreign Office minister.

Chris Bryant MP argued that the religious connotations of the symbol could undermine the work of the Red Cross.

But the organisation’s founders never intended the emblem to have any religious reference.

Philip Davies, a Conservative backbencher, accused Mr Bryant of pandering to political correctness.

Mr Davies said: “At face value to the layman it seems at best a solution looking for a problem and at worst another example of extreme political correctness.

“No one has ever suggested to me that the Red Cross refers to the Crusades.”

The organisation, famous for giving medical assistance on the battlefield, chose the red cross on a white background in 1863 as a reversal of the Swiss flag. It is believed to have been meant as a tribute to the traditionally neutral Switzerland.

But Mr Bryant told the Commons: “The reference to the Crusades is not lost to some people which, of course, anybody involved in the Red Cross would wholly deprecate.

“The truth of the matter is that it has been difficult in some places for us to ensure that these connotations of a religious war or a religious crusade don’t undermine the work that the Red Cross or Red Crescent is able to do.”

Mr Bryant’s comments came as MPs debated replacing the traditional cross with the “red crystal” – a diamond-shaped badge.

The crystal has now been adopted, but opposition MPs said it should be used as an exception, rather than the norm.

This is the latest accusation of over-zealous political correctness in connection with the Foreign Office.

Earlier this week the British ambassador to Poland was criticised by Polish officials for supporting a march planned by ‘gay rights’ groups this weekend.

The Polish civil rights ombudsman said the ambassador, Ric Todd, had exceeded his authority.

But Mr Todd said he was simply acting in line with Foreign Office policy, which calls on staff to push ‘gay rights’ when representing the UK abroad.

Last year Mr Todd caused a storm for flying the rainbow flag outside the British Embassy.

Earlier this year the department came under fire when it launched a consultation on whether it would be politically acceptable for British embassy officials to receive Christmas greetings from Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

Last month a cross-shaped medal of honour established by the Queen was declared illegal after Muslim and Hindu groups complained that its Christian associations were offensive.

An editorial comment featured in The Times newspaper asked: “If this cross is illegal, where does that leave the Victoria Cross and the George Cross, the only decorations that take precedence over the Trinity Cross?

“Moreover, the whole menu of the honours system is stiff with crosses and grand crosses, saints and the British Empire, and other relics of the age of chivalry. The Union Flag is blazoned with no fewer than three crosses.”

It adds: “The islands are entitled to take a view on their own honours. But this decision should not set a precedent that the United Kingdom feels it needs to follow.”

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