How Dotty Can You Get? the British Council's New Logo Suggests It Is Embarrassed about Being British, Say MPs

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Byline: JAMES CHAPMAN

WHEN it was founded in the 1934, its mission statement was clear.

The British Council's aim was 'to make the life and thought of the British peoples more widely known'.

But the body - still charged with promoting the nation's ideas and achievements around the world - was accused yesterday of being embarrassed by its Britishness.

MPs on the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee launched a scathing attack on the council's latest logo.

It has four sky blue dots on a white background, which are supposed to symbolise the four countries of the United Kingdom.

It replaced the council's longstanding logo - described by the MPs as '49 dots in a stylised version of the Union Flag'.

The rebranding exercise - which cost [pounds sterling]85,000 - was overseen by the council's chairman, the Labour peer Baroness Helena Kennedy and its director general, Sir David Green.

The MPs likened the change to the [pounds sterling]60million decision by British Airways to drop the Union Flag from its tailfins in favour of ethnic and modern art.

Following a public backlash - and a handbagging from Lady Thatcher - those designs were scrapped in favour of a flowing version of the flag.

'We are concerned that the British Council may be making the same mistake as British Airways, in underplaying its " Britishness",' the MPs said in their annual report on the Foreign Office.

'The Union Flag is the most wellknown and widely recognised symbol of Britain and, as British Airways belatedly realised, it can be presented as part of a modern and dynamic corporate image.' The MPs said they had been surprised not to see the Union Flag displayed during a recent visit to the council's office in Moscow.

They doubted anyone would realise the significance of the new logo, introduced in 2002.

'We would be very surprised if the people of Moscow or elsewhere understand the symbolism of the four dots, which in our view completely fail to reflect the council's mission,' they added.

'The British Council's new branding fails to project its purpose and its identity.' Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay, a member of the committee, said: 'What we are concerned about is its reluctance to brand itself as British. We do think that the Britishness should be up front.' In their report, the MPs demanded to know how much had been spent by the council on the new logo.

Last night, following a request from the Daily Mail, a spokesman revealed the rebranding exercise had cost a total of [pounds sterling]85,000.

The British Council, which has offices around the world to promote wide knowledge of Britain abroad, has an annual budget of [pounds sterling]470million - [pounds sterling]170million of which comes from the taxpayer.

Sir David Green told the MPs the old logo was 'very tired'. …