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British Army spends £2million to ditch 'Be the Best' motto due to political correctness - De

  • Official documents also revealed the Army planned to drop its historic crest

  • Critics described the politically correct overhaul as 'futile lunacy'

  • Gavin Williamson halted the plans in a dramatic 11th hour intervention

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson dramatically intervened last night after The Mail on Sunday revealed that the British Army was 'wasting' millions of pounds of taxpayers' money to scrap its famous 'Be the Best' motto – because top brass say it is elitist.

An official document leaked to this newspaper also revealed that from January, the Army was to drop its historic crest, depicting a set of crossed swords, a crown and a lion, after expensive image consultants deemed the cherished emblem 'non-inclusive'.

But late last night, in an extraordinary intervention after the exclusive MoS story broke, the Defence Secretary stepped in to halt the plans which had been spearheaded by the head of the British Army, General Sir Nick Carter.

An MoD spokesman said: 'The Defence Secretary believes that the British Army is the best of the best and has put these proposals on hold.'

Williamson's astonishing undermining of the top brass is certain to further sour the already strained relations between the Government and Britain's military chiefs.

Last night a senior officer raised concerns over Williamson's 11th- hour move. The officer, who cannot be named because he is still serving, said: 'By stepping in to block the branding changes at such a late hour he risks showing contempt for the Army's chain of command.'

Critics had earlier described the planned image overhaul as 'futile lunacy', and experts predicted the move would cost millions at a time when the Armed Forces are facing an unprecedented funding crisis.

Last month The MoS revealed that nearly 200,000 personnel will not get the one per cent pay rise in April 2018 that they were promised in the autumn Budget. We reported how defence chiefs must save £9.8 billion to afford essential military equipment. The decision to spend huge sums on a rebranding exercise will also cause anger among hard-up junior troops who are forced to spend Christmas in damp, rat-infested military accommodation.

The MoD last night confirmed it had hired top advertising executives to reassess the Army's public image. Industry experts had said the year-long project, which included extensive market research, is likely to have cost about £1.5 million. The cost of replacing these signs – as well as the reprinting costs for logos and letterheads – could run into millions of pounds.

The project is the brainchild of General Sir Nick Carter. His team also wrote the document The Army Brand, which was circulated among senior officers last month. It attempts to justify the removal of the Be the Best slogan from all Army documentation and imagery, saying: 'Be the Best was a recruitment strapline from 1993 and has appeared on Army branded material ever since. But it was never a researched or defined brand.

'Market research in May 17 found that Be the Best did not resonate with many of our key audiences and was considered dated, elitist and non-inclusive. The ECAB [Executive Committee of the Army Board] therefore agreed that its use should be phased out as soon as affordably possible. The retirement of Be the Best will commence immediately with all planned refreshes of Be the Best branded material cancelled in favour of brand compliant products.'

Julian Lewis, chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee, spoke against plans to ditch the slogan, saying: 'Being the best is nothing to be ashamed of – it is a matter for pride and a very positive message to transmit. Why should we be afraid of excellence when we are constantly saying our Armed Forces are the best in the world?'

The document also claims that establishing the Army as a brand is necessary to protect its 'institutional credibility' and to 'reinforce the pride and sense of belonging of soldiers and their families'.But Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of UK troops in Afghanistan, said:

'Credibility is secured by our abilities on the battlefield, our fighting spirit and our resources. And at a time when the defence budget is being squeezed, it is lunacy to squander money on a futile branding project.'Be the Best is popular because it encapsulates the desire for our troops to be better than their enemies.'It has never been about them looking down at anyone in society, so any suggestion it is elitist is nonsense. The Army needs to be the best and to know that it is.'

The official launch of The Army Brand next month would have followed a 12-month collaboration between Gen Sir Nick and advertising bosses.The launch was to include the unveiling of the Army's new logo: a fluttering Union Jack with Army written in bold letters underneath.Responding to the plans an officer told The MoS:

'The Army's own research has consistently shown support for the crossed swords over the Union Flag as the Army's main logo. Also, Be the Best was an aspiration and instilled pride. It was certainly better than 'This is Belonging' – the tagline used in recent Army recruiting TV adverts.'A lot of people are angry. The document used by the Army to promote the branding has also been ridiculed for its meaningless, corporate-speak language.'

Gen Sir Nick's efforts to rebrand the Army may be to no avail, according to PR expert Mark Borkowski. He said concerns about the state of Britain's Armed Forces would work against the project.He said: 'Somebody at the top of the Army has looked around them, seen a world changing faster than ever and, in a bid to grasp some sense of modernity, they've hired external influencers. The whole project would have cost at least a million pounds.

'The squeeze on the defence budget has also led to major Army battlefield exercises being cancelled, orders for much-needed equipment such as tanks and armoured vehicles being frozen, and funding for Army museums across the UK being cut off.Since 2010 the size of the Army has shrunk from 102,000 to 78,000 soldiers. Last night, the MoD said: 'Like all organisations we adapt our brand to make sure it is up to date. Be the Best has been used since 1993 and, following detailed research, we've decided to update our branding at a cost of £520,000.'

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