Of all the charities in the world the Red Cross should understand more than any other the importance of maintaining political impartiality.
Its origins come from a meeting in 1863 in Geneva – it was then called the “International Committee for Relief to the Wounded”.
Right from the start neutrality was taken as a fundamental principle. In the decades that followed it meant that workers carrying its emblem were able to undertake life-saving work amidst warring factions.
The Red Cross should also be well placed to avoid hyperbole when talking about a “humanitarian crisis”.
There are such crises in several countries around the world at the present time – in Chad, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq and, of course, in Syria.
To suggest we have such a crisis in the United Kingdom is absurd. Yet that is the claim from Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross – who attacks the Government for not spending more on the NHS.
Of course the NHS is under pressure – especially at this time of year. Only 88.4% of patients admitted to Accident & Emergency hospital departments were dealt with in four hours according to the latest figures – the target is 95%.
The NHS reports that in real terms their budget is scheduled to increase from £117.229bn in 2015/16 to £120.151bn by 2019/20.
Naturally they would like more even though that vast sum is increasing. Adamson hasn’t said how many more billions he thinks should be poured in for him to declare he “humanitarian crisis” over.
A better approach is for the NHS to improve the management and be more innovative. There are some good initiatives that should be adopted in the rest of the country.
For instance often A&E departments are overburdened due to all the drunks. At Southport in Merseyside they go to an Alcohol Recovery Centre instead of an A&E unit.
There is no evidence that NHS Trusts that keep within budget provide worse treatment for their patients than those NHS Trusts that let their spending get out of control.
So Adamson’s crude demand for more money is flawed – and his grossly exaggerated language only serves to undermine his credibility.
Why has he shown such poor judgment? After all he is paid £173,000 a year and so might be expected to show some basic professionalism.
But the decision of British Red Cross to descend into party politics seems to be a broader malaise. Some suspect the recent arrival of Polly Curtis as their “Director of Media” – hitherto a journalist on The Guardian – may be part of the problem.
On the other hand back in 2013 the British Red Cross was already busy trying to embarrass the Government under the chairmanship of Sir Charles Allen – also Executive Chairman of the Labour Party.
To state the obvious, the British Red Cross should not be judged only according to its politicised and highly-paid spin doctors and senior managers.
It also consists of thousands of dedicated volunteers. They are seen providing First Aid services at large public events. They also do have the flexibility to fill gaps left by the NHS which is such a bureaucratic monolith.
There are 150 Red Cross ambulances in the UK. There is also a Red Cross service loaning wheelchairs when required for short periods – the NHS provision is more cumbersome and better suited for those with long-term needs.
So the real damage that the British Red Cross has done by playing politics is to itself – also, unfortunately, to the International Committee due to the inevitable guilt by association.
They have provided Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party with some ammunition to attack Theresa May’s Government. I doubt it will have much impact on the immediate opinion polls, still less on the next General Election.
Yet for such a modest returns the British Red Cross has sacrificed its independence. It has sold its birthright for a mess of pottage. This is a great shame – and a terrible insult to those in the world coping with genuine humanitarian crises.