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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 November 2005, 09:39 GMT
Row as Christmas lights renamed
Generic Christmas lights
Christmas lights have been renamed in Lambeth
A decision to call Christmas lights "Winter Lights" in south London has been condemned as showing a "total lack of respect" for Christians.

Advertisements for the switch-on of the lights in multi-cultural Lambeth have renamed them, apparently for fear of offending other faiths.

Tory councillor Bernard Gentry told the BBC: "Christmas appears to have been cancelled in our borough".

A spokesman said it was an error by a junior official and not council policy.

In three of Lambeth's main town centres, the lights were referred to as "Winter Lights", while in a fourth they were called "Celebrity Lights".

The idea that, in some way, the religious festival of Christmas is offensive to others is just daft
Bernard Gentry
Lambeth councillor

The council spokeswoman said an official was concerned about people from other religions.

She said: "It was a junior-level decision and it happened to go into print which was an error basically.

"I think it was certainly not a council policy that we should call the lights winter lights."

But it has led to a series of headlines such as "Christmas is banned" and "The PC [politically correct] lights show" and led some members of other faiths to call it "ridiculous".

And Mr Gentry, a Conservative member of the joint Lib Dem-Tory controlled borough, told the BBC it went against efforts to promote respect for all faiths.

"It just seems totally against everything that we as members of the council have said, when officers try to airbrush out one of the main festivals of what is still the biggest religion in Lambeth."

"The idea that, in some way, the religious festival of Christmas is offensive to others is just daft - I have never heard a single person who's said that."

The advert appeared in Lambeth Life - a newspaper distributed by the council - and on posters.

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