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Mandela defends Purim outfit

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2007-04-03

Brian Gordon

Brian Gordon

Former South African president Nelson Mandela has come to the defence of an orthodox Jewish councillor who enraged rival politicians by dressing up as the African leader at a Purim party.

After the party last month, Barnet Conservative councillor Brian Gordon sent a photo of his outfit to a local newspaper and there were calls for him to be sacked from his position on the north west London council.

"How can he think this is funny or acceptable? It is thinly veiled racism," said Lib Dem member Stieve De Lance who also contacted the Commission for Racial Equality. "You cannot make jokes like this."

But Mandela himself says there was no need to make an issue out of it.

"We don't see any harm in this whatsoever," said Mandela's official spokesman Zelda La Grange. "If it was a fancy dress party and people were expected to arrive as a character or famous person, we are convinced there was no ill intent behind this. We are not over-sensitive about matters like these. We should try not to read racism into actions which may be completely innocent."

Gordon himself was pleased to hear of his support from Mandela. "I'm delighted but not in the least surprised that Nelson Mandela has come out in favour of my fancy dress costume, and that says it all. Hopefully this will be the end of this ridiculous storm in a tea cup and we can all concentrate on more important matters." 

But one thing did irk Mandela - Gordon's shirt. "Mr Mandela commented, however, tongue in cheek, that it was a rather awkward choice of shirt to resemble his usual shirts," La Grange revealed.