You may have heard the story doing the rounds of Hale Conservative Councillor Brian Gordon who dressed up as Nelson Mandela to celebrate the Jewish festival of Purim a few weeks ago.
Gordon himself sent a picture to the Hendon & Finchley Times which was published last week, but the LibDem Press Officer Stieve De Lance has since decided to get righteous over it. Saying he should be "unceremoniously sacked" for "thinly veiled racism", she reported him to both the Commission for Racial Equality and to Barnet Borough Council officials.
The newspaper later managed to dig up a 30 year old article about Gordon advocating an end to immigration, and cited it as another example of him being accused of racism (the validity of this argument was discussed on CF Diary this week). They also contacted Mandela’s office about the fuss, who replied:
"We don’t see any harm in this whatsoever. 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. Mr Mandela commented, however, about the choice of the shirt and said – tongue-in-cheek – that it was a rather awkward choice of shirt to resemble his usual shirts. We are not oversensitive about matters like these. Whilst we need to be respectful towards the character in events of this nature, we should try not to read racism into actions which may be completely innocent."
How delicious to see this politically correct point-scoring backfire on the LibDems. Gordon was rightly supported by Mike Freer, the Conservative leader of the council and Finchley & Golders Green candidate:
"Are we now saying that white people cannot dress up as black people? I do not see how people can find it offensive. Just to categorise Nelson Mandela on the basis of his colour is demeaning to him."