A Barnet councillor resisting calls to resign after he impersonated Nelson Mandela has been backed by the most unlikely of sources - Mr Mandela himself.

This newspaper contacted Mr Mandela through his South Africa-based charity Nelson Mandela Foundation, asking him to comment on Hale councillor 'blacking up' as the former South African president for the Jewish festival of Purim.

Mr Gordon has been accused of poor taste and even racism by political opponents. He denies it was a racist gesture.

The charity discussed Mr Gordon's behaviour with Mr Mandela. His official spokeswoman Zelda la Grange told the Hendon Times today: "We read the article with interest and I also discussed it with Mr Mandela who happened to be in the office this morning.

"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."

Ms la Grange added: "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."