City Hall chief executive believes that BNP deputy leader Simon Darby, who works part-time at the GLA, has a 'prima facie' case to answer for remarks about John Sentamu and fellow Ugandans
A City Hall investigation is under way after a senior BNP official on the devolved London government's payroll described the archbishop of York, John Sentamu, as an "ambitious African" and said his fellow Ugandans threw spears at their enemies.
The Guardian understands that City Hall's chief executive, Leo Boland, decided to act following concerns raised by Boris Johnson, the Conservative mayor of London.
Sentamu, who fled Idi Amin's dictatorship in 1974, had criticised comments made by the BNP chairman, Nick Griffin, who said that black and Asian Britons "do not exist". But in a series of interviews and online comments, the party's deputy leader, Simon Darby, who has a part-time job at the Greater London authority, attacked the archbishop saying he should "not interfere in the political process".
"He's not in any position to tell me or anyone else who is, or isn't, English. If I went to a Uganda village and told them that they were all genetic mongrels and that anyone could be Ugandan I'd still be picking spears out of myself now."
On his blog Darby, who also tops the BNP candidate list in the Midlands in the forthcoming European elections, added: "Our old friend John Sentamu, or to give him his full name John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu, has been up to his old tricks once again. As if the responsibilities of being the archbishop of York were not enough the ambitious African has apparently used his power and influence to kindly bestow upon the world the right to be English."
A source close to City Hall told the Guardian that Boland believes that there is a "prima facie" case for Darby to answer. Though Darby, who works for the London assembly's lone BNP member, Richard Barnbrook, is not in a politically restricted post, he is subject to a code of conduct governing all staff.
Earlier this week, Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham, condemned Darby's comments and said he should face disciplinary action for breaching his employment contract to "promote equality of opportunity".
Darby has insisted his comments were not racist. "I don't see how that is offensive or racist. It can be twisted or distorted to look that way, but what I am saying is factual. There are lots of indigenous people there [in Uganda] and in the bush they have spears – that is their lifestyle. I am not implying that all Ugandan people use spears at all. I was speaking specifically about the indigenous people. The spear is an integral part of their culture and lifestyle."
Polling experts believe that the far-right party has a chance of picking up its first seats in the European parliament in the June although leaked documents obtained by the anti-fascist organisation Searchlight show it has already scaled back its ambitions to focus on two regions, the north-west and the west Midlands.
"They had hoped to hide their campaign of hate behind a mask of respectability, but now that has been torn away," said a Searchlight spokesman. "Even someone as internationally respected as Dr Sentamu is not immune from their poisonous slurs."