Boris Johnson has been accused of bad judgment after he wrote about claims that Barack Obama’s Kenyan heritage had driven the president towards anti-British sentiment.
The Labour MPs Yvette Cooper and Chuka Umunna have both raised questions about the suggestion by the London mayor, who is a high-profile campaigner for Britain to leave the EU, in the Sun newspaper .
Johnson wrote about the decision of the Obama administration to remove a bust of Britain’s wartime leader, Winston Churchill, from the Oval Office.
“Some said it was a snub to Britain. Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British empire – of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender,” said Johnson, in an article designed to hit back at the president who waded into the EU referendum debate on Friday .
The mayor and Tory MP said Obama’s country would “not dream of embroiling itself” in anything like the EU, which he said was inching towards a federal superstate.
Cooper told the Guardian: “As ever, it’s more bad judgment from Boris Johnson. Is this really how a man who wants to be prime minister should be talking about the president of the United States?”
Umunna tweeted: “These Tory Mayoral types are beyond the pale.”
He said the Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith had played on his opponent Sadiq Khan’s Muslim heritage , amid controversy over repeated attacks about Khan sharing a platform with a man who has been accused of extremist views , while Johnson played on Obama’s Kenyan ancestry.
Churchill’s grandson, Nicholas Soames, a Conservative MP backing the remain campaign, also intervened. “Appalling article by @BorisJohnson in Sun totally wrong on almost everything. Inconceivable WSC wld not have welcomed Presidents views,” he wrote on Twitter.
The prime minister’s spokeswoman said the decision to remove the Churchill bust was taken before Obama took office.