Boris Johnson has criticised the US president Barack Obama and suggested his attitude to Britain might be based on his “part-Kenyan” heritage and “ancestral dislike of the British empire”.
Writing a column for The Sun newspaper the outgoing Mayor of London recounted a story about a bust of Winston Churchill purportedly being removed from White House.
“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,” he wrote.
Barack Obama says 'world needs UK's influence in Europe to continue'
The White House said in 2012 that the story of the bust being moved was “100 per cent false” and that the bust remained in the White House, having been moved to the President's private residence.
It was however later forced to clarify that the Churchill bust still located in the President's residence was in fact a different bust, and that one had indeed been removed.
The Mayor said that the US would never dream of engaging in an arragement similar to the EU.
“It is deeply anti-democratic – and much as I admire the United States, and much as I respect the President, I believe he must admit that his country would not dream of embroiling itself in anything of the kind,” he said.
Conservative MP Nicholas Soames, who is the grandson of the late Sir Winston Churchill, was not impressed by the comment piece.
“Appalling article by Boris Johnson in [The] Sun, totally wrong on almost everything,” he said.
Labour's shadow chancellor John McDonnell called on Mr Johnson to withdraw the comment.
“Mask slips again. Boris part-Kenyan Obama comment is yet another example of dog whistle racism from senior Tories. He should withdraw it,” he said.
Mr Johnson’s column comes on the day Mr Obama visits Britain to encourage the UK to stay in the bloc.
The US president is expected to tell a town-hall style meeting that the EU helps the UK achieve greater opportunity and prosperity.
His intervention has receive push-back from some eurosceptics, however. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a prominent Tory backbencher, said last week that parts of the Obama administration were “not friends of the United Kingdom”.
A YouGov poll for the right-wing CapX website found most of the British public - 51 per cent – attribute Mr Obama’s intervention to him believing it will be easier to deal with Europe as a single bloc.
24 per cent believe Mr Obama thinks Britain staying in the EU is in the interests of global security, while 14 per cent believe the president is making the call as a favour to David Cameron.
Just 4 per cent believed Mr Obama cared about Britain’s prosperity and believed it was better off in the EU.
The Mayor of London is currently the favourite to succeed David Cameron as Prime Minister.