Archer has a black sister - and she's elegant and slim

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THE STORM over Jeffrey Archer's comments about overweight black women took a fresh twist yesterday when it emerged that he has an adopted sister who is black.

Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare's mother, Lola, adopted Elizabeth Fullerton in the 1950s when he was a teenager and she became an integral, if little known, part of the family. The peer, who is hoping to become mayor of London, was accused of "racist claptrap" last week after he said that 30 years ago black women in Britain were overweight, badly dressed and probably had lousy jobs.

Ms Fullerton, 50, is slim, elegant and has a successful career as a counsellor on drugs and deprivation in New York.

According to Michael Crick's biography of Lord Archer, Stranger Than Fiction, Ms Fullerton was employed as a nanny to his two children, William and James, before moving to the US. Yesterday, William Archer said: "She practically brought me up. She is like a second mother to me."

David Watson, Lord Archer's step-brother, said Ms Fullerton was "a very good- looking woman".

The peer and his half-sister are said to be very close. Ms Fullerton was also a bridesmaid at Lord Archer's wedding. "They get on very well and whenever Liz is in London, she stays at `Chateau Archer'," said Mr Watson yesterday. "Jeffrey's boys have been to stay with her in New York and for the last couple of years they have taken summer holidays together. She is part and parcel of family life."

Lord Archer was unavailable for comment yesterday as he is sequestered in the south of France working on his latest book. A source from his campaign office said it had decided not to make a fuss of Ms Fullerton's existence.

"All the comment about last week's remarks were ridiculous and we did not want to make anything of it. This is a man who has been anti-racist all his life and we deliberately decided not to leak the fact about Elizabeth because we thought it would be in bad taste to do so."

Mr Watson said his father, George, and stepmother, Lola - Lord Archer's mother - had heard about Elizabeth when she was living in a children's home in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset. Her natural mother, who was white, had been unable to look after her daughter and had given her up to the authorities. "My father and step-mother were good people and decided, rather nicely it seems to me, to give Elizabeth a proper start in life. To start with they fostered her and helped out financially and then she would stay at weekends, and finally she was adopted and from that time on she was part of the family," said Mr Watson.

He did not normally speak for his step-brother but felt he had been so "grotesquely misrepresented" that the record should be put straight. "There is no doubt that what he said falls into the category of things which could have been better expressed but I have absolutely no doubt that he did not mean to be malign or patronising."

Ms Fullerton was said to be considering whether to talk about her relationship with Lord Archer.