British peer sparks outrage after calling Kamala Harris ‘the Indian’

Lord John Kilclooney has history of insulting people of Asian heritage

Tom Embury-Dennis
Monday 09 November 2020 17:52
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A British peer has sparked outrage after referring to US vice president-elect Kamala Harris as “the Indian”.

Lord John Kilclooney, a former deputy leader of Northern Ireland’s Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), made the racially charged comment on Twitter while musing about the US presidency.

“What happens if Biden moves on and the Indian becomes President. Who then becomes Vice President?” Lord Kilclooney tweeted on Monday morning.

Ms Harris, whose mother was Indian but is American herself, is set to become the first woman and person of colour to be vice-president.

The comment by Lord Kilclooney, who has a history of insulting people with Indian heritage, sparked outrage online and among UK politicians. 

“Language like this reducing people to racial heritage is unfit for a member of the Lords,” tweeted Navendu Mishra, a Labour MP for Stockport. 

Conservative MP Robert Halfon simply said, “Appalling", to which Lord Kilclooney responded by tweeting: “A disloyal Tory!”. 

If Ms Harris did assume the presidency from Joe Biden, who beat Donald Trump in last week’s US election, she would nominate a vice-presidential successor who would have to be confirmed by congress.

In 2018, Lord Kilclooney made headlines when he called then Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who has an Indian father, a “typical Indian”

That came after he called Mr Varadkar “the Indian” in another tweet and also criticised the inclusion of Moeen Ali, who was born and raised in England, in the country’s national cricket team.

Lord Kilclooney later claimed he had used the term “the Indian” because he had not known Ms Harris’ name. 

“She is totally new to me. Now I know it is Harris. Biden is proud to be Irish and Harris to be Indian. Both have every right to do so,” the peer said in response to a critic. 

“I deplore some media describing her as being black," he added of Ms Harris, whose father was born in Jamaica. "Colour racism should not be introduced!”

The tweets by Lord Kilclooney come at a sensitive time for the UK government and its attempts to woo the incoming Biden administration. 

Allies of Mr Biden have criticised prime minister Boris Johnson’s infamous claim former president Barack Obama’s “part-Kenyan” heritage meant he was not a fan of the UK, while the incoming Biden administration opposes the government’s attempt to introduce clauses in its internal market bill that would allow it to introduce a hard border on the island of Ireland.

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