Boris Johnson accused of breaching ministerial code after book signing

Boris Johnson accused of breaching ministerial code after book signing

Boris Johnson has been accused of breaching the ministerial code of conduct by allegedly promoting his book The Churchill Factor (Hodder) during a diplomatic trip to Serbia last month.

The Guardian has reported that Labour shadow cabinet office minister Andrew Gwynne has written to prime minister Theresa May complaining about the foreign secretary signing copies of The Churchill Factor at a bookshop in Belgrade last month. During the same period, a promotional advert for the book also appeared in the daily newspaper Danas, alongside an image of Johnson.

The foreign secretary has also given copies of his book as gifts to Murray McCully, the New Zealand foreign minister, after diplomatic meetings.

Gwynne has called for an investigation into a possible breach of ministerial code, which says that “no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their public duties and their private interests”.

Gwynne wrote: “In light of the foreign secretary’s conduct during a ministerial visit to Serbia, I request that the incident be investigated to determine as soon as possible if a breach of the ministerial code has taken place.”

The Foreign Office has said Johnson was invited to talk about freedom of the press at the Belgrade bookshop and that the visit was not a promotional event. “The store chose to welcome him by putting some of his books on display and some local people asked him to sign their books,” a spokesperson said. 

A spokesperson for Johnson added: "The Serbian newspaper making the suggestion this was a promotional event is simply wrong and wasn’t even at the event. We have said before that this was not a promotional event and we made that request very clear in advance of the trip.

“The event took place in a closed bookshop and focused on press freedoms. Maybe Labour should focus on coming up with some policies for the good of the country instead of wasting everyone’s time on this kind of rubbish.”

A spokesperson for Hodder said the company had no comment to make about the allegations.