Boris Johnson criticised for selling e-book on official Serbia go to | Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson spent some time on an official trip to Serbia as foreign minister to promote his latest book on Winston Churchill.
Johnson reviewed The Churchill Factor, his wartime biography of the Prime Minister, and signed a few copies at a bookstore in Belgrade on the second day of his trip earlier this month.
Labor called on the foreign minister, who had received the executive job from Theresa May in July, to explain why he was spending time on an official visit to discuss his book. He was photographed in the store with a section of Winston Churchill and the book cover displays.
The Serbian translator of the book was present and there were a number of media reports following the event. His Serbian publisher also tweeted about the signing.
Although it was followed in Serbian media prior to its arrival as an event via The Churchill Factor, the Foreign Office said it was “absolutely not a promotional event”.
A source said Johnson and his aides made a specific request that the book not be discussed and was embarrassed that the bookstore made him so welcome.
The source said he spoke about the book and wrote to a small group of people and signed a few copies to be courteous, but there was no question that he was trying to advance his private interests on an official trip.
A Johnson spokesman said it was “completely wrong” to claim he was intentionally promoting the book.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman added: “The Foreign Minister was invited to speak about freedom of the press in the oldest known bookstore in Belgrade. The store greeted him by displaying some of his books, and some locals asked him to sign their books. “
Very interesting person – Boris Johnson, British minister, historian, former journalist: “The media must be dynamic and provocative.” pic.twitter.com/oYTEuDLO38
– Jugoslav Cosic (@ JugoslavCosicN1), November 18, 2016
However, Belgrade is believed to have raised eyebrows about why he talked about his book a week after Donald Trump was elected in the US and with the UK, which led intense international diplomacy over the Brexit vote.
It’s not the only time The Churchill Factor has come up in the course of Johnson’s official work as Secretary of State. It is believed that Johnson gave New Zealand Foreign Secretary Murray McCully his own book after diplomatic meetings.
When asked if Johnson regularly presented the book to his colleagues, a Foreign Office source said it was given only occasionally when information indicated that the gift would be welcomed by a foreign visitor or host.
Johnson’s appearance at the event was criticized by Andrew Gwynne, a shadow cabinet minister, who called on Johnson to “explain immediately” what he said about his book in Serbia.
“Boris Johnson is responsible for running the Foreign Office and not beating the drum for his own book sales,” he said. “The Tories should focus on delivering for the country. Unfortunately, they are more interested in achieving their own goals.”
Tom Brake, Lib Dems foreign secretary, said Johnson should not “stand in the moonlight on a taxpayer-funded overseas visit.”
“It is further confirmation that he is completely unsuitable to sit at the cabinet table,” he said. “Johnson lied to us all for months during the referendum campaign, and now he can’t even do the hard work of fixing the mess he got us into.”
Pat McFadden, former shadow minister for Europe, said: “Britain’s reputation is at stake right now. The problems after the referendum are challenging and serious. Every minister knows that he cannot confuse his public duties with his private interests. When the Foreign Minister is abroad, he should concentrate on his work as a representative of the country. “
Since taking the job, Johnson, the former Mayor of London and a leading Brexit activist, has shown a mixed reaction on the international scene, with some of his colleagues confused by the promotion and others reportedly bewitched.
He got off to an unpleasant start to the job after being pressured repeatedly by foreign reporters to explain his previous “outright lies” and insults about world leaders, including describing the US president as part-Kenyan and hypocritical.
More recently, his approach to Brexit has been ridiculed by European ministers after telling Italy that it would have to offer duty-free trade to sell its prosecco in the UK.
Carlo Calenda, an economics minister, said it was insulting that Johnson told him at a recent meeting that Italy would give Britain access to the EU’s internal market “because they don’t want to lose prosecco exports”.