By Marcus Tanner
The British government’s code of conduct declares ministers must ensure “that no conflict arises, or appears to rise, between their public duties and their private interests”.
Labour MPs say Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson used a visit to the Geca Kon Belgrade bookstore, held officially to discuss press freedom, to promote “The Churchill Factor,” his book on Britain’s wartime premier.
The left-leaning UK Guardian broke the story when it reported that Johnson’s Serbian publicist was present at the event and that he was photographed in front of a cutout poster of the book’s front cover.
Labour MPs have demanded that Prime Minister Theresa May investigate whether the code was breached. Shadow foreign minister Clive Lewis said: “Boris Johnson’s conduct has raised questions on his ability to represent Britain internationally, let alone hold the office of Foreign Secretary. It is not acceptable that on Armistice Day, Boris used a state visit as an opportunity for self-promotion.”
Johnson’s office has shrugged off the idea that the wealthy minister – a prolific author – could have had any interest in selling his book in Serbia, which is not known as a lucrative market for English-language authors.
Johnson has had a difficult time in office managing the transition from MP and mischief-making journalist to government minister. A recent speech criticising Saudi Arabia for waging proxy wars in the region angered the Prime Minister’s office, which prizes good relations with the Gulf kingdom.