Boris Johnson’s book end revives tradition of donating to PM’s library

True to that wish, for his own choice, Mr Johnson will be offering his 2014 biography of Winston Churchill, The Churchill Factor.

Current works in the collection range from the earnest (Practical Socialism, donated by Viscount Addison) to the whimsical (The Symbolic Pig: An Anthology of Pigs in Literature and Art, presented by Lord Jenkin). Geoffrey Howe chose to give A Book of French Wines, while, following last month’s ministerial putsch, Mr Johnson may have found time to browse Kenneth Baker’s I Have No Gun But I Can Spit – an Anthology of Satirical and Abusive Verse.

Donations have been a matter of close media interest over the years, according to Prof Clement Macintyre, who has researched the history of the library.

When Margaret Thatcher was running for the Tory leadership in 1975, The Telegraph speculated that her donation of Erich Lessing’s Discoverers of Space showed that the sky was the limit for the then education secretary.

Later, she added her memoirs. With her picture looking into the Cabinet room from the spine of her biography, she is said to have wanted to keep a watchful eye over successive cabinets.

Reluctant offerings?

It remains to be seen what the current crop will donate. Liz Truss and the other authors of Britannia Unchained may be reluctant to choose it, given its infamous description of British workers as “among the worst idlers in the world”. Prolific novelist Nadine Dorries has plenty of options, from The Four Streets to The Angels of Lovely Lane.

A bookplate will be added to the donations, based on the 1931 design and containing a Latin inscription drafted by the poet Sir Henry Newbolt.

It reads laborantibus portus et refugium bibliotheca: “the library as a haven and refuge for those toiling”.

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