It might seem hard to believe, but it’s only been a little over four months since Boris Johnson was the UK’s Prime Minister.
The headlines 18 weeks ago were being dominated by the cost of living crisis, as well as who would succeed Johnson in office (and we all know what happened there). Another big story concerned the former PM’s zombie government, which remained in power for more than a month after Johnson was forced to resign by Conservative Party MPs but did not have a mandate to take any meaningful action
In the wake of the Chris Pincher scandal, many of Johnson’s Cabinet ministers had resigned in a bid to force him out of office. At the same time, several of his allies remained in post in a bid to provide what they called ‘stability’.
One of these key lieutenants was the then-Transport Secretary (now Business and Energy Secretary) Grant Shapps. 18 weeks may be a long time in politics, but many were taken aback when Shapps posted a tweet that edited Boris Johnson out of a photograph.
So, which image did Boris Johnson disappear from - and what has the reaction been? Here’s everything you need to know.
Which photo was Boris Johnson edited out of?
In the run up to the Virgin Orbit launch on Monday night (9 January), Grant Shapps tweeted excitedly about how “delighted” the government was to be backing the “FIRST [sic] ever satellite launch from European soil”.
There was nothing surprising about the Business Secretary pointing to news about a positive development for UK business. But what was unexpected was his choice of photograph.
Shapps used an image of himself meeting Virgin Orbit’s CEO Dan Hart at Newquay Spaceport. The photograph dated from 9 June 2021 ahead of the G7 summit that took place a few days later in Cornwall.
But the photo Shapps posted was missing someone - Boris Johnson. The then-Prime Minister had been at the centre of the original picture wearing Virgin Orbit overalls but had been edited out.
The original photograph had also been used on the government’s social media accounts. After this apparent photoshopping was pointed out, Shapps deleted the tweet from his account.
Asked whether the Business Secretary had edited the image, an anonymous ally told BBC News: "Grant wasn’t aware anyone had edited the picture. He removed it as soon as it was pointed out.
“Obviously he wouldn’t endorse anyone rewriting history by removing the former PM from a picture. He was proud to serve in Boris Johnson’s government."
What was the reaction to the edited Boris Johnson photo?
As you would expect, there has been much hilarity online about the Grant Shapps photo incident. NationalWorld has rounded up some of the best reactions from the Twittersphere:
What other gaffes has Grant Shapps made?
Grant Shapps’s photo mishap is not the first time the Cabinet minister has been ridiculed for a gaffe.
In 2012, while he was the Conservative Party chair, Shapps admitted to editing his own Wikipedia entry using anonymous accounts. The Observer reported that these accounts had removed references to previous embarrassing political gaffes, his business career and his net worth using computers in his constituency office.
In 2015, The Guardian also reported that either Shapps himself or someone close to him had also used an anonymous Wikipedia account to edit the entries of his political opponents. Shapps denied the allegations.
In a separate 2015 incident, Shapps was forced to admit he had held a second job under the pseudonym Michael Green. There had been questions about the identity of Michael Green several years earlier, which led to a surreal doorstepping of Shapps by Channel 4’s political reporter Michael Crick.