Boris Johnson photoshopped out of Grant Shapps spaceport rocket picture

 (@Goosey30111568/Twitter/​PA Wire)
(@Goosey30111568/Twitter/​PA Wire)

Downing Street faced awkward questions on Tuesday after former Prime Minister Boris Johnson was erased from a picture posted on Business Secretary Grant Shapps’ Twitter account to mark the UK spaceport satellite launch.

Ahead of the failed launch, a picture showing the Business Secretary on a ministerial visit to the space complex in Cornwall, alongside two officials, appeared on his Twitter account.

His tweet has since been deleted.

The BBC reported that the picture posted by Mr Shapps was an edited version of an older picture published last summer, which showed Mr Johnson also at the meeting.

A source close to Mr Shapps said: “Grant wasn’t aware anyone had edited the picture.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

“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.”

The “original” photograph was tweeted by Virgin Orbit - the firm behind Monday night’s unsuccessful attempt to launch the first rocket into orbit from UK soil - on June 29, 2022.

It featured then-Transport Secretary Mr Shapps alongside then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wearing a Virgin Orbit bomber jacket emblazoned with the words ‘Prime Minister’, standing beside Mr Shapps.

Retweeting both versions of the photograph on Tuesday morning, Labour MP Louise Haigh said: “This is CLASSIC @grantshapps. I’m obsessed.”

Others said the gaffe was “made extra special by the fact that the launch completely failed”.

Another Twitter user pointed out that “part of Johnson’s elbow” appeared to have been left behind in the second image.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

But others were hesitant to believe Mr Johnson had been removed.

“How are we to be sure Boris wasn’t just photoshopped INTO the photo and we now see the original?” asked one user.

Another said: “To me it looks like Boris was added. And it looks like the normal pic without Boris has been smudged. It’s the internet at its sensational best.”

On Monday night, a modified 747 jumbo jet attempted to launch a rocket over the Atlantic to take nine satellites high above the Earth, as part of The Virgin Orbit: Start Me Up mission.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

But the attempt ultimately ended in failure after an “anomaly” suffered during the flight.

After taking off from Cornwall, the Virgin Orbit plane flew to 35,000ft over the Atlantic Ocean where it jettisoned the rocket containing nine small satellites towards space.

But organisers of the Start Me Up mission said the rocket - with a variety of civil and defence applications - failed to orbit.

In a series of tweets, Virgin Orbit said: “We appear to have an anomaly that has prevented us from reaching orbit. We are evaluating the information.”

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been approached for a comment.