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The Rebuttal: Shapps spins Erasure

Issue: What happens when the media notice you erased your former boss - a Prime Minister, no less - from history (and your photo)?


Grant Shapps - he of the occasionally over-eager social media content - was today forced to scramble after it was noticed that a tweeted photo of himself posing in front of a Virgin Orbit rocket to celebrate today’s planned satellite launch in Cornwall used to include a picture of…Boris Johnson. It turns out the photo in question was taken during a June 2022 visit by the former Prime Minister and Shapps, when the latter was Transport Secretary. Adding insult to injury, today’s first ever satellite launch from European soil ‘failed at the final hurdle’, with the rocket failing to reach the required altitude (METAPHOR ALERT).

Shapps’ ‘line to take’

The following was delivered by a ‘source close to Grant Shapps’ (cough Shapps):

"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' Government"

Line review

The photo misfire is the kind of small-bore issue that grinds the gears of any politician (or spad), especially one as usually sure-footed as Shapps. You’re out trying to capture some of the reflected glory of a significant event you have little to do with and someone goes and cocks it up by deploying the ‘ole departmental Photoshop where it’s not wanted. It is - chef’s kiss - a perfect web story, with guaranteed virality (just wait until everyone starts photoshopping stuff into the gap left by Boris).

Given that a story is going to be written it’s better to be in the story. These things happen, and that’s where the Shapps’ statement tries to go. But the third sentence - beginning with ‘Obviously he wouldn’t’ - commits the cardinal sin of repeating the allegation and should have been trimmed. Other than that, the line does the job: the principal didn’t do it, he took action, he was proud to serve (i.e. don’t hate me BoJo), etc. Indeed, sometimes all you can do is state the obvious and endure the copy.

The only potential problem is if Shapps or one of his spads did ask for the photo to be edited. Hostage to fortune anyone? We suspect not. But this is where a minister’s relationship with his civil servants is essential: if they like you any photoshop legerdemain should stay private. Should, we say.

Line rating



Does the job ✅


Piss poor


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