One of Boris Johnson’s ministers has denied a report in the Italian media that the UK prime minister made a secret trip to the country less than a fortnight ago, a claim Downing Street has also rejected as “completely untrue”.
Asked if the British prime minister had landed in Perugia in the past two weeks, which the Umbrian airport said in a statement had happened, Grant Shapps, the UK transport minister, told Sky News: “Not that I’m aware of. I think it’s mistaken, as far as I’m aware.”
No 10 issued a firm rebuttal of the report, saying Mr Johnson had held a meeting with Conservative MPs via Zoom on Friday September 11th, and had attended his son’s baptism service on Saturday September 12th.
A spokesperson for Westminster Cathedral confirmed that baby Wilfred was baptised into the Catholic church in a private service on September 12th by Fr Daniel Humphries. There were fewer than 30 guests at the ceremony as required by Covid restrictions, the spokesperson said.
The Catholic church requires at least one parent to practise the faith in order to have a child baptised. Mr Johnson was baptised a Catholic but was confirmed in the Church of England – in effect converting to Anglicanism – when he was at Eton, although he has never been a regular churchgoer. His partner Carrie Symonds’ Catholicism was not widely known until now.
The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported on Mr Johnson’s alleged trip to Italy after the Barcelona footballer Luis Suarez flew into Perugia on September 17th. The airport issued a press release saying that as well as Mr Suarez, Mr Johnson had also arrived there in recent days.
La Repubblica said that after it made inquiries about the Johnson trip, the airport, San Francesco d’Assisi, confirmed he had landed there during the week before Suarez.
The newspaper cited one airport staff member as saying the British prime minister arrived either on September 11th, or the day before. Another source said he had arrived “on Friday 11 September at 2pm and left on Monday 14 September at 7.45am”.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “This story is completely untrue. The prime minister has not travelled to Italy in recent months. Anyone who publishes these claims is repeating a falsehood.”
The claim of Mr Johnson making a seemingly undercover visit to Perugia would be seen as especially intriguing given he has done it before. In April 2018, while he was foreign secretary, Mr Johnson was photographed looking somewhat dishevelled at San Francesco d’Assisi airport.
It emerged that Mr Johnson had stayed at Palazzo Terranova, a restored castle owned by the media billionaire and socialite Evgeny Lebedev, who is renowned for holding lavish parties.
The pictures of Johnson at the airport suggested he went to Italy without a police escort. According to another passenger on the flight back to the UK, Mr Johnson was on his own, apparently without any luggage and very much the worse for wear. – Guardian News and Media