One of Boris Johnsonâ€™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 â€œcompletely untrueâ€.
Asked if Johnson had landed in Perugia in the past two weeks, which the Umbrian airport said in a statement had happened, Grant Shapps, the transport minister, told Sky News: â€œNot that Iâ€™m aware of. I think itâ€™s mistaken, as far as Iâ€™m aware.â€
No 10 issued a firm rebuttal of the report, saying Johnson had held a meeting with Conservative MPs via Zoom on Friday 11 September, and had attended his sonâ€™s baptism service on Saturday 12 September.
A spokesperson for Westminster Cathedral confirmed that baby Wilfred was baptised into the Catholic church in a private service on 12 September by Father 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. Johnson was baptised a Catholic but was confirmed in the Church of England â€“ in effect converting to Anglicanism â€“ when he was at Eton, although he has never been a regular churchgoer. His partner Carrie Symondsâ€™ Catholicism was not widely known until now.
The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported on Johnsonâ€™s alleged trip to Italy after the Barcelona footballer Luis SuÃ¡rez flew into Perugia on 17 September. The airport issued a press release saying that as well as SuÃ¡rez, Johnson had also arrived there in recent days.
La Repubblica said that after it made inquiries about the Johnson trip, the airport, San Francesco dâ€™Assisi, confirmed he had landed there during the week before SuÃ¡rez.
The newspaper cited one airport staff member as saying the British PM arrived either on 11 September, or the day before. Another source said he had arrived â€œon Friday 11 September at 2pm and left on Monday 14 September at 7.45amâ€.
A Downing Street spokesman said: â€œThis story is completely untrue. The prime minister has not travelled to Italy in recent months. Anyone who publishes these claims is repeating a falsehood.â€
The claim of 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, Johnson was photographed looking somewhat dishevelled at San Francesco dâ€™Assisi airport.
It emerged that 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, Johnson was on his own, apparently without any luggage and very much the worse for wear.