Grant Shapps's guide to "bouncing back" from recession

Conservative housing minister mocked for his company's self-help guide.

It hasn't been a good start to the new parliamentary term for Conservative housing minister Grant Shapps, who was revealed by the Guardian to have founded a family company selling software that increases a website's advertising revenue by manipulating search engines. In breach of Google's code of practice, the $497 (£313) software package, TrafficPaymaster, "creates web pages by 'spinning and scraping' content from other sites to attract advertising". Operating under the alias "Michael Green", Shapps claimed customers could "make $20,000 in 20 days guaranteed or your money back".

Shapps transferred his share of the company to his wife, Belinda, in 2008, but the business has continued to publish such titles as Michael Green's How To Bounce Back From Recession, "a beautifully written self-help guide for negotiating your way to better times." As Owen Jones notes, it's "Pure Alan Partridge".

                              

Shapps has been widely tipped to replace Sayeeda Warsi as Conservative chairman in the imminent reshuffle, but after today's debacle it would be surprising if David Cameron wasn't having second thoughts.

Conservative housing minister Grant Shapps founded a company under the alias "Michael Green". Photograph:

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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5 things Labour has blamed for the Copeland by-election defeat

Other than Labour, of course. 

In the early hours of Friday morning, Labour activists in Copeland received a crushing blow, when they lost a long-held constituency to the Tories

As the news sank in, everyone from the leadership down began sharing their views on what went wrong. 

Some Labour MPs who had done the door knock rounds acknowledged voters felt the party was divided, and were confused about its leadership.

But others had more imaginative reasons for defeat:

1. Tony Blair

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told Radio 4’s Today programme that: “I don’t think it’s about individuals”. But he then laid into Tony Blair, saying: “We can’t have a circumstance again where a week before the by-election a former leader of the party attacks the party itself.”

2. Marginal seats

In a flurry of tweets, shadow Justice secretary Richard Burgon wanted everyone to know that Copeland was a marginal seat and always had been since it was created in 1983.

Which might be true, but most commentators were rather more struck by the fact Labour MPs had managed to overcome that marginality and represent the area for eighty years. 

3. The nuclear industry

In response to the defeat, Corbyn loyalist Paul Flynn tweeted: “Copeland MP is pro-nuclear right winger. No change there.” He added that Copeland was a “unique pro-nuclear seat”. 

In fact, when The New Statesman visited Copeland, we found residents far more concerned about the jobs the nuclear industry provides than any evangelical fervour for splitting atoms.

4. The political establishment

Addressing journalists the day after the defeat, Corbyn said voters were “let down by the political establishment”. So let down, they voted for the party of government.

He also blamed the “corporate controlled media”. 

5. Brexit

Corbyn's erstwhile rival Owen Smith tweeted that the defeat was "more evidence of the electoral foolhardiness of Labour chasing Brexiteers down the rabbit hole". It's certainly the case that Brexit hasn't been kind to Labour's share of the vote in Remain-voting by-elections like Richmond. But more than 56 per cent of Cumbrians voted Leave, and in Copeland the percentage was the highest, at 62 per cent. That's an awful lot of Brexiteers not to chase...

I'm a mole, innit.