"Thumbs up if I've followed you on Twitter". Photo: Getty
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The eight weirdest things we know about Grant Shapps

The Tory party chairman is in trouble again for his business alter ego, Michael Green, but that isn’t even the weirdest thing about him.

Grant Shapps, the swarthy blue-eyed estate agent masquerading as Tory party chairman, is in trouble. Michael Green, the fake name for his businessman alter ego, has come back to haunt him, like a devil on his polyester-clad shoulder.

It turns out he “screwed up” during a radio interview when he claimed that he had never had a second job while being an MP.

But his alias isn’t the only weird thing about him.

 

Pretending to be Michael Green

Shapps’s pseudonym for his work as a web marketeer (which also sounds like it’s made up) came out a while back, leading to the harrowing Kafkaesque scene of Channel 4’s Michael Crick chasing him around a sweaty series of corridors backstage at conference trying to work out who and why the mystery Michael Green is. And the identities of those mystery people who wrote testimonials for his book.


Surfing on a dollar bill

Well, not exactly, but some of his books under the Green pen name have enjoyable front covers, made all the more fun by the fact that Shapps is basically a stock image of a man in a tie.

Here’s the 20/20 Challenge ebook cover:

Photo: YouTube screengrab
 

Having punk in his blood

There’s never even a sly hint of rebellion in his eyes when Shapps smiles wetly to the camera on the Daily Politics chanting “long-term economic plan”, so it is a little strange that punk runs in his blood. Mick Jones, the Clash’s former guitarist, is his cousin.

Here’s Jones in action:

In contrast, Shapps describes his values as “work hard, play by the rules”.
 

Flying is his hobby

Ordinary hardworking millionaire businessman who just wants to get on in life Grant Shapps’s hobby is flying his £100,000 plane.

In fact, he once tried to block a plan to build 700 homes on the airfield where he keeps his plane. Pretty rich for a man who claims he prefers Nando's to The Ivy.

Piper Saratoga aircrafts, helping hard-earning people fly to the places they enjoy. Photo: Flickr/Martijn
 

Bingo is not

One of Shapps’s biggest gaffes in office was his poster boasting about the Tories’ bingo tax cut. The smug tone of self-congratulatory snobbery and a fundamental othering of working-class voters didn’t go down so well.

Photo: Twitter

 

Constantly following and unfollowing people on Twitter

Shapps has a suspicious number of followers on Twitter (84k) and has a habit of following and unfollowing hundreds of people repeatedly on the site. This has led to him to being accused of using a bot to up his numbers.

Etc.

 

Writing terrible pieces on BuzzFeed

To great hilarity and derision, Shapps first tried his hand at a listicle about energy bills. It included gratuitous capital letters, multiple pictures of Ed Miliband and a stoically melting cat.
 

Photo: "12 Facts: Why Energy Bills Are Sky High, And What We Can Do About It" screengrab


This piece wasn't positively received. So he carried on contributing articles to the site. One of them was about English Votes for English Laws, but simply betrayed a failure to grasp what speech bubbles are for.

Photo: "Ed Miliband Is In A ‘Real Pickle’ Over English Votes For English Laws. That’s According To His Own MPs" screengrab

 

Deleting the Wikipedia entry listing his O-Levels

The Observer discovered that Shapps had tweaked his Wikipedia entry to remove the information about his performance at school. Apparently it said that he “obtained four O-levels including an A in CDT”, whereas he actually obtained five – though CCHQ won’t disclose the grades he got. Though his aptitude at Craft, Design and Technology is clearly genuine. How else could he have designed the front cover of that ebook?
 

UPDATE: 15.24

Usually this mole would ignore a politician's "penchant for karaoke" because it's a classic Westminster village "hinterland" trope (if ripping off other people's ideas via your own embarrassingly incompetent performances counts as a hinterland in politics), but a vigilant Shappsologist on Twitter has reminded us of one other weird revelation about the Tory party chairman: he likes to do karaoke rapping.

From the Guardian:

He says he had a karaoke night just the other evening in this very pub. What's his speciality? "Rapper's Delight." Well let's hear it then? He looks at his minder, uncertainly. "Well this is not for broadcast," he says. And he's off, fast and furious. There's no stopping him. "I said a hip-hop/ Hippie to the hippie/ The hip hip a hop, and you don't stop, a rock it … Now what you hear is not a test – I'm rappin' to the beat … " Do many other ministers rap? "I haven't compared notes, actually. In fairness, the version I do is the short version; it's only 10 minutes."


UPDATE: 17/3/15, 10.49

Labour has done a little video about Grant "Two Jobs" Shapps:

I'm a mole, innit.

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Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.