"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.

Photo:Getty
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Labour is a pioneer in fighting sexism. That doesn't mean there's no sexism in Labour

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

I’m in the Labour party to fight for equality. I cheered when Labour announced that one of its three Budget tests was ensuring the burden of cuts didn’t fall on women. I celebrated the party’s record of winning rights for women on International Women’s Day. And I marched with Labour women to end male violence against women and girls.

I’m proud of the work we’re doing for women across the country. But, as the Labour party fights for me to feel safer in society, I still feel unsafe in the Labour party.

These problems are not unique to the Labour party; misogyny is everywhere in politics. You just have to look on Twitter to see women MPs – and any woman who speaks out – receiving rape and death threats. Women at political events are subject to threatening behaviour and sexual harassment. Sexism and violence against women at its heart is about power and control. And, as we all know, nowhere is power more highly-prized and sought-after than in politics.

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

The House of Commons’ women and equalities committee recently stated that political parties should have robust procedures in place to prevent intimidation, bullying or sexual harassment. The committee looked at this thanks to the work of Gavin Shuker, who has helped in taking up this issue since we first started highlighting it. Labour should follow this advice, put its values into action and change its structures and culture if we are to make our party safe for women.

We need thorough and enforced codes of conduct: online, offline and at all levels of the party, from branches to the parliamentary Labour party. These should be made clear to everyone upon joining, include reminders at the start of meetings and be up in every campaign office in the country.

Too many members – particularly new and young members – say they don’t know how to report incidents or what will happen if they do. This information should be given to all members, made easily available on the website and circulated to all local parties.

Too many people – including MPs and local party leaders – still say they wouldn’t know what to do if a local member told them they had been sexually harassed. All staff members and people in positions of responsibility should be given training, so they can support members and feel comfortable responding to issues.

Having a third party organisation or individual to deal with complaints of this nature would be a huge help too. Their contact details should be easy to find on the website. This organisation should, crucially, be independent of influence from elsewhere in the party. This would allow them to perform their role without political pressures or bias. We need a system that gives members confidence that they will be treated fairly, not one where members are worried about reporting incidents because the man in question holds power, has certain political allies or is a friend or colleague of the person you are supposed to complain to.

Giving this third party the resources and access they need to identify issues within our party and recommend further changes to the NEC would help to begin a continuous process of improving both our structures and culture.

Labour should champion a more open culture, where people feel able to report incidents and don't have to worry about ruining their career or facing political repercussions if they do so. Problems should not be brushed under the carpet. It takes bravery to admit your faults. But, until these problems are faced head-on, they will not go away.

Being the party of equality does not mean Labour is immune to misogyny and sexual harassment, but it does mean it should lead the way on tackling it.

Now is the time for Labour to practice what it preaches and prove it is serious about women’s equality.

Bex Bailey was on Labour’s national executive committee from 2014 to 2016.