"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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"We repealed, then forgot": the long shadow of Section 28 homophobia

Why are deeply conservative views about the "promotion" of homosexuality still being reiterated to Scottish school pupils? 

Grim stories of LGBTI children being bullied in school are all too common. But one which emerged over the weekend garnered particular attention - because of the echoes of the infamous Section 28, nearly two decades after it was scrapped.

A 16-year-old pupil of a West Lothian school, who does not wish to be named, told Pink News that staff asked him to remove his small rainbow pride badge because, though they had "no problem" with his sexuality, it was not appropriate to "promote it" in school. It's a blast from the past - the rules against "promoting" homosexuality were repealed in 2000 in Scotland, but the long legacy of Section 28 seems hard to shake off. 

The local authority responsible said in a statement that non-school related badges are not permitted on uniforms, and says it is "committed to equal rights for LGBT people". 

The small badge depicted a rainbow-striped heart, which the pupil said he had brought back from the Edinburgh Pride march the previous weekend. He reportedly "no longer feels comfortable going to school", and said homophobia from staff members felt "much more scar[y] than when I encountered the same from other pupils". 

At a time when four Scottish party leaders are gay, and the new Westminster parliament included a record number of LGBTQ MPs, the political world is making progress in promoting equality. But education, it seems, has not kept up. According to research from LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall, 40 per cent of LGBT pupils across the UK reported being taught nothing about LGBT issues at school. Among trans students, 44 per cent said school staff didn’t know what "trans" even means.

The need for teacher training and curriculum reform is at the top of campaigners' agendas. "We're disappointed but not surprised by this example," says Jordan Daly, the co-founder of Time for Inclusive Education [TIE]. His grassroots campaign focuses on making politicians and wider society aware of the reality LGBTI school students in Scotland face. "We're in schools on a monthly basis, so we know this is by no means an isolated incident." 

Studies have repeatedly shown a startling level of self-harm and mental illness reported by LGBTI school students. Trans students are particularly at risk. In 2015, Daly and colleagues began a tour of schools. Shocking stories included one in which a teacher singled out a trans pupils for ridicule in front of the class. More commonly, though, staff told them the same story: we just don't know what we're allowed to say about gay relationships. 

This is the point, according to Daly - retraining, or rather the lack of it. For some of those teachers trained during the 1980s and 1990s, when Section 28 prevented local authorities from "promoting homosexuality", confusion still reigns about what they can and cannot teach - or even mention in front of their pupils. 

The infamous clause was specific in its homophobia: the "acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship" could not be mentioned in schools. But it's been 17 years since the clause was repealed in Scotland - indeed, it was one of the very first acts of the new Scottish Parliament (the rest of the UK followed suit three years later). Why are we still hearing this archaic language? 

"We repealed, we clapped and cheered, and then we just forgot," Daly says. After the bitter campaign in Scotland, in which an alliance of churches led by millionaire businessman Brian Souter poured money into "Keeping the Clause", the government was pleased with its victory, which seemed to establish Holyrood as a progressive political space early on in the life of the parliament. But without updating the curriculum or retraining teaching staff, Daly argues, it left a "massive vacuum" of uncertainty. 

The Stonewall research suggests a similar confusion is likely across the UK. Daly doesn't believe the situation in Scotland is notably worse than in England, and disputes the oft-cited allegation that the issue is somehow worse in Scotland's denominational schools. Homophobia may be "wrapped up in the language of religious belief" in certain schools, he says, but it's "just as much of a problem elsewhere. The TIE campaign doesn't have different strategies for different schools." 

After initial disappointments - their thousands-strong petition to change the curriculum was thrown out by parliament in 2016 - the campaign has won the support of leaders such as Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale, and recently, the backing of a majority of MSPs. The Scottish government has set up a working group, and promised a national strategy. 

But for Daly, who himself struggled at a young age with his sexuality and society's failure to accept it, the matter remains an urgent one.  At just 21, he can reel off countless painful stories of young LGBTI students - some of which end in tragedy. One of the saddest elements of the story from St Kentigern's is that the pupil claimed his school was the safest place he had to express his identity, because he was not out at home. Perhaps for a gay pupil in ten years time, that will be a guarantee. 

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