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Shapp practice

2012 October 4

Grant Shapps has only been in the job of Conservative party chairman for a month and yet he will launch his party’s conference next week with an official investigation hanging over him. The Advertising Standards Agency has announced it has launched an inquiry into a get-rich-quick website he founded, which has now been transferred to the name of his wife. The advertising watchdog is inquiring into the authenticity of online testimonials on the site in which, under the pseudonym Michael Green the Tory chairman claimed that customers could make $20,000 in 20 days if they spent $200 buying his software.

Mr Shapps is no stranger to controversy. He has already come in for criticism for using pen names to sell products including a book How To Bounce Back From Recession. It has emerged that he appeared at a Las Vegas business conference as Mr Green.  Google is reportedly of the view that the company he co-founded, which is now run by his wife, violates its code of conduct by selling software which the search engine bans for breaking copyright rules. Mr Shapps denies this and says he has had no involvement in the company since 2008.

That is far from all. Computers traced back to his office were found to have edited his Wikipedia entry to remove claims that he had only four O-levels. (He has five).  Also excised were references to a 2007 byelection in which he seemingly impersonated Liberal Democrats online in an attempt to discredit his rivals. (He later claimed his account had been hacked). Details were also removed of the identity of mortgage brokers, an estate agent and a commercial property developer after political donations were made to his private office when he was minister for Housing.

Most recently claims were made by Lord Prescott that Mr Shapps was involved in a “cover-up” to smear Labour’s former deputy prime minister after officials in Mr Shapps’ former department made changes to a letter from the government’s most senior civil servant.

Mr Shapps has issued denials on all these accusations of improper conduct. But the gaffes and allegations are now mounting in a way which is politically embarrassing to the Conservative party and the prime minister David Cameron. It all goes to Mr Shapps’ character and opens him, at a time when he ought as chairman to be taking the party on the offensive, to constant jibes about “multiple personalities and questionable business practices”. It all raises questions about his suitability to hold the post to which he has been elevated.

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