Monday, 16 March 2015

Shapps; the Conservative Party's Private Walker

After perusing some old cuttings, it is a bit of a struggle to fathom why David Cameron picked Grant Shapps to be Conservative Party chairman. Yes, he’s fluent on the telly, in a boyish, titter-ye-not, sort of way; but he’s not exactly overwhelmed with gravitas. Jeremy Hanley, a previous incumbent of the office under John Major, almost seems a political titan by contrast.

Depending on which version one reads, Shapps either 'over-firmly' denied having a second job whilst serving as an MP, or 'stumbled' during the cut an thrust of an LBC interview - quite how one does both simultaneously I have no idea - when he said:

'I did not have a second job while being an MP, end of story'

Seems pretty clear and categorical to me. But anyway, this isn't a new tale. Mr Shapps has repeatedly denied any wrong doing ever since alter ego, web guru, Michael Green's existence first became known.

The earliest denial I've found is in The Guardian on September 3, 2012, when, in regard to his self-help schemes, his spokesman said Shapps had never set up the business, but it was in fact:

"...always a partnership between Mr and Mrs Shapps". He added: "Grant Shapps derives no income, dividends, or other income from this business, which is run by his wife Belinda with a registered office in Pinner in north-west London. He is quite simply not involved in this business."'

This denial poses an interesting contrast with a piece which appeared in The Independent a day later. In his diary column, Andy McSmith, under the headline 'Will the real Michael Green - er, Grant Shapps - stand up', wrote:

In the days that followed, further details of Shapps' internet guru incarnation became known and were gleefully reported. Posing as Green, he offered expert advice on internet marketing, with The Guardian, reporting  that: 

'"The fee for my one-hour phone consultation is $297 (US). I make the call to you, no matter where you are in the world."'

The threat of an hour on the phone with Michael Green/Grant Shapps or whoever suddenly makes the prospect of a 10k Iron Man training session with Iain Duncan Smith look appealing.

Now, I do appreciate that Grant Shapps claims he embodies the Conservative vision of a self-made man. In an interview in October 2012 he told the Evening Standard

‘I’m absolutely not embarrassed about having done something that Ed Miliband has never done – which is to build up a business from scratch. I know what it’s like to get up early and graft – and to put my house on the line to buy the next printing press, pray it works out, and pay my employees at the end of the week.'

A laudable sentiment, certainly, and one which will be familiar to anyone who has struggled to start a small business. But this image, of the self-reliant, get-up-and go, up and thrusting businessman is somewhat spoilt by any analysis of what Mr Shapps actually did for a living.

Now, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with self-help books/websites/programmes but – let's just put it as strongly as this – there may be a tendency in the sector to target the most vulnerable, most gullible and most needy. 

I am, of course, not suggesting for an instant that Mr Shapps’ How To Corp did any such thing, but with products given such tawdry titles as Stinking Rich 1, 2 and 3, it could be argued they possess something which would make Dad’s Army spiv Private Walker proud

In many respects Walker was a lovable rogue, but is this really the required image for the chairman of the Conservative Party? 

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