I want to start today by making it ab-so-lute-ly clear that what Grant Shapps sold and promoted under the pseudonym Michael Green was a series of low-rent scams dressed up as self-help and marketing products (example). Further, the manner in which they were promoted was demonstrably fraudulent (example). More journalists should be looking into that detail. It is the root of Mr Shapps’ embarrassment, and what led him to engage in the following further wrongdoing…
What Mr Shapps did recently that was so wrong was to use money and libel law to bully critics into silence, when he had no legitimate grounds to do so. It was an audacious abuse of power, and something that would normally trigger resignation(s) from any position of authority. I am here today to show you that Shapps engaged in a deliberate and calculated deceit in order to cover up an earlier deliberate and calculated deceit.
Let’s take a close look at the text that Shapps forced Dean Charles Archer to publish when that constituent dared to suggest that he had misled the public (more):
“I recently made a post suggesting that Grant Shapps MP had lied over the use of a pen name. I now accept that such an assertion was entirely false and that Mr Shapps MP has at no time misled over the use of a pen name. Indeed, I now understand that he openly published his full name alongside business publications making it clear that he used a pen name merely to separate business and politics, prior to his entering parliament. Since I was not in full possession of the facts I was clearly wrong to make that post. I wish to apologise (unreservedly) to Mr Shapps MP for any harm or embarrassment caused.”
More recently, Shapps has issued statements suggesting that there was some form of minor/inadvertent overlap between his career as a ‘marketing guru’ and his job as an MP, and that denying it was merely an error, because so much time had passed that the overlap slipped his mind. Focusing on a recent radio interview rather than this event where he bullied a constituent into capitulating with threats of legal action, the following statement was issued on his behalf by the Conservative Party:
“Like many authors and journalists, Grant wrote with a pen name. This was completely transparent: his full name and biographical details were permanently published on the company’s main website. Given that this was a decade ago, and was mentioned during the cut and thrust of an interview, he referenced that his writing career had ended when he became an MP: in fact it ended shortly afterwards.”
[MINI UPDATE – The assertion that Grant Shapps was “studious in publishing his full name and biography alongside” the ‘business books’ he released and promoted under the name Michael Green also appears in this letter from lawyers acting on his behalf dated 12 November 2014.]
So, let’s break this down:
Was ‘Michael Green’ merely a ‘pen name’?
In a word: no.
If you look here, here and here, you will see three different profiles of Michael Green from external websites (i.e. websites Shapps has not been able to delete or censor). All of them use the same stock photo of a man who (a) is not Grant Shapps, (b) is younger and more handsome than Grant Shapps, and (c) has considerably more hair than Grant Shapps.
(Please also note the text bragging about his status as an MP who “actually flies his very own personal plane and also lives in a fabulous mansion”. More on this later.)
There is also the small matter of ‘Michael Green’ not merely billing himself as an author, but as ‘President (of) How To Corp’ (a “limited liability company registered in the United Kingdom”). This screen capture is from one of Shapps’ own websites:
But if the ‘HowToCorp’ website itself made it entirely clear who Shapps was, then no harm done, right? Well…
Were Grant Shapps’ full name and biographical details “permanently published on the company’s main website”?
In a word: no.
When all of this blew up in late 2012, Grant Shapps was careful to remove the many, many sites he used to sell his spivvery, including the main site ‘howtocorp.com’. He also took the added precaution of excluding a list of relevant domains from the Web Archive. Normally, this would make it impossible for anyone to go back and check his assertions about what used to appear on this website or that, but there’s more than one archive available, and Mr Clever Clogs here used them to check up on a few things.
I can confidently state as a fact, that yes, at one time, when you visited the main page of howtocorp.com, if you scrolled down to the bottom, you would be able to see a link to ‘Michael Green Biography’. Further, the page it linked to did assert that ‘Michael Green’ was a ‘pen name’.
1. This link/page was removed after Grant Shapps was elected to be an MP
2. The page itself (when it existed) made NO mention of Grant Shapps by name. And here’s the relevant evidence that Mr Shapps tried to hide from us:
(Psst! I won’t be showing him where I found it just yet. Last time I did that, he was in a terrible hurry to hide the evidence I was linking to, and I’m not done browsing through it yet.)
Did the name ‘Grant Shapps’ appear “alongside business publications” published in the name of Michael Green?
In a word: no.
The following are all domains owned/operated/promoted by ‘How To Corp’, and I have checked archives/copies of the relevant websites/products in detail, and I can confidently state that none of the following web sites/pages made any mention of Grant Shapps by name alongside any of his so-called “business publications”. You know that old saying ‘three strikes and you’re out’? Here’s thirty:
Here are two versions that are still accessible in the main Web Archive. Check them out for yourself:
How To Add Audio To Your Website and Dramatically Increase Your Sales Conversion Ratio
How To Create Popups – Easy Popup Generator
The best that could be said on the ‘transparency’ front was that these sites all included a prominent and visible link back to the website ‘howtocorp.com’, which at one time did assert on a single page that ‘Michael Green’ was a pen name, but made zero mention of the name ‘Grant Shapps’, even when it did exist.
(Interesting fact: The fee for a one-hour telephone consultation with ‘Michael Green’ of michaelgreenconsulting.com was a mere US$297 . Also, this was one of many sites where ‘Michael Green’ billed himself as “the owner of the World’s Largest Internet Marketing Forum”.)
When Grant Shapps became an MP, did his work as ‘Michael Green’ end “shortly afterwards”?
In a word: no.
Grant Shapps has at one time made a vague claim about his wife continuing to operate the business in his absence and perhaps even being Michael Green herself from time to time sometime after May 2005, but the audio I linked to in this article clearly dates to August 2007 (more than two years after he became an MP), and there’s no question about it being Shapps himself posing as Michael Green in interview.
Speaking of interviews, here’s ‘Michael Green’ bragging about how easy it was to balance his two workloads in a ‘product’ titled ‘Diary Profits’ (also featuring ‘Peter Twist’):
PETER: Now I think what I always like to point out about yourself is that before
people start saying things like, ‘Oh, I’m so busy. I’m on holiday’ and everything
— I’ve got to explain that you were involved very heavily in public life so this
kind of a — possibly quiet time for you where you don’t have to be in parliament
and such so.
MICHAEL: Well, there is that, but I mean basically this is a hobby for me. This
is — when I want to — it probably sounds like a strange hobby for some people
— but when I want to get away and I want to relax from the daily hustle and
bustle of politics and what have you — then for me — for my weekend or
whatever when I am not doing that stuff — this is relaxation for me. This is how
I relax. I do internet marketing to relax. How about that?
Was this Belinda Shapps writing as ‘Michael Green’? Obviously not, because Belinda is not a Member of Parliament, and the document is based on this audio file featuring Grant’s voice (via).
There’s also little question about Grant Shapps himself being the author of the ‘product’ titled ‘How To Bounce Back From Recession’. I secured an original copy of this document from howtobouncebackfromrecession.com before Shapps managed to throw most of his shady past down a memory hole, and the properties of the PDF file give a creation date of late 2009. By now we’re more than 4 years past the date when Shapps became an MP; almost a full term.
As for any contention that any overlap was inadvertent and easy to forget, it is quite evident that Shapps was as ‘Michael Green’ cashing in on his status as an MP rather than accidentally allowing the two roles to overlap. Plus…
Did Grant Shapps merely make a ‘mistake’ in the ‘cut and thrust’ of an interview almost a decade after the original event(s)?
In a word: no.
Firstly, this defence ignores the legal bullying, which was careful, calculated, and quite deliberate.
Secondly, I have in my archives a copy of a forum post made by Grant Shapps, which is still live if you would care to look into the detail for yourself. The following are some clear denials by Grant Shapps that date back to June 2005 (highlights are mine):
Anyone who has struggled and fought as a self-employed person building up their own business would take some offence from being lumped in wiith those who get elected and as a result of their position, accept paid consultancies. I hope you’ll accept that what I’ve done is entirely different. Just for additional clarity, my print biz now operates without my direct input, so I am a full time MP and completely focused on Welwyn Hatfield.
Interesting debate. The point I was trying to make is that I’m a full time MP. That’s what I do. Those who take the train in the morning will sometimes see me going to London, though my schedule is different everyday due to the unusual business hours at parliament. Before I get on the train I’m working in the constituency on day to day case work, either from home, the constituency office or out and about visiting people and places in Welwyn Hatfield.
In terms of outside interests, I don’t have anything that takes up any significant time. In the past three or four months I have visited my print business just once for a meeting which lasted around one hour. That’s it! I’ve worked hard for 15 years to specifically get the business running without my input.
Naturally when it comes to declaring for the register of interests I will mention my print biz (which as founder, I am still a Director of) and my online marketing company that I run alongside. Salaries are not actually declared in the Register, which is not intended to be a wealth index, but out of interest, I draw very little salary indeed and will be remunerated by dividends at the end of the year if my print business makes money (not a given as anyone in print will tell you). Nothing that I do outside being the MP takes up any more time than say running this forum as a hobby for example and probably far less time than that, as I’ve described.
Shapps was denying being anything other than a full-time MP all the way back in 2005, while at the same time posing as ‘Michael Green’ and busily creating new scams targeting dumb and greedy Americans. If you read the exchange, you can even see the throwaway comment about his “online marketing company”, then someone bringing ‘Michael Green’ up about 6 months later; Shapps responds to this query by changing the subject and defining such queries as ‘personal’. He does not return to the topic.
Thought that dealing with the serious problems of the break-ins in Brookmans Park were more important to post on than a discussion about my personal business, which I’ve properly declared in the members interests – without which we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.
So there you have it; Shapps was actively avoiding the issue while engaging in a pretence of transparency all the way back in 2005. It’s not a mistake he made in recent days a decade after the fact, it is an ongoing deceit that he has maintained for a decade.
If it were otherwise, he would not have gone to such extraordinary (but ultimately futile) lengths to hide his tracks.
There is nothing in the recent statement in defence of Shapps that stands up to any scrutiny. A man of any honour would resign. A party of any integrity would force the issue. But the sad fact is that Shapps is a greedy and dishonest liar, and a valuable member of a deeply tribal group that rewards such behaviour.
On this note I will close by declaring an interest. Recently I passed a confidential letter to Grant Shapps for the attention of the Prime Minister. My letter was about a rather personal and sensitive issue: Conservative fundraising executives who had used false identities to make anonymous allegations of child rape for political gain. Shapps not only refused to take any action himself, he went on to share this confidential letter with people who had no business reading it. He has since refused to answer any questions about that, so I won’t pretend for a second that I’m not enjoying any of this.
UPDATE – More on this subject is available in a full video report hosted at a domain name that used to belong to Grant Shapps, and now belongs to me: trafficpaymaster.com.