In recent months, Grant Shapps has been issuing threats of legal action against some people who dared suggest that he was running ‘get rich quick’ schemes under the name Michael Green while he was an MP. Shapp’s aggrieved contention was (a) that there was no attempt to deceive, as this was merely a ‘pen name’ that he used, and (b) that he stopped acting as Michael Green when he became an MP.
On the first point, I have only ever seen evidence of Michael Green being described on the relevant websites as ‘a Member of Parliament’, and certainly not specifically identified as Grant Shapps. We would be able to go to older versions of his websites and check if Shapps and/or his wife hadn’t deliberately excluded the howtocorp.com domain from the Web Archive, and in any case the existence of text bragging that Michael Green is an MP rules out any accidental overlap between his two lives. Grant Shapps was deliberately cashing in on his status as an MP, and he is preventing us from seeing older versions of his site that might allow him to demonstrate that he did so merely in the spirit of transparency.
Further, after several stringent denials, Shapps has since been forced into a humiliating change of position about what he said or did when; he now claims that he ceased operating as Michael Green “shortly after” becoming an MP. My records show that Grant Shapps was still operating as Michael Green over two years after becoming an MP, so I guess your position on this depends on your definition of ‘shortly’.
The new line being wheeled out today by Shapps and other Tory high-ups such as Jeremy Hunt is that this is was all sorted out a long time ago and this is merely a Labour-led plot to undermine that nice Mr Shapps because they fear his campaigning abilities (*cough*) and/or because they “hate business”.
It was after seeing this that I began to take a renewed look at the business interests of Grant Shapps, his wife Belinda Shapps, and his sister Marla Coutts. What I recalled about earlier versions of this ‘web empire’ was confirmed on the first site I checked. Sites like ‘auctiongirl.co.uk’ are clearly registered as if the operation and its key operators (Belinda Shapps and Marla Coutts) are based in the US, and not the UK. This raises questions about what/how any income/profits/earnings are declared in this country; the Tory spin about Shapps being a ‘wealth creator’ depends rather heavily on his family generating wealth in this country and paying a full and fair amount of tax on any associated income.
All of this is mere background to today’s story, but as that story unfolds, I will produce a full shopping list of websites in the Shapps ‘wealth creation’ empire, and I invite bloggers and journalists who are interested in the tax/earnings question to explore the many sites involved at their leisure.
UPDATE (17 March) – I was in the process of researching domains in the shopping list I mentioned (which you are still welcome to browse) when I discovered evidence giving Mr Shapps some deniability about the fate of one specific domain (‘savenewbarnfield.com’). I am voluntarily withdrawing the associated text purely because there is now significant room for doubt, but I’m sure you’ll be delighted to learn that what I found instead was much, much juicer: