'Expenses saint' who backed Cameron is star in the making

  • @indyvoices

When Grant Shapps rises from his platform seat at Birmingham's conference centre on Sunday to open the Conservative Party festivities, it will be the latest highlight on a remarkable CV.

Depending on which account you read, Shapps was born either in Watford or London. His education is poly rather than uni; HND rather than PhD.

Somewhere in between running a print business and creating a web self-help empire, he failed, failed again, then stood and won a seat – Welwyn Hatfield – becoming a Tory MP in 2005.

In the Commons he quickly backed David Cameron's bid for the leadership, and when he won, Cameron appointed him vice-chairman responsible for campaigning. Effectively he moved from selling himself to selling the Tories.

Loyalists watching were impressed. The Daily Mail's waspish Quentin Letts identified him as a "future party leader".

Being called "an expenses saint" when the excesses of the MPs' expenses system were revealed did no harm either.

When he became housing minister after the last election, it didn't take Labour MPs long to begin complaining about what they said were misused statistics on the number of homeless and over-egged claims about the number of new homes being built. Shapps sold himself to Cameron as a can-do minister and in the last reshuffle, the PM dumped Baroness Warsi, replacing her with Shapps.

Shapps married Belinda Goldstone in 1997 and the couple have three children. Crisis hit the couple three years into the marriage when Shapps was diagnosed with cancer. All three of his kids were conceived by IVF after he underwent chemotherapy.

Those close to him explain his "driven" qualities are down his belief that he was given a second chance at life.