Grant Shapps profile: The former Conservative Party chairman's political life and controversies

He has resigned as international development minister but remains an MP

Lizzie Dearden@lizziedearden
Saturday 28 November 2015 16:16
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Grant Shapps has resigned from his position as international development minister following allegations of inaction over bullying in the Conservative Party.

The former Tory chairman has survived several controversies during his 10 years as MP for Welwyn Hatfield – a position he will retain.

Personal life

Born in Hertfordshire in 1968, Mr Shapps attended Watford Grammar School for Boys and Cassio College Watford, before completing a business and finance diploma at the former Manchester Polytechnic.

While in the US in 1989 he was almost killed in a car crash that left him in a coma for almost a week.

He recovered but was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma a decade later, going into remission and making a full recovery following chemotherapy.

He married his wife, Belinda, in 1997 and the couple have a son named Hadley, born in 2001, and 11-year-old twins called Tabytha and Noa.

His cousin, Mick Jones is a musician, songwriter and producer known as a founding member of both The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite

On his official website, Mr Shapps lists “general aviation” as one of his hobbies and says he holds a pilot’s licence.

Business career

This is what appeared on the sales letter Grant Shapps sold for £130 (Political Scrapbook)

At the age of 21, he opened a printing shop that grew into a company called PrintHouse Corporation, which is still running and listed on his register of financial interests.

Although still listed as a director, Mr Shapps’ website says his fellow directors run the business “without his input”.

Before becoming an MP, Mr Shapps also founded HowToCorp, a web marketing firm offering books on how to get “stinking rich” that has since been dissolved.

Entry into politics

Grant Shapps used his middle name 'V' in the 2001 and 2005 parliamentary election (Welywn Hatfield Borough Council)

Mr Shapps unsuccessfully challenged the former Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes for his Bermondsey seat in the 1997 general election.

Two years later, he was selected as the candidate for Welwyn Hatfield – then held by a Labour incumbent – but lost in 2001.

He entered Parliament on the third try in 2005, taking the seat from Labour minister Melanie Johnson with a majority of almost 6,000 votes.

Parliamentary career

Grant Shapps in a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron as housing minister in 2012

Mr Shapps served on the Public Administration Select Committee from 2005 until 2007 and was appointed as Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party, with responsibility for campaigning, during his first year in the Commons.

In July 2007, he was appointed to his first position on the shadow cabinet as the Tory housing minister – a position he took in government when the Coalition came into power in 2010.

Mr Shapps was made a Privy Counsellor in 2010 and was appointed Conservative Party chairman and Minister without Portfolio two years later.

But following May’s general election, he suffered a humiliating demotion after being removed as co-chairman and kicked out of the cabinet with a junior ministerial role in the Department for International Development under Justine Greening – the role he has not quit.

Controversies

PM stands by Shapps

As well as books Mr Shapps wrote under the name of Michael Green for his web marketing firm, a connected website also appeared under the title “Sebastian Fox's How To Corp – The Home of Great Toolkits on the Net”.

Another site, promoting a guide called How To Become Stinking Filthy Rich Online in 2004, carried photos of Mr Shapps in convertibles and a private plane.

While explaining “how being a mega-successful online marketer could affect your actual standard of living”, he wrote under his Michael Green pseudonym to list luxury houses, cars, planes and to boast that one of his cars “even has a fridge” in efforts to persuade people to buy guides for $197 each.

A statement released by Mr Shapps at the time of the revelations in 2012 said he had never “misled” the public over use of his pen name and used it “to separate business and politics, prior to entering Parliament”.

There was also controversy over edits to the MPs Wikipedia page under an account called Contribsx that was also making “largely unflattering” changes to other politicians’ pages.

Mr Shapps denied allegations and an investigation by Wikipedia’s arbitration committee earlier this year ruled that there was no “definitive” evidence linking him to the user.

Bullying allegations

Elliott Johnson was found dead on a railway line in Bedfordshire

Mr Shapps was hit by fresh claims this week that he failed to act over allegations of bullying within his party during his time as chairman.

The parents of Elliott Johnson, a 21-year-old Conservative Party who died in September in an apparent suicide, called for the MP to resign.

His father, Ray Johnson, called for Mr Shapps to resign, as well as demanding an external inquiry into the actions of party youth organiser Mark Clarke and his superiors.

Mr Clarke has denied any wrongdoing and the Conservative Party said that it received no written complaints until this summer, but former chairwoman Baroness Warsi says she wrote to Grant Shapps, her successor, asking for action to be taken in January.

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