Grant Shapps has been the chairman of the Conservative party for only a month, yet he will launch the Tory conference next week with an official investigation hanging over his head. The Advertising Standards Agency is launching an inquiry into a website founded by Mr Shapps (now transferred to his wife), questioning the authenticity of online testimonials for the software which (under the pseudonym Michael Green) the Tory chairman claimed could make his customers $20,000 in 20 days.
Mr Shapps is no stranger to controversy. He has faced criticism for using a pen name to sell various products, including his book, How To Bounce Back From Recession. It has also emerged that he appeared at a Las Vegas business conference as Mr Green. And Google is reportedly of the view that the company he co-founded, now run by his wife, violates its code of conduct by selling software banned by the search engine for breaking copyright rules.
Nor does the list end there. Computers traced back to Mr Shapps's office were found to have edited his own Wikipedia entry – a practice widely frowned upon. References to a by-election in which he seemingly impersonated Lib Dem rivals online were removed from the page; and it was also shorn of the details of a mortgage broker, an estate agent and a commercial property developer some of whom had made donations to Mr Shapps's private office when he was Minister for Housing. (He later claimed his account had been hacked.) There have also been accusations from Lord Prescott that he was involved in a smear campaign.
Not only has Mr Shapps denied all such accusations of improper conduct. He is also nowhere accused of breaking the law. But the drip-drip of embarrassing allegations reflects badly on his character nonetheless. There is a growing sense that Mr Shapps is someone who is not entirely straightforward, which can only raise questions about his suitability for the position to which he has been elevated.
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