Does anyone give a hoot about the Grant Shapps furore? Even if the Lib Dem press office and Nick Clegg make us laugh

Grant Shapps, a Conservative who’s been getting himself into all sorts of scrapes for some years now. That is, of course, if he can remember his name. 

We’ve clearly got to that stage of an election where the journalists just want to have some fun. Rather than discuss the major issues of the day – remember that hundreds of people have drowned in the last week – the media is all in a spin about a Guardian story which suggests that Shapps is behind a Wikipedia profile which has edited the pages of various Conservatives, including Shapps, to either add or remove critical or embarrassing facts.

The Lib Dem Press Office responded with great humour and have had some great plaudits for it:

And even Nick Clegg got in on the act, saying rather mischievously at his press conference that:

Well, Grant Shapps has fervently denied that he had anything to do with it. He himself does not have the time apparently to edit his own Wikipedia entry. I’m prepared to believe him. It could have been someone else. Michael Green for instance.

It is all very funny, but how many votes is this going to win for anyone? Will people actually change their vote based on this? Does anyone outside the Westminster media bubble actually care?

We should be talking about the pay rise we want to give public sector workers who have really been hard done by in the last few years. Instead we are getting attention for talking about a Gordon Brittas like character that most people won’t have heard of. It’s not as if those people wanted or needed politics to get more remote from them.

I’m just not sure which part of “On message, in volume over time” this serves. Opportunity for everyone is about giving extra money to disadvantaged kids in school, or improving mental health services. Grant Shapps’ unconscious coupling  or whatever with Wikipedia doesn’t even make the Z-list of priorities.

Remember who matters here – it’s the teenager struggling with crippling anxiety, it’s the carer run ragged physically and emotionally, it’s the apprentice working towards their qualifications or the young people who desperately need help to even rent their own home. So, let’s have a final giggle over Shapps and get on with reaching out to those people.

Having said all that, t’s not often that one of our posts gets over 5000 views before 10 am, but this is what’s happened to Mark Pack’s story from 2007 about Mr Shapps’ alleged activities during the Ealing Southall by-election.

Over on one of the (official) YouTube films from the Liberal Democrats there is this comment from someone:

Okay, realistically we’re not going to win though. Especially since the Tories have just received 5 defecting Councillors from Labour. Don’t quite know how they’ve done it, but the Tories have stolen a march on us this time.

With phrases such as “us” this is clearly written as if from a Liberal Democrat member or supporter.

But according to YouTube the comment was posted by a “GrantShapps” (look just above the comment for the name), which is the name of the Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield, Shadow Housing Minister and their Ealing Southall by-election campaign supremo.

A forged name perhaps? Except that click on the name and it takes you through to Grant Shapps’s genuine YouTube profile: http://uk.youtube.com/user/GrantShapps

And yes, I know it is his genuine YouTube account because it is the one linked to from his own website, http://www.shapps.com/

I know that on Blogger you can post a comment and make it look like it really was posted by someone else, but that doesn’t seem possible on YouTube. To post under a particular name, you have to really be logged in with that name and password.

What’s the story here then?

And then, of course there was the Michael Green fuss. 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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32 Comments

  • The thing is Grant Shapps is a figure of fun. It doesn’t help that he looks like Robert Webb playing a dodgy Tory MP.

  • So, there’s a lot of horrible things happening in the world today – are we not entitled to give ourselves a little bit of light relief, sometimes?

  • matt (Bristol) 22nd Apr '15 - 12:14pm

    Caron, Shapps is a chancer and we should call him out, not because he’s funny, but because his alleged activities (if indeed he is responsible, which appears plausible if not provable) suggests that a person who would do such things in politics doesn’t care about the people you mention.

    But yes, Grant Shapps being cast into the outer darkness:
    a) isn’t likely, sadly.
    b) won’t significantrly advane the cause of Liberal politics in itself.

    So you’re right. (Gah).

  • It is off message but provided this is all it is it shouldn’t be a distraction.

    In fairness it is better executed humour than most of the recent attempts by various parties, at least that is what I assume some of the recent spending commitments are (see the Jamie Reed interview with Andrew Neil).

  • Jokes about the unfortunate Shapps aside, is it true what the Guardian are reporting about Julian Huppert ?

    ”Julian Huppert, the incumbent Lib Dem candidate for Cambridge, is distributing election leaflets that describe him as an “independent”, rather than making explicit his party affiliation. The leaflet does not include the Lib Dem logo and has only one mention of the party when it boasts that “Julian and the Lib Dems” will give an extra £8bn to the NHS.”

    An Independent ? Has he left the party then ?

  • matt (Bristol) 22nd Apr '15 - 1:21pm

    I think you’re talking about this, PBBrown:
    https://electionleaflets.org/leaflets/10415/images/

    I think enough people will know who their sitting MP is to know Julian Huppert is a LibDem, but it is, um … interesting …

  • James Graham 22nd Apr ’15 – 12:38pm
    “…….. the fact that Shapps, and Andy Coulson before him, have been allowed to run around inside government for years now is a severe indictment against David Cameron.
    When the laughter stops, we ought to be asking serious questions about this Prime Minister’s lack of judgement.”

    This is why Cameron cannot be trusted to cling on in Downing St.
    He was never elected with either a majority of votes, nor a majority of MPs.
    Most voters do not want Cameron to continue as Prime Minister.

    Loberal Democrats should take note.

  • David Allen 22nd Apr '15 - 1:52pm

    Well – Huppert’s leaflet (as imaged above) contains a correct Lib Dem imprint, and its one mention of the Lib Dems does show that he has not left the party. So, the Guardian report is not accurate. However – he’s obviously distancing himself!

    What I’d like to know is, is that distance real? When Clegg tries to prop up the Tories yet again, will Huppert walk away?

  • @David Allen all parties used “disguised” literature in targeted mail. Cambridge, as a held seat, will have a sophisticated targeting operation. This just looks like a soft Labour squeeze leaflet (undoubtedly, it its gone to a Guardian-reader).

    Huppert remains inside the tent rather than “watering” it from the outside. Move along please, nothing to see.

    @John Tilley “He was never elected with either a majority of votes, nor a majority of MPs.”

    And your point is? No government since 1945 has had >50% of the votes; Atlee’s 1945 “landslide” certainly didn’t. The closest was the Conservative government of 1955 which had 49.7% of the popular vote.

    “Loberal Democrats should take note.”

    Does this mean you’ve taken the plunge and formed your new party? 😉 I’m not sure which is the stronger word-association; lobster or slobber 😀

  • David Allen 22nd Apr '15 - 3:05pm

    TCO,

    Yesterday you corrected me on a minuscule fault in expression, and I told you it would have been more important had you found a typo and corrected that instead.

    Sorry, I didn’t think you would take my advice to heart literally!

  • Stephen Hesketh 22nd Apr '15 - 3:21pm

    TCO – Are you a professional smart ar5e or just someone with too much time on their hands?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 22nd Apr '15 - 3:43pm

    Enough! Can you please all act like grown-ups and not unruly toddlers, please. This is an example of the sort of thread that gives discussion on here a bad name. I don’t care who started it, but it stops now. Any more comments in the same vein of personal abuse will be deleted on sight.

  • The “Grant Shapps” fiasco is clearly not important.

    How do I know? My “Times” today has not one mention of the incident although Daniel Finkelstein does fit in a page on “Clegg” and tuition fees…i

  • David Allen 22nd Apr '15 - 4:18pm

    Lighten up, do, please….

    I think the “don’t know whether to laugh or cry” attitude which I and many posters are taking has a lot to do with people like Grant Shapps. In a civilised country, there would, blatantly obviously, be no place in government for people like Grant Shapps. Yet Cameron – much like Berlusconi – has established an “Anything Goes” government. What might look like terrible mistakes are, in fact, all part of the plan. Billionaire oligarch donors, tax dodgers, Wikipedia card-sharps, phone hackers and securocrats are all, aggressively, to be promoted as normal and natural. It is a matter of principle for this Tory Party that the Grant Shapps of this world must thrive and be seen to thrive. Because those are the people who matter, pull all the strings, and must be accepted as pulling all the strings.

    And Clegg backs this government. And Lib Dem MPs, whatever the images on their leaflets, have also backed this appalling government.

    “Frightening” and “Danger” are the favourite words of this bunch of cr**ks. Look. Ed Miliband, with or without the SNP, is about as dangerous as a lukewarm cup of tea. He’s stodgy, boring, unimaginative, respectable. Streets ahead of the competition, in other words. Vote for him.

  • matt (Bristol) 22nd Apr '15 - 4:36pm

    David Allen, this is a historical flight of fancy you might not appreciate, but please imagine you are a Liberal activist in 1916, during WW1 when Edward Carson was made Attorney general. Would you have dammned Asquith or Lloyd George (the Prime Ministers under which the frequently odious Carson served) in the same terms you just denigrated Clegg?

    I don’ta particularly like the direction the party has taken under the current leadership, I am in no position to pretend I approve of the direction the Tory party would take this country and I would (entirely personally) like Nick Clegg out of office as party leader if and when the opportunity presents itself, but can you and others damp down the righteous ire and stop pretending Nick Clegg has personally approved every Tory minister’s appointment (someone else on this site has recently said that the LibDems ‘chose’ Teresa May to be Home Secretary – this, too, is patently silly).

  • @David Allen +many

  • David Allen 22nd Apr '15 - 4:57pm

    Matt, there’s a guy on trial right now who served at Auschwitz, tried to get a transfer, seemingly kept away from most of the bad stuff, admits and apologises for the Holocaust. He will presumably be punished, and deservedly so, despite not personally having caused harm.

    You claim that I said Clegg had personally approved the appointment of “every Tory minister” including Shapps. If you re-read my post, you’ll find that this is purely an invention of your own. I said nothing of the sort.

    However, Clegg and his colleagues did nothing effective to stop it all happening. The junior guard at Auschwitz, and his current plight, makes an interesting comparison.

    (And before someone gleefully twists all this, no, of course I am not arguing for a moral equivalence between Nazism and Cameron. I am using the Auschwitz example to illustrate the harm done by those who merely fail to stop harm happening.)

  • @Stephen Hesketh and how are you sweetie 😉

    @matt (Bristol) I think you have hit upon one of the fundamental differences and dichotomies that is faced. It looks like you lean on the side of the pragmatists/realists rather than the purist/idealists

    @David Allen ” He’s stodgy, boring, unimaginative, respectable. Streets ahead of the competition, in other words. Vote for him.”

    He’s also incompetent, which is what is most scary.

  • David Allen 22nd Apr ’15 – 4:18pm …………………..“Frightening” and “Danger” are the favourite words of this bunch of cr**ks. Look. Ed Miliband, with or without the SNP, is about as dangerous as a lukewarm cup of tea. He’s stodgy, boring, unimaginative, respectable. Streets ahead of the competition, in other words. Vote for him…………….

    Katie Hopkins has promised she will leave the UK if Labour win the GE. If anyone can top that, as a reason to vote Labour, I’ll be surprised..

  • @David Allen I’ve read a lot about the Holocaust, and your comparison is completely and utterly meaningless (not to say in poor taste).

    The Nazis co-opted the legal levers of the state, creating a situation whereby normal moral behaviour was totally and utterly perverted. This didn’t happen overnight; it happened slowly, incrementally, insidiously, drawing ordinary people into extraordinary situations. If you want to understand how this could happen, then there’s an excellent novel called “Ostland” by David Thomas which dramatizes the true story of a Berlin Police Inspector who caught a mass murderer in early 1941, got sent to the Soviet Union and became a much greater mass murderer in an Einsatzgruppe.

  • Caron Lindsay 22nd Apr ’15 – 3:43pm
    Enough! Can you please all act like grown-ups and not unruly toddlers, please. This is an example of the sort of thread that gives discussion on here a bad name. I don’t care who started it, but it stops now. Any more comments in the same vein of personal abuse will be deleted on sight.

    Followed shortly after by —

    TCO 22nd Apr ’15 – 4:58pm
    @Stephen Hesketh and how are you sweetie

    This thread was about the dubious record of Grant Shapps, an unpleasant political opponent with a record of adopting bogus screen names and pretending to be someone he is not for financial gain.
    I do not know who TCO is.
    I have however noticed his belligerent and provocative derailing of a number of threads in LDV in the last few days.
    Is he perhaps Grant Shapps in one of his many disguises?

  • Who cares, it is a media story only and is seen as such. The old cliche applies, “it’s the economy stupid” and we should concentrate on that. No economy no Health Service, no Education, no Benefits etc etc.

  • Matt (bristol) 22nd Apr '15 - 9:07pm

    David Allen,

    I apologise for overstating the case earlier, but by your switching repeatedly between references to the Tory party and the government, I don’t think I am too far away. You do seem to believe that this is a Tory government and Clegg is a Tory who has manipulated the party into complicity in it.

    Yes, the government has not been an alloyed beautiful walk through the daisies, and there have been unpleasant stark consequences for our party, but ‘appalling?’ I’m not sure. I would rather hold to Tim Farron’s 8/10 for the coalition agreement, 2/10 for the execution of it, summary. The Tories have been held back. That’s not the most satisfying achievement, but don’t pretend they didn’t want to do more.

    I firmly wish we had left earlier, I wish we had not engaged in the everything-is-lovely fantasies, and I wish we had not poured so much scorn on the Labour party in terms at times barely distinguishable from the rhetoric of the Tories but have some historic perspective: in coalition, people who have diametrically opposing backgrounds and mutually loathing activists sit down in Cabinet together. And that would still happen with Labour. The outcomes might be what you and I would both prefer, but that would still happen.

    TCO, I don’t know you, I hope you’re not Grant Shapps, and yes, I am instinctively pragmatic. But if you’re drawing lines and putting one lot on one side and one lot on the other side, you can stop it too.

    We need one, centreground, challenging force in British politics, drawing on the best traditions of liberalism and democracy. I hope all the factions can find something to reunite around post-election, but if people start score-settling and recriminating, count me out.

  • Surely this thread is NOT about the “dubious record of Grant Shapps” but about our press office?

    At a time when our voluntary wing is being urged to devote every waking hour to campaigning (I’ve had daily e-mails, a letter today and even a personal phone call from a retiring MP) the Press Office chooses to spend time on a satirical press release.

    A wise use of their time?

  • @Caron, whilst I wholly support your view that we should give public sector workers a better deal, I think sadly even this joke would be more popular with many voters than that. Public servants are an easy target for the politicans without policy (such as Mr Cameron).

    @David: did you really just compare Nick to someone who was complicate in the holocaust?

  • @matt (Bristol) I can assure you I’m not Grant Shapps. Nor am I Nick Clegg. But what’s important is that pragmatic people who are prepared to compromise can work together. Ideological purists struggle with being collegiate as they aren’t prepared to tarnish their ideals in everyday messy reality. And there are ideologies of all shades of opinion.

    @Liberal Al yes he did and I invoke Godwin’s Law.

  • @John Tilley “I have however noticed his belligerent and provocative derailing of a number of threads in LDV in the last few days.”

    Whereas you, John, always come across as calm, measured and reasonable. I note you’ve still to respond to my query about how a “proper Liberal Democrat” should be defined.

  • Matt (bristol) 22nd Apr '15 - 9:52pm

    TCO — the best pragmatists are the ones who don’t dismiss ideologues as a mystery, and know how to work with them, and the best ideologues recognise the necessity of the pragmatists. And many of the very best politicians can shift gears between the two modes.

  • I care. Politics is seriously tainted by Cameron’s inaction on Shapps-Green. Nick Clegg tried to reform the Lords. This week we found out that a Lord can be diagnosed with Dementia and spend 3 years post diagnosis voting on our laws and claiming expenses just to be declared unfit to stand trial just in time to avoid embarrassing many of his colleagues.

  • Must be a slow news day. Anyone can edit a Wikipedia entry unless it is locked. Anyone that believes everything they read on Wikipedia is fooling themselves. Anyone (Burnham) who thinks this is a serious matter needs to get out more. Anyone (BBC) who thinks Wikipedia editing is limited to a bunch of named editors has not done their research. Anyone (Green) who thinks a party has any responsibility for the actions of someone who may once have voted for them has a feeble grasp of reality and deserves to be lampooned. Anyone (Green again) who, in these days of Internet connected smartphones, thinks “I was elsewhere” when a Wiki edit was made, could be deemed evidence of innocence needs a 4 year old to teach them how smartphones work. Nice press release 🙂

  • Helen Dudden 24th Apr '15 - 7:12am

    David Alan. You could make the point, how over the years to not speak out when there are serious questions to be answered.

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